business to Myanmar Guillén Pérez

Bringing your business to Myanmar?

Setting up business operations or otherwise taking your business to Myanmar? Consider how you can contribute to a sustainable and inclusive economy.

It is likely a coincidence, but it is fitting that in the month that Myanmar’s first democratically elected President Htin Kyaw took office, developments in Myanmar were also in the spotlight in the Netherlands with several well-attended events in April on doing business in Myanmar.

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Renewing a 2016 goal: Myanmar

As I started my work day this morning, opening up my laptop, I got distracted. On my desk were some leaflets from yesterday’s event, a seminar on doing business in Myanmar organized by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and the travel guide I bought a few months ago that I got off the shelf after I got home from the event.

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responsible business in Myanmar

Responsible business in Myanmar: where to start

“You have to kiss a lot of frogs, before you kiss a prince.”

Am I suddenly talking about dating? No. This quote describes doing business in Myanmar. At least, according to one of the speakers at last week’s seminar in Den Haag on doing business in Thailand and Myanmar.

It confirms what I’ve heard before: there is a lot of opportunity in Myanmar for foreign businesses – but it’s tough, very tough, to do business successfully in this newly opening country.

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Weekend reading: on Tohoku, Myanmar, education and the loneliness of work

At the edge of the weekend, a quick round-up of some online articles I spotted this week.

Three years on

Of course, this selection wouldn’t be complete without a few articles looking back at the past three years since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on 11 March, 2011.

The Japan Times looks at what happened to the children, and reports rising instances of trauma and stress for children living in Fukushima prefecture dealing with what happened and their uprooted life: Tohoku kids stressed by trauma

Dutch Tokyo-based correspondent Daniel Leussink visited the region and spoke to several people on reconstruction in Tohoku, which you can read about (in Dutch) here: Three years on, an empty coast

Work is lonely

An article that struck a chord this week is from Gianpiero Petriglieri, who I have been following on Twitter for some time for interesting insights on leadership and organisational development. He published a blog for the Harvard Business Review titled Why Work Is Lonely in which he talks about speaking up in organisations and sharing your opinion and about why people don’t. But also, why it is so important to do exactly this: have the courage to speak up.

We keep forgetting that our closest relationships are not those where tension is glossed over but those where it can be aired and worked through safely enough.

This is not only true of professional workplaces of course, but you can apply this – I think – to other organizations as well where people work together and where there is some type of hierarchy, whether intended or not. The challenge is to make everyone feel comfortable enough to actually say what they want to say.

Measuring business & human rights

The past two weeks for me were mostly about learning about how business can respect human rights. I attended a conference on due diligence and spent a few days in a course on implementing the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.

Michael Addo writes on the LSE-blog about the importance for businesses to work with indicators to be able to measure their progress on respecting human rights: Business and human rights indicators: Opportunities and challenges in measuring corporate respect for human rights

Notwithstanding the great potential of indicators, measuring and comparing respect for human rights by corporations is not an easy task.

He rightly also says this is very difficult to do: how do you measure discrimination? How do you measure whether or not a company-based grievance mechanism is accessible enough for the intended users? Luckily, there are various organisations working on this, including GRI and Shift.

Education in Myanmar

The NY Times highlights the lack of education in Myanmar and what organizations – NGOs but also businesses – are doing to address this. Raising the level of education will be vital for the further development of the country, so it’s good to read about these initiatives which are happening: Education Programs Try to Close Gaps in Myanmar

Weekend reading: on Myanmar, rural China and coal

While I’m out of my routine exploring a relatively new city and meeting many interesting new people, I still keep an eye on anything interesting that pops up online of course. This week I came across a few things I thought are worth sharing.

Due diligence in Myanmar business operations

The Institute for Human Rights and Business published a review of Coca Cola’s report on their Myanmar business operations, which is required by US law currently. I was particularly impressed to read in what way Coca Cola has used this report to describe their due diligence process: how to do business in a high-risk country such as Myanmar while working in line with the company’s internal policies for human rights and other issues.

Both business opportunities in Myanmar and due diligence are important topics in the Netherlands right now. The Social Economic Council will be organizing a conference on how to set up a proper due diligence process within multinational corporations in March, and the Dutch government published their National Action Plan on Human Rights and Business at the end of December. So reading about how a company is successfully putting this in to practice is very interesting – and encouraging!

Life in rural China

I really liked coming across this article earlier this week. It describes a project in China aimed at revitalizing rural China, now that so many people are migrating from the villages to the cities. It shares experiences from the Bishan project where new activities have been started in smaller villages. But, the article also contains links to several Instagram accounts of migrant workers in Beijing, where they share images from their villages when they travel back, such as @Mulanhuangling. Especially timely now that China is getting ready for the spring festival at the end of next week.

The elephant in the room

This afternoon I found this opinion article on CNN by the head of the International Energy Agency, Maria van der Hoeven. In China, the problems with air pollution are well known and one of the main causes – especially in winter – are the coal plants used to generate energy. In this piece, Van der Hoeven has some strong words to say about the necessity to shift away from coal to more sustainable energy options:

When it comes to a sustainable energy profile, we are simply off track — and coal is the elephant in the room.

Good to hear this coming from such a high level. But, when will this lead to any change in world wide energy policies?

China’s soil and food security

And closing off with a China article on food security: huge issue with so many different aspects. This article via UrbaChina touches on the scale of soil contamination and the options the government has to chose from – none of which sound great.

Weekend reading: on reviving rural Japan & boat refugees

I always collect a lot of bookmarks throughout the week to read when I have some time – though I don’t often make the time to really sit down and catch up on those bookmarks. I’m happy I did today: the following online articles really impressed me.

Japan, depopulation & history

Let’s start with Japan where I’ve found two pieces to share – surprisingly by the same man: Alex Kerr. I mostly know this author through his book Dogs and Demons, published already more than 10 years ago on how modern Japan works, which I would recommend anyone interested in Japan to read. Coincidentally this week I found two things online about him.

First, in this TEDxKyoto talk Kerr talks about the depopulation which is happening in Japan in many rural areas and his solution for some towns: revitalizing rural towns by making use of its traditional elements and renovating old houses to use in sustainable tourism. A great talk, and I love how you can see the personal connection and passion of Kerr about this topic.

In the same week, Kerr is interviewed in the Asahi Shimbun where he discusses Japan’s difficult relationship with China and South-Korea.

Boat refugees
However, the article that impressed me most this morning was a long piece in the NY Times Magazine: journalist Luke Mogelson and (Dutch) photographer Joel van Houdt risked their lives in following the journey that hundreds of people take all the time – and we often hear about the disastrous endings of those journeys. In Europe, many boats aiming for the Italian island of Lampedusa never make it – in the Pacific, Christmas Island is its equivalent. Many refugees from countries ranging from Syria and Lebanon to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan try to reach the island by boat from Jakarta. Only a few boats make it across instead of being intercepted by Indonesian police or being obstructed by the force of the ocean. Mogelson and Van Houdt share their experience of following this route – from Kabul, via Jakarta to Christmas Island. Impressive journalims and heartbreaking to read: The Dream Boat


And still on my list to read:

Weekend reading: Myanmar, closing the loop & the story of solutions

It’s been a while since the previous weekend reading, but these are some of the online articles that stuck with me this week. Enjoy reading!

Responsible business in Myanmar
Following the session on opportunities for responsible business in Myanmar at the CSR Asia Summit I am slowly reading up a bit more on developments in Myanmar: what is happening locally? But also, what are Dutch organizations doing to support doing business in Myanmar, and is there an awareness for the need of responsible business practices? Over the next few weeks I’m meeting with a few people to talk about this more.
This week I came across two articles which highlight the challenges in doing business responsibly in this part of the world. The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) posted a commentary on developments locally, focusing on the impact business can have and how to work with local communities. And, Global Post asks whether the textile industry in Myanmar will be ‘the next Bangladesh’ and what will be needed to prevent this.

Closing the loop
This week in the Netherlands, the conference Closing the Loop took place: what can business do to become part of the circular economy? GreenBiz just posted an interesting article on a best practice in Canada: quick service restaurant chain Tim Hortons is closing the loop on coffee cups.

The Story of Solutions
But also this week: the Story of Stuff project launched their new video The Story of Solutions. And as always, it has a powerful message and challenges us to reconsider the goal of our current economic system. What can we do to change the goal of MORE to a goal of BETTER?

Weekend reading: responsible business conduct, telecom in Myanmar, killer presentations & more

Another weekend, another round-up of this week’s news that caught my eye.

From Paris
I spent some of this week in Paris, at the Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct. These two days, organized by the OECD, were all about how to promote responsible business conduct – or, corporate social responsibility – and linked this to the practical application of the OECD Guidelines. There were various thematic workshops on Bangladesh and the textile industry, on the extractive industry, on transparency & reporting. I attended for the second day of the Forum which discussed responsible business conduct in the financial sector.

One of the moderators of the first day, Bhaskar Chakravorti, wrote a post talking about his expectations for the Forum and developments that he sees happening that can offer a way of taking the addition of ‘responsible’ away from responsible business conduct. Because shouldn’t CSR considerations be part of business as usual? In Chakravorti’s words:

You cannot scold, regulate, punish and nag your way to responsible conduct. It has to become part and parcel of regular business practices.

The twitter feed of the Forum provides a nice overview of the discussions and speakers.

Human rights in Myanmar’s telecom industry
One of the sessions at the Forum talked about responsible business conduct in the IT sector. At the same time, news broke about a large telecom investment in one of the most prominent developing economies right now, Myanmar. Two companies have been given licenses to develop the nearly non-existent telecom market in the country. The Institute for Human Rights and Business provides a good overview of the human rights’ challenges that lie ahead for the two winning companies, Telenor and Ooredoo, and calls on them to take care of implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business in their human rights due diligence process.

Swimming in China’s rivers
China’s environmental problems are never far from the news, and’s executive editor Sam Geall writes about popular movements to increase awareness of the environmental disasters happening in China and pressure (local) government to do something about it.

Creating stories
And lastly, a different topic – but one that relates to all of the above. Because all of the above articles talk about important topics and issues, and it’s important to find a way to get them out to a wider audience. One way of getting a wider audience is presenting at TED. And that requires being able to tell a great story.

There’s no way you can give a good talk unless you have something worth talking about.

The Harvard Business Review published an article this month by TED’s Chris Anderson in which he shares how to craft a ‘killer presentation’. I agree with pretty much all of his points, and this is what we practice at Toastmastersas well. Recommended read.