华南美国商会会长哈利 • 赛亚丁博士是一位杰出人士。他在商业界取得了卓越成就，他事业的成功是社会、经济、环境领域可持续商业实践的成功典范。在本次采访中，我们与奥斯陆商业促进和平奖得主哈利博士面对面，就商业可持续发展的真正意义，如何践行商业道德与利润共赢，以及在商业世界如何为了实现更美好的未来进行深入探讨。
Dr. Harley Seyedin, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China, is an incredibly accomplished and distinguished man. Dr. Seyedin’s success in business is a shining example of socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable business practices. We sat down with the Oslo Business for Peace Award winner and discussed what sustainable business development truly is, how to reverse the stigma that sustainability and moral business practices cannot coexist with profit, and how the world of business can adapt to achieve a brighter future.
“Let me start off with the Oslo Business for Peace Award, and what this peace foundation is trying to do with that. At the conference in Oslo, one of the things we’ve discussed the last two years is what is sustainable development? The theme for this summit on May 15th and 16th this year was trust. What has been happening over a period of time is communities have been losing trust in business.
People don’t trust business. People blame problems on business. Not only have the politicians lost the trust of the people, but business has as well. What we talked about this year was how to help business regain the trust of the people. And this premise invites back into the question of what sustainable development is. Many people consider sustainable development as planting more trees or being responsible or returning the earth back to what it was when you found it. However, all we did in the past was went and exploited resources and then left. We left a big hole in the ground, left a polluted area, or left a big plant standing.
因此，我个人认为可持续发展不是无限度地开发资源，使用劳动力，消耗殆尽，而是以一种可以持续的方式使用这些资源。如果资源耗尽，我们需要有一个后续方案。也就是要让当地社区积极参与到可持续发展中来，这样即使我们离开了，他们也能够维持之前的经济水平 。要践行这一承诺，我们必须要教会当地人保护好他们的环境，让他们的经济能在我们离开后继续发展。可持续发展的关注点不仅仅是树木和水处理设施，更是你经商那个地方的人。我们可以在投资地建立一个可持续的商业模式。人们过去常说，商业就是商业，我不认同，在我看来，商业就是让社会变得更好。因此，在奥斯陆会议中，我们讨论了 “商业道德（businessworthy）” 一词。
For me, personally, I believe sustainable development is not exploiting resources and labor but utilizing them in a way that will last forever as opposed to running out. And if they run out, we need to have an answer for what follows. This means we need to involve the indigenous community in sustainable development in such a way that they can sustain themselves to the level that we brought them up to even once we’re gone. And if we do that, then naturally, we have taught the locals how to protect their own environment and how to create after we’re gone. Once you begin to look at sustainability beyond just trees and water treatment facilities and start looking at the people that live where you are doing business, you can create a sustainable business model. People used to say the business of business is business. I don’t believe that anymore. The business of business, in my opinion, is to improve society. At the summit in Oslo, we discussed the term “businessworthy”.
I was asked what this meant to me, and for me it means that the community you’ve invested in thinks of you as family. If you can achieve that, you’ve achieved trust. It is actually a lot more profitable to do business in this sustainable way than to exploit. It is much smarter to invest early on and create a beneficial, sustainable model than to lose trust down the road. It is much more expensive to rebuild trust than to establish it on the front end. Companies that will survive are the ones that gain the trust of their community and their people. I’ll give you one example of that; Proctor and Gamble has a very large portion of the shampoo market in China based on a few products with which they compete with a thousand six-hundred shampoo manufacturers in China.
But, they still have a majority share of the market. So, why do Chinese not trust the other brands as much as P&G? Because when the Chinese buy a bottle of Pantene or Head and Shoulders, they know it is going to perform exactly like it did every time before that. To build trust you have to invest, but the investment upfront is very small compared to what you would have to invest on the other end to repair a loss of trust. In business, your relationships with your business partners are just as important as with your customers. In business deals, I always tell myself, as I look at the other person across the table from me, that whoever I’m dealing with is trying to do the same thing I am: provide for their family—trying to create a better life for their children. And in the process of the business dealings, if I’ve denied that person that right, then I’ve failed.
I may have made a little more money at that time, but the future will be less fruitful. There is always a line where you are taking more than you should. If people feel that you care and you’re fair, people will trust you every time. What I’m saying goes against the grain of what most people might say, but, for me, it is very important for sustainable, profitable business in the future. I can give you an example from my own business practices. In 1994, 24 years ago, the World Bank was providing funding for a number of infrastructural projects in China. I have to take you back a bit to see why the World Bank would be funding China, the seventh richest country in the world GDP wise. In 1991, the total length of super highways in Guangdong province was 15 kilometers. I am talking about a four lane, elevated highway that went from Guangzhou to Foshan.
Today, in Guangdong, you have easily three to four thousand kilometers of super highways that were built in the last 25 years. It is mind-blowing. Nothing has happened anywhere in the World to that magnitude. So, the World Bank was funding the construction of highway projects back in 1994. When the World Bank funds a project, they don’t put up all the money. They put up some of the money and then private lenders will lend the rest of it because no government has ever defaulted on a project in which the World Bank put up money. Now, in 1994, the World Bank was funding highways in China, and the bids were being auctioned off internationally. There was not a single Chinese company that was qualified to bid on those projects.
To be qualified to bid as a construction company for a World Bank funded highway, you have to have built them before. So, I mean here, you had all of the loans for these highways that were going to be paid back by the local government—the World Bank wasn’t giving grants, it was a loan—and yet you did not have a single Chinese company that actually qualified to bid on those projects. I did not like that idea. I thought, this makes absolutely no sense—to me it was exploitation. That is not sustainable. Because if we keep doing this forever, China will always have to rely on outside companies to come and build highways for them. So, I teamed up my company with one of our business partners at the time, a Brazilian construction company that was the biggest construction company in Latin America. Then, I brought in China Railway Engineering, out of Xi’an.
We created a three-way team. I used the World Bank certification of the Brazilian construction company to bid for six sections of the Xinjian highway. So, I sat the three partners down, and I told the Brazilian construction company that we were going to let the China Railway Engineering company do most of the work. And we’re going to use our engineers to teach them how to do it according to World Bank standards—which are very different than local standards. And so, we did this. We came in on time, profitable, on budget, and we all made money—China Railway made more money because they did all the work—but we still all made money. And so, after the project’s completion, China Railway became the first highway construction company certified to bid on a World Bank project in China.
It opened everything up in China over the next five to ten years, and eventually, there were many Chinese companies building these highways in China. After this, many people asked me what was wrong with me because I was creating competition. And I looked at them, and I said, yes. Absolutely. But at the same time, I am creating a partner. Because there is going to be trust between me and these people. China Railway now is the largest construction company in the World. They’re 56th on the Fortune 500 list world-wide. And we are very good friends. We have partnered with each other on other projects. Now how did I manage to partner with one of the largest companies in the world? I am not a major international conglomerate, but I know how to do international business. When I can team up with the largest construction company in the world on a project, that gets the bank’s attention, that gets the insurance company’s attention, and financing becomes a lot easier. So, yes, I created competition, but at the same time, I created something sustainable. This is a good example of what sustainable development is and how it can be much more profitable than exploitation.