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ESG, City, and People: Lessons from Bangkok

“What is the city but the people” – Shakespeare (Coriolanus, Act III, Scene I).

To improve a city means to first improve the people. When citizens are well-developed, economic empowerment will follow, and the key to developing people might lie in embedding ESG into every policy. Bangkok has recently been one of the metropolitans that joined the movement—leveraging ESG to enhance its most important asset: people.


According to the Bangkok Governor, Chadchart Sittipunt, the capital of Thailand has five key challenges regarding its people’s development. First is population density, which shifts people’s habitat further away from downtown, complicating citizens’ everyday travel to work. Second is an overly specialized workforce. As Bangkok is the home to largely service-oriented firms, people’s abilities are tailored to their work, meaning that the town lacks those with generalized skills. Third is inequality: Bangkok’s various types of workforce create many sub-societies living in parallel. Developmental policies, therefore, cannot be one-size-fits-all. Fourth is crowdedness, which naturally comes from the city being the residence of more than 10 million. Last is citizens’ vulnerability; Bangkok has many underprivileged demographics, namely the elderly and those in underdeveloped areas. When natural disasters or pandemics hit, these groups get hit first and hard.


ESG has been the critical focal point in Bangkok’s quest to become a better city via human capital development. Governor Sittipunt pointed out that E, S, and G elements are now being implemented across a broad spectrum as follows:

Environmental: With policies to plant a million trees within four years and a total commitment to net zero via regulations and incentives for businesses, Bangkok’s living conditions will improve. These will attract and retain bright minds to develop the metropolis further!

Social: Bangkok’s triad of societal development policies are education, equity for marginalized demographics, and equal access to healthcare. These give citizens self-sustaining skills, greater acceptance of their identities, and better access to health and wellness; all directly translatable to higher-quality and sustainable human capital.

Governance: The critical part of Bangkok’s new governance policy is people-centricity. With the city’s newly minted “Traffy Fondue” platform, issues city-wide are streamed to relevant authorities via heat maps that relay real-time reporting from all Bangkokians. This comes in conjunction with an open-data initiative; every Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s internal document is publicly available, keeping the policymakers accountable.

These lessons from Bangkok’s human capital development can be the blueprint for change that any city can follow. After implementing ESGs into policies, the other important consideration is to instill empathy into all details. With this, authorities can put themselves into people’s shoes and truly develop inclusive and just policies for all. This is how cities worldwide can transform from Good to GREAT!

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