Archive for June, 2010

Sustainable International Development

I was recently invited to Vietnam to participate as an Investment Consultant on behalf of potential large scale North American investors to review a development project in Yen Tu, Vietnam, a place of pilgrimage for Vietnamese Buddhists. My consultancy work in the area of investment and development is based on a simple philosophy: If it isn’t good for the world, it isn’t good for the courtry either. Coupled with a recent course on sustainability the whole effort had me pondering the best ways to encourage and increase sustainable international development which aids a country in reducing poverty without taxing the planet’s resources.

Development has the potential to do harm but can also be used to do good if it addresses the local needs in a sustainable way. But even high standards such as LEEDs doesn’t guarantee that the results will be positive. On the other hand, using investment opportunities such as Yen Tu to encourage Sustainable Development and the use of LEEDs standards will certainly help to create skills for the future. It increases local expertise related to sustainable building practices, especially when the work is performed primarily by local developers. And it ensures that newly acquired expertise stays local and gets used on future building projects.

From an investment perspective, one way is to encourage sustainable development is to share methods and approaches through active program participation, collaboration and educational programs which allow for project participates to learn new sustainable techniques, always bearing in mind that we can also learn something from the local participants. Some investors are interested only in getting a good return on investment and less interested in how the development work actually gets done. Savvy investors recognize that sustainable building practices bring higher returns, especially when looking a long term value of the project. (If you happen to have access to a few hundred million you’d like to invest, feel free to call me and I’d be happy to direct you on how to invest in this or other projects in Vietnam. After all, there is a very satisfying feeling when you invest in a project that makes a difference in the world while earning you a reasonable rate of return.) Given a secure revenue stream, which the Yen Tu project certainly promises (see details below), long term profits will always be higher when operating expenses are reduced, a natural outcome of lower energy and resource costs. It’s simple math.

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