GCNT Forum 2023 underscores human capital development for sustainable intelligence-based society
The annual forum of Thailand’s largest sustainability network, the United Nations Global Compact Network Thailand (GCNT), this year highlighted network members’ commitment to developing human capital for a sustainable intelligence-based society.
During the forum held on November 22 in Bangkok, the network’s chairperson, Suphachai Chearavanont, underscored the urgent need for human capital development in Thailand as the country is embarking on the 5.0 era.
Suphachai, who is CEO of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, said that the annual GCNT Forum was a crucial event that helped shape the future of Thailand by exchange of views and strategies in sustainable business operations among network members, which comprises over 130 leading organisations and stakeholders.
The chairman used the stage to declare GCNT’s intention to drive Thailand’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and called for brainstorming among members to support the country in joining international sustainability forums, including the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates next week.
“I am proud to report that the declaration of the GCNT’s intention each year has led to tangible results on the path to sustainability,” said Suphachai. “I also commend over 50 member organisations who have pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or 2070 the latest, accounting for 80% of total GCNT members last year.”
Supachai said that thanks to GCNT’s involvement in setting Thailand’s sustainability goals during the COP27 meeting last year, the country now has over 100 leading organisations announcing net zero targets.
“The declaration of intention today is, therefore, an important milestone in driving the country’s sustainability policies, which can only be achieved through cooperation from all related parties,” he added.
Key to sustainable development
Suphachai said that while attending the SDGs Summit in New York in September as chairperson of the GCNT, several world leaders had expressed concern about Thailand’s slow progress on the path to achieving its sustainable development goals.
“Only 30% of our goals are progressing as planned, while the rest are either standstill or falling behind the standards set back in 2015,” he said.
Suphachai said the GCNT members had been working to identify factors that would help Thailand meet its 17 SDGs before the deadline in the next seven years. Several related aspects have been explored, including capital, leaderships, technology and innovations.
“One of the most overlooked factors are the preparation of people, or human resource, for the achievement of sustainable development goals,” he said.
“Human resources are also vital to the country’s social and economic development in the next era, also known as the 5.0 era.”
Suphachai explained that Thailand was currently at the end of its 4.0 development era, which had been focused on information gathering and processing. The 5.0 era is the age of artificial intelligence, or AI, which will make the fullest use of data for the development economy, society, environment, as well as maximising the potential of human, essentially giving birth to the ‘superhuman’.
“AI promises vast development opportunities, but it can also increase the risk of cybercrime, cyberwar or AI war with unpredictable repercussions,” said Suphachai. “Therefore, the use of AI must be controlled by good governance, ethics and moral principles. The three are also pillars that support the sustainability of economy, society, and environment.”
Suphachai proposed that the society in the 5.0 era should be based on sustainable intelligence, or "SI Society". With a society whose members prioritise sustainable intelligence over artificial intelligence, we would be able to avoid potential pitfalls associated with AI usage, he said.
“We need to prepare our people for the 5.0 era that is fast approaching,” he said. “Human capital development indices from around the world point to the urgency and necessity for human development. Thailand needs to act today before we are too late.”
Suphachai added that based on evaluation results, Thailand’s human capital development and readiness for the future is currently lower than those of countries with the same level of GDP. He pointed out that Thailand is facing several challenges in human development, including in-depth knowhow and skills in technology adaptation.
No more delay in human capital development
Suphachai proposed additional approaches for human capital development on top of existing government policies and efforts of the private sector and related agencies to ensure that the country is on the path to becoming a sustainable intelligence-based society.
Over 12.5 million students currently in the education system must know how to use digital technologies to solve problems while embracing action-based learning through extra-curricular activities.
Students are encouraged to use personal computers or laptops provided by schools to gain new knowledge that fits their interests and the demands of the job market. This approach will help create new-generation explorers and experimenters with a growth mindset, sustainability-conscience and capability to adjust themselves to situations.
Meanwhile, teachers must shift their role from an instructor to a coach or learning facilitator with focus on maximising students’ potential to create a change agent. Teachers must work with clear performance indicators as well as a transparent evaluation process.
Suphachai added that the role of teachers could also exist outside educational institutes, such as in private organisations that provide action-based or experience-based learning programmes to fit their SDGs.
“Teachers must build awareness and understanding in ethics and good governance that would lead to sustainability,” he said. “They must also set self-learning frameworks for students and learners that would encourage them to work together to solve macro-level problems in economic, social and environmental aspects with the benefit of the society at heart.”
Suphachai remarked that the labour requirement in the 5.0 era would also change, while urging organisations to adjust their human resource development goals and approaches.
“Each organisation must analyse how it would utilise AI to support its business operations and set its human resource development plan accordingly,” he said. “By doing so, we will have workers who are ready for modern technology instead of living in fear that AI would take their jobs.”
Suphachai also urged those attending the forum to brainstorm for approaches in building a sustainable intelligence-based society through life-long learning among the new generation, rather than focusing on the knowledge gap between the old and the new generations.
Transition to 5.0 era must be ‘just’
Suphachai called on business leaders to champion the development of labourers’ skills to prepare for the transition into the 5.0 era, especially among low- to mid-level workers, who made up 90% of Thailand’s entire workforce or 39.6 million people.
He called this a “just transition”, in which the process is under corporate responsibility with close supervision and monitoring provided.
“Businesses must promote access to education and employment for people in vulnerable groups,” he said. “These include youths outside schooling or vocational training system, disabled persons, women, elders, migrant workers, stateless workers, people of gender diversity groups, and former prisoners.”
Toward the end of the forum, the GCNT chairman expressed confidence that people in a sustainable intelligence-based society would be able to tackle any challenges at national and global levels, enabling Thailand to achieve its 17 SDGs before the deadline.
He also vowed that the GCNT would continue its mission of gathering members, supporting educational reform, maximising the potential of teachers and students, improving workers’ skills, and building an intelligence-based society that is ready for the 5.0 era through a just transition that left no one behind.