With the mantra of ‘create a world of sustainable trade and deliver a better future for all’ Unleash Opportunity Conference 2018 was held in Amsterdam. Amna Yamin from Sustainability Agents GmbH had the opportunity to attend the event organized by amfori -trade with purpose on 13th June. With the focus on enabling businesses around the globe to improve human prosperity, make it environmentally sustainable and drive innovation with collaboration, the event was attended by representatives from businesses, government officials, amfori service providers, consultancies and amfori members from over 40 countries.

The day started with an opening speech by amfori’s Director General Christian Ewert. The MC of the event was the acclaimed BBC journalist and broadcaster Naga Munchetty who with her crisp clean words and fresh perspective was able to steer the day. The first plenary presentation was by Professor Ian Goldin who talked about openness and connectivity as the new paradigm for globalization. This was continued by Caroline Rees from Shift who went on to examine globalization under the framework of sustainable development. She stressed on the importance of making globalization good for everyone and not just a selected few. To give the discussion a corporate perspective, Mr. Robert Metzke (Vice President and leads Philips) stepped in and spoke about how changing the business model was not just a ‘nice’ thing to do, but in face of depleting natural resources was the need of the day. He further highlighted the importance of continuous dialogue for sustainable development as no longer a theoretical thing, but something that was needed by any business to thrive. To summarize it, the first half of the day, a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Munchetty was done with the above mentioned three speakers and she skilfully steered the discussion on the responsibility of businesses to act smartly and ethically and safeguard the environment from deteriorating further as globalization rampaged at an alarming rate.

Post the plenary sessions, participants were asked to sit in their respective breakout sessions. Amna Yamin decided to attend a session on ‘The New Silk Road– Leveraging the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to Drive a New Era of Sustainable Trade’. The session had an interesting approach towards infrastructural connectivity and its impact on trade, economy and culture in the six economic corridors arising from China’s BRI project. During this session Dr Astrid Skala-Kuhmann (Special advisor Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH) gave the Western perspective on the project, including presenting the concerns and fears of Westerns policy makers’ Wang Xiaoguan (Director of CSR Centre China Federation of Industrial Economics (CFIE)) and Ms Yan (Vice President of China Textile Information Centre, Director of Office for Social Responsibility CNTAC) spoke about the benefits of the projects which resulted in knowledge exchange, and infrastructural development in countries such as Congo, Cambodia and Pakistan. The last speaker Mr Yan Dingyong (CEO Shenzhen Mantru.E Commercial Equipment Manufacturing Co., Ltd.) shared how his company was producing electric kitchen equipment which were actively reducing carbon development in catering industry in China.

After another round of breakout sessions, participants gathered to listen to the plight of migrants and how it impacted businesses. During the panel discussion Dr. Emre Eren Korkmaz spoke about the importance of having a smooth transition for migrants from an informal to formal economy. Sticking to the theme of migrants in supply chain, an award was presented to a Thai producer who had changed his company’s policy to support responsible recruitment practices for migrant workers in Thailand. It was heartful to see the amfori’s cooperation with government of Thailand bring in such tangible results. This also highlighted the importance of government intervention in making businesses more responsible.

As the day came to an end, one of the most powerful panel discussions titled: ‘A prerogative- Building global progress through gender parity’ happened. Three accomplished women i.e. Dorothy Lovell (Policy Analyst in the Responsible Business Conduct team at the OECD), Ms. Shahamin S. Zaman (CEO of CSR Center Bangladesh), Leanne Melnyk (Vice-President in Li & Fung’s Vendor Compliance and Sustainability Team) led candid discussion on the benefits of global equality at the local, national and global level. While Ms. Melnyk stressed on the importance of investing in women, Ms. Lovell shared information on the impact of global supply chain with unfair gender practices. Keeping this note in mind, Mr. Ewert wrapped up the day with the hopes that these discussions and debates would lead to more gender friendly and sustainable supply chains.