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Sustainability:  A Basic tenet at Vietnam’s Becamex

Published in the APEC 2012 official magazine

Sustainability is a much used word nowadays.  It seems advertisers can’t wait to use it and even APEC seems to have caught the “fever” and the term often appears in APEC literature including that at the APEC CEO Summit.  What is sustainability?  The US government through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines sustainability as follows:  Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

The above simple truth is one that Vietnam’s Becamex IDC, the country’s largest infrastructure, industrial park developer and operator and one of the largest real estate companies in Vietnam internalized and took as a basic tenet right from its earliest days.

Starting with its establishment in 1976, Becamex dedicated itself to the welfare and material advancement of Binh Duong province where it was based.  Over the 35 years of building its name into a prestigious brand name in industrial, residential, urban and transportation infrastructure, Becamex always looked out for their employees and their neighbors in Binh Duong as they took on infrastructure and other industrial and building projects.

In 1996, they commenced work on their highly successful joint venture with Sembcorp to build the first Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) in Binh Duong province, Vietnam.  Becamex, the majority owner, learned from Singapore and adopted those policies that made sense or modified them to meet Vietnam’s different development timeline.  VSIP by common agreement is the best managed and most successful industrial park in Vietnam and has now led to further VSIP parks in the North of Vietnam in Bac Ninh and Haiphong and most recently in the center of the country.   The success of VSIP is based on three principal factors. First, VSIP offers a healthy economic and attractive investment environment. Second, it is a key location with favorable conditions and quality of competitiveness on the side of the industrial park itself. The third factor is its transparent and liberal framework.

In 2002, building on the success of VSIP but also learning from the whole VSIP endeavor, Becamex started a new concept - an industrial city - My Phuoc Industrial City.  From the first, My Phuoc utilized all the good points of the VSIP project but furthered the entire concept by creating an integrated meeting point for workers, entrepreneurs and business management, service providers and government officials all to come together in a more way that facilitated not only economic production but also the welfare and happiness of all levels and increased worker happiness and satisfaction by giving them better housing, better access to government services like schools, universities, hospitals, entertainment, retail stores, police and other services.


As Becamex CEO Nguyen Van Hung has noted  “We looked broadly in the region and elsewhere to see what had worked and what hadn’t worked in terms of industrial organization.  In many places we saw increased production and GDP growth but also negative factors like workers having to leave their families and locate in separated dormitories which caused increased turnover and other negative factors.  We set out to create a more sustainable and humanistic environment that gave all levels of society the services and resources they needed.  Building the hardware was easy, but getting all of the “software” to make all parties supportive and engaged took more time but the result has been worth it”.  This is true sustainability - not just a slogan.

In 2007, Becamex further extended their range by adding a new industrial park in Bau Bang.  Soon thereafter,  Becamex commenced its mega-project, building Binh Duong New City. Binh Duong New City is a new modern city located about one-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City(HCMC), the country's main commercial hub. This new city will be a model for all facets of redefining the future, not only in Vietnam, but regionally.

The New City is sometimes dubbed by media as the "Pudong" of HCMC. Its Master Plan has the cooperation of French, Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai and other international architect, construction firms and other supporting companies, and is now over 50% complete. This is where the best opportunities in manufacturing, products, services, infrastructure and many other sectors are now arising. Binh Duong, with its close proximity to HCMC, has been a manufacturing center and top province for the Southern area of Vietnam for many years. Its new township, expansion of industrial park areas, residential areas, university, hospital, office space & shopping center and entertainment areas have created new markets and opportunities. 

Becamex is taking the current financial challenges to the world as not a call to slowdown or stop programs but to persevere and innovate. Becamex continues its efforts to improve infrastructure. A leading example: the new Expressway from Binh Duong to Ho Chi Minh City which will be the first real expressway in the country and greatly reduce travel time between Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong. This project is nearly complete and will open in 2012. Another example is the new 800 million dollar upgrade of Highway 13 which Becamex received last year. These projects link Binh Duong to Ho Chi Minh City and the South but inside the province Becamex continues to work to improve infrastructure and most investors are pleasantly surprised at the high level of electric, water, sewage, communications and building infrastructure throughout Becamex projects throughout the country.  They also are surprised by Becamex continuing efforts to improve environmental protection and through effective city planning like in our Binh Duong New City to increase green areas, protect fragile wet areas and rivers and to incorporate energy efficiency and effective urban planning.

Becamex early saw human resources as key to success of the province, last year Becamex opened the $100 million dollar new Eastern International University (EIU)in Binh Duong New City, which is now offering studies in business, engineering and nursing that will meet the highest international standards with additional majors to be added in the years ahead in many additional fields.

Not only must employees and new communities be well trained but they also must be healthy and well cared for. In terms of improving medical care and welfare for employees, neighbors and people throughout our region - Becamex also is soon to open an ultramodern International Hospital and expand operations and training at its current 2nd hospital plus expand pharmaceutical cooperation through its two pharmaceutical subsidiaries to improve access to medicine.

Becamex is optimistic and excited about the future of the APEC region.  The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) built to link the 10 nations in AFTA represent over 500 billion people and in terms of total population is larger than both NAFTA and the EU. Increasingly Vietnam and the region will benefit as AFTA continues to breakdown barriers and opens a market across Southeast Asia which will take advantage of the young, consuming population that characterizes the area. We are hoping that more APEC countries will deepen ties with AFTA and utilize the lower cost labor, improving infrastructure and human resources of Vietnam as a gateway to AFTA and as a crossroads to site factories, businesses and to work and trade.

Vietnam continues to show increased GDP growth even despite the financial difficulties that many nations are seeing. The reason is that Vietnam has a very young population and a work ethic that is among the best in Asia. The Vietnamese government continues to offer business friendly support through government regulations and Vietnam continues to invest in infrastructure, education and training that help new businesses locating here improve their productivity and profitability and build a sustainable and progressive environment for the company and its employees to prosper. The news for all is that Vietnam is "open" for business and even in the midst of the current world financial difficulties continuing to innovate and improve to better serve business. Becamex would like to invite all of the CEO summit to learn more about the opportunities in Vietnam which are substantial and can offer new opportunities for your company to expand sales, grow and improve the company's future prospects. Grasp the Opportunity for Success in Vietnam with Becamex.

  1. Bullet Related Article:   Vietnam's Becamex is Platinum Sponsor at the APEC 2011 CEO Summit

About the Author:  

Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (

Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations.


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