China Entrepreneur Network Forum 2011
China Entrepreneurs for a Sustainable Future
Sustainability, the 21st-century buzzword
being uttered across the globe, will be a
key component of strategies developed by
businesses big and small in the burgeoning
Chinese market economy, according to those
participating in the third annual China
Entrepreneur Network Forum. Held on the
Cornell campus Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2011,
the event was co-organized by Johnson’s
Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise,
the China Entrepreneur Network, and the
China Social Innovation Foundation. This
year’s theme, “Reset the World for a Sustainable
Future,” brought together scholars,
business and NGO leaders, government
representatives, and students, all seeking to
address today’s pivotal challenges: achieving
sustainable prosperity for people and planet
through innovation and entrepreneurship.
After years of focusing on growth and worrying more about competing in global markets than the adverse impacts their companies have on the environment, CEOs in China now recognize the value of being “green,” keynote speaker Lawrence Y. Tian told those at the conference. Tian, chairman of Genesis International Capital and founder of the China Entrepreneurs Forum in Yabuli, China, explained that the forum has, since 2001, brought together executives to discuss common goals and solutions to common problems associated with establishing new enterprises while transitioning from a state-run economy.
Beginning in 2004-05, he said, “Companies acknowledged a responsibility not just to make money but to consider their impacts on society. This is a major change among business leaders.” At that time, he added, talk began in earnest focused on developing sustainable technologies that would reduce the demand for foreign natural resources by cutting energy consumption.
These concerns led business leaders gathered at Yabuli to establish a foundation dedicated to protecting the environment, combating global warming and ozone depletion, and promoting clean technologies. Another Yabuli offshoot, the Urban Realty Association, focuses on building more energyefficient houses using sustainability practices. These are steps in the right direction, but the future in China, and the rest of the world, requires a total reinvention of the global economy with an eye on saving the planet, said Stuart L. Hart, Samuel Curtis Johnson Professor of Sustainable Global Enterprise at Johnson, also a keynote speaker.
“This is the most important time in history because of the unprecedented growth in population and its impact on the global ecological footprint,” Hart said. “We have to change some deeply held assumptions in our society. Businesses must think about placing potential social impacts over financial return. They need to reconsider how they obtain capital, and create new investment categories.”
To facilitate such broad-based societal change, Hart champions a “Green Leap” strategy comprising a convergence of green technology and innovation. This “Green Leap” is especially critical in China, which now has the ability to incubate new enterprises and create communities and cities using sustainable technologies and practices, Hart said.
“The old strategies don’t work anymore, and as a result we will see an age of extinction for companies that don’t evolve,” said Hart. “Twenty to 30 years from now, the companies that survive will be in clean technologies.”