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addicted to plastics

Plastics: are we addicted?

Are we addicted to plastics?

Looking across the table at lunch today, I noticed depressingly that pretty much everything we had on the table was packaged in plastics. It amazes me often how hard it is to use less of this in daily life. And clearly today was a very bad day for Plastic Free Tuesday.

The Netherlands online in China

Today is also the day that a new online platform was launched in China, Helanonline.cn, which brings news and developments from the Netherlands to China. The platform focuses specifically on innovation, sustainability and CSR.
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Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland

Road2China XL: succesvol zaken doen in China, met workshop MACHI

Op 10 maart vindt in Nieuwegein het evenement Road2China XL: succesvol zaken doen in China plaats, georganiseerd door de Kamer van Koophandel en Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland.

MACHI | Asia & Sustainability Consulting verzorgt tijdens deze middag een sessie over duurzaamheid in China.

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China environment

Speaking about: business impact of sustainability in China

A good score, I thought: I was halfway through my session on sustainability in China and its impact on business when I asked the group of students in front of me whether they think business should care about sustainability and the environment in their operations.

All hands went up to indicate, yes, business should care.

I had hoped to have some discussion at this point between students saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. So I had to improvise a bit. But it was a good starting point to talk a little about why and in what way business should go about this.

My session was part of a week of events at the International Business School of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences on the theme of Become a global citizen – Engage with the world.

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Seminarreeks interactieve ontbijtsessies: Risicomanagement in China

Regelgeving in China ontwikkelt zich snel en controle en naleving van regels wordt strenger. Dit heeft verstrekkende gevolgen voor bedrijven die actief zaken doen in China. Bent u al op de hoogte?

MACHI Asia & Sustainability Consulting organiseert samen met Kneppelhout & Korthals Advocaten, BDO Rotterdam en Rabobank Rotterdam een tweedelige seminarreeks over deze vraag.

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urban development Chongqing

Opportunities in sustainable urban development: bloginterview with Xiaocun Ruan

One of the reasons why I chose my company name is because it connects to the city – and with the city & my focus on sustainability in Asia, it connects to the theme of sustainable urban development. A hot topic in Asia, where many places are quickly urbanizing. And where it is becoming increasingly important to find ways to build sustainable and smart cities that use resources efficiently and provide a good standard of living for the millions of people who make that city their home. Unsurprisingly, a topic that appears on my blog regularly as well.

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Kan een bedrijf met onduurzame producten verantwoord ondernemen?

Afgelopen vrijdag ging mijn Twitter-timeline flink los op het artikel over algemeen directeur van Shell, Ben van Beurden, in de Volkskrant. Het artikel ging in op de uitspraken van Van Beurden bij de presentatie van de jaarcijfers van Shell de dag daarvoor. Bij die presentatie gaf hij toe dat het inderdaad ‘bijzonder moeilijk’ zal zijn om onder de cruciale 2C-grens voor opwarming van de aarde te blijven. Maar hij betoogde ook dat de energiebehoefte wereldwijd zal blijven groeien en dat het onmogelijk zal zijn om met een aanzienlijk percentage (meer dan 20%) in die stijgende vraag te voorzien met duurzame energiebronnen. Dat zou bijvoorbeeld opkomende economieën beletten in hun ontwikkeling.

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cotton shanghai

Cotton: the people behind your jeans

Een keten van uitbuiting en wreedheid

Zo werd de productieketen van kleding afgelopen vrijdag genoemd in de driedelige documentaireserie De Slag om de klerewereld. Deel drie van deze serie, afgelopen vrijdag, dook in de katoenproductie: essentieel voor productie van kleding en het begin van die complexe en lange keten.

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innovative Dutch: Guangzhou TV Tower

Dutch business: innovative, creative, diverse

Industrial design. Baby products. Digital signage. Horticulture. Online gaming. Ecommerce software. Veterinary pharmaceuticals.

This list is just a fraction of the industries I have encountered through the companies that I have spoken with over the last three months. In that time, I have met with nearly 60 Dutch companies from almost every conceivable industry and market segment. I spoke with them about – of course, their company and products, but mainly about their interest in doing business in China and what type of Chinese counterparts would be good business partners for them.

All these companies are participants of a trade delegation travelling to China at the end of next month with the mayor of Amsterdam. My part in their preparation for this trip is small, but essential: having a clear profile of the type of contacts and the type of business the Dutch company is interested in is fundamental for finding suitable matches in China. This, of course, is not easily done. China is a big place, the business and products of many of these Dutch participants are very specific and Chinese companies may have different expectations of meeting them. Nevertheless I feel confident that my part in this process will have contributed to this matchmaking search.

From advice to sharing experiences

Many of these meetings weren’t interviews where I would only check off the questions I had in front of me. Talking to entrepreneurs and export managers is one of my favourite (work) things to do, so I try to get as much information from them as I can – relevant to the context of course – but in so many of these discussions that also means you hit other topics.

Such as Japan: I was pleasantly surprised to hear that many of these companies are also interested to explore opportunities for their products in Japan – or are already there, alongside their China activities. Or, when talking to a company which is very new at doing business in China and international business in general, my role becomes that of an advisor in which I try to help them along in figuring out what is the best way for their company to grow their business internationally.

And then there are some entrepreneurs I spoke to which have been involved in China for much longer than I have – and those sessions turned into a mutual sharing of experiences in China.

Innovative, diverse, creative

But over all, what has been so good to see over the past three months – and what amazes me almost always when I talk to an unknown company – is the immense diversity, level of innovation and ambition that is inherent in Dutch business. Dutch business has raised world leaders in the smallest niches and the most advanced technologies, and includes some of the most creative work I know. It’s been a pleasure meeting and working with all of these companies which are hopefully heading towards a successful future of doing business in China, starting in Beijing.

Changing perspectives

Have you ever thought about how travelling abroad and living abroad has influenced you? Maybe only by becoming more open and curious about the world but it could be much more radical: maybe meeting the love of your life or deciding on a radical career change.

When I was 16, I spent a year in Hobart, Australia. Looking back, that year changed everything. Of course, none of those changes happened immediately after but my life would have been so different if I hadn’t left a small rural village at age 16 to go to the other side of the world, living with a family I didn’t know, going to a completely unfamiliar high school and meeting other exchange students from the rest of the world. Doing this definitely ranks at the top of my best decisions made so far.

During my years at university, I studied and worked abroad again a few times. And of course, I travelled – in Europe, in Asia. I’ve always thought that some time abroad is so good for anyone to experience.

Last Sunday this idea was confirmed again. During Sunday afternoon drinks with my parents’ neighbours, I started talking to one of the neighbour’s daughters: she had recently been to China on a high school exchange.

She had participated in an exchange programme via her high school facilitated by Jialei & Co. I had heard about this organisation before and it was interesting to hear the experiences of a high school student who had participated.

But what I also loved about talking to her was not just to hear about how she perceived China but how her curiosity had increased, and how she now seems more open to try new things. She had only been away for 10 days but had tried things in China she would’ve just refused at home. Sometimes the reason wasn’t only curiosity to try things, but also respect for her hosts: because you don’t refuse to eat something you’ve never tried before but which your host has spent more than an hour preparing in the kitchen.

The result is the same though: discovery. Of new things, new food, new ways of looking at the world. A perspective of the world that doesn’t automatically assume that the way life is where you are at, is the way things are everywhere – or the way they should be. And that’s a lesson no one can take away from you anymore.

The motto that my exchange organisation sent me off to Australia with way back in the ’90s was

It’s not right, it’s not wrong: it’s different.

I can’t tell you how many times since this sentence has popped into my head, wherever I am in the world.

Ontdekkingstocht van een nieuwe taal

Zodra ik op vrijdagmiddag in de tram naar Ypenburg stap, weet ik dat het bijna weekend is. Het enige dat nog bij mijn werkweek hoort – nou ja, vaak heb ik ook in het weekend nog genoeg werkklusjes te doen – is om het komende uur te proberen iets zinnigs te kunnen antwoorden op de vragen die mijn lerares mij stelt. In het Mandarijn Chinees, wel te verstaan.

Stiekem wist ik het natuurlijk al lang: om je echt te kunnen verdiepen in een land is de taal essentieel.

Dat ik het Chinees in mijn vorige baan als adviseur over ondernemen in China niet nodig had, was misschien eerder een uitzondering volgend uit de omvang van de organisatie waar ik voor werkte. Maar in de afgelopen anderhalf jaar is die werkomgeving volledig veranderd. En dus heb ik na lang wikken en wegen vorige zomer eindelijk die grote knoop doorgehakt.

Tegenwoordig verdiep ik me daarom weer in een nieuwe taal: de grammatica, uitspraak en – natuurlijk – héél véél karakters die bij deze taal horen. Het doet me soms denken aan de uren, dagen, weken die ik heb doorgebracht in het Arsenaal, een oud kazernegebouw midden in Leiden waar de opleiding Japans van de universiteit gevestigd is. En aan de hoeveelheid Japanse karakters die ik in die jaren in mijn hoofd heb moeten stampen. Toch nog een beetje onverwacht betaalt al dat harde werk van toen zich nu nogmaals terug.

Chinees en Japans zijn taalkundig gezien volledig andere talen maar het schrift… dat lijkt tenminste een beetje op elkaar. En dat zorgt ervoor dat mijn geheugen dat eigenlijk nooit zo heel visueel werkt dat nu wel doet.

Een nieuw woord in het Chinees onthoud ik niet als het me gewoon gezegd wordt. Maar zodra ik zie met welk karakter dit woord geschreven wordt, geeft dat direct betekenis. Zodat dus ook die uitspraak blijft hangen. Voor mijn docenten vast een ongebruikelijke manier van leren, voor mij de énige manier die er voor zorgt dat ik al veel sneller dan verwacht wat grip heb op deze taal.

De onmogelijke taal die Mandarijn voor mij altijd leek heeft daarmee ook eindelijk een beetje zijn aura van ondoordringbaarheid verloren.

Dit is geschreven voor #blogawayNL.