Opening address by Mark Rutte at the Forum on Sustainable Production and Trade, Jakarta

Short opening address by the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, at the Forum on Sustainable Production and Trade, Jakarta

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you all for coming.

I’d like to begin with a few initial remarks about the important issue we are going to talk about today. Here are three facts that show its importance:

  1. Since the mid-1960s global demand for natural resources has doubled.
  2. To feed the rising world population, more food will need to be produced in the next 50 years than was produced in the last 500 years.
  3. In 2010 the number of cars on the roads reached one billion.

Experts predict that the figure will reach two billion by 2050. These facts lead to only one conclusion: sustainable growth, production and trade are not a choice, but a must. Not only for the Netherlands, but also for Indonesia, which is now the 16th biggest economy in the world and is actively seeking to promote its people’s prosperity. No country or business can achieve sustainability by itself. Global challenges demand global solutions and cooperation at every level. Horizontally, between countries and international organisations. And above all vertically, between governments, academics, businesses, consumer organisations and every other link in the chain. But I don’t think I need to convince you of that.

My message at the opening of this forum is a positive one. I believe that the momentum for sustainability is stronger than ever. And that is thanks to the way the market operates. More and more businesses, especially global players, have sustainability in their DNA. They feel a deep sense of responsibility for the coming generations and the future of our planet. In addition, consumers worldwide are recognising more and more that their behaviour can have an effect.

So corporate social responsibility is now far more than a marketing tool; it is a business case. To guarantee ongoing success, it needs to be reflected in everything a company does. When that idea reached the boardroom, the prospects for sustainable production and trade were enhanced further. Across the entire production chain, large international companies can now directly influence how their suppliers treat people and the environment. No government measure can match that.

So we are living at a time when the sustainability agendas of businesses, governments and civil society organisations are converging. A good example is the Tropical Forest Alliance, or TFA. This coalition involves several countries, including the Netherlands and Indonesia, and hundreds of big companies, including Coca Cola, Nestlé and – I’m proud to say – my own former employer, Unilever. The TFA is trying to combat deforestation by making the production of palm oil, paper and pulp, beef and soya more sustainable. And of course this can only be done by working with the main producers of these crops, like Indonesia. These efforts are proving successful, not least thanks to the personal involvement of President Yudhoyono. And this gives me confidence that the ultimate goal will be achieved – deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

Ladies and gentlemen, sustainable production and trade are the way forward. They are a necessity and a business opportunity at the same time. So this forum is an another step in a process that will greatly benefit the world. I wish you all an enjoyable and inspiring meeting.

Thank you.