2008 Ambassador Winner

Cantho Pesticides Joint-Stock Company - Vietnam

Cantho Pesticides Joint-Stock Company took the Asia Pacific prize in this year's international Environmental Respect Awards. As Ambassadors of Respect with Coopercitrus of Brazil, Operations Manager Nguyen Thanh Tam received a three-city tour of the US and was honored at an awards ceremony in the US Capitol.

There are two main categories of ag chemicals in Vietnam: regulated, quality chemicals that use safety ratings -- and cheap knock-offs. According to Tam, many growers in Vietnam use cheap and often unsafe generic versions of products; this is why Cantho offers only the best chemicals. Too often the growers think about short term gains, rather than long-term profit -- and environmental stewardship rarely ranks high on the agenda.

DuPont Vietnam Business Manager Le Dat Thanh advises that most of the country's manufacturers are repackagers, not formulators. The majority of these repackaged chemicals come from China as generics, or often copies of multinational companies' (MNC) products. While there are protection laws to prevent knock-offs, Dat Thanh says, "the government doesn't execute them well, or properly." He says that the high-level leaders are clear on the laws, but as it trickles down to local government, there's less enforcement. According to regulation law, Dat Thanh reports, "only 40% of active ingredients are examined, and purity is not considered."

MNCs like DuPont make an effort to train and educate farmers, says Dat Thanh, "but most don't listen. They prefer to use generics with no training."

Cantho Pesticides is an exception. It's one of the first Vietnamese companies to demonstrate the investment and commitment in protecting safety and the environment, and it does so by focusing on quality. Tam knows that the cheap knock-offs can be harmful, and with recent concern for food and product safety coming from China, he says, "If we have one small incident from a product, it can (threaten) the whole product line." This provides Cantho the opportunity to promote quality. "The world is so small," he says, conveying not only how important it is to deliver a quality product that meets safety standards, but also why, as he continues, "producers and users must protect the environment; not only for the humans, but all the animals, the water, and everything else we need to support life."

Tam outlines four programs Cantho has set, making it one of the leading environmentally conscious companies in the region. Protect the environment at the production site; manage production waste; reduce dependency on natural resources, like water and energy; and comply with EU regulations.

At Cantho's production site, special care is taken to secure the facility: A trained security team is on patrol every night, and during off hours, the facility is locked and power is cut off. Local emergency response teams, such as police and the fire department, work in cooperation with the company's procedures, and have recognized Cantho for implementing security standards.

While growers using generic products must submit to China or elsewhere for registration documents, distributors like Cantho Pesticides provide documentation directly from the MNCs. They use EU guidelines for compliance, making certain that their products fully meet EU regulations. This higher standard produces better quality products, which are safer for the environment than unregulated, copied imports. This is important to Cantho, which believes that protecting the environment requires effort from both sides: pesticide companies must produce high-quality products, and users must learn how to use and apply the pesticides safely and correctly. One positive message the company has carried into the community, says Tam, is to recommend that growers "use the products which are friendly to the environment." Thanh Nhat Tran, DuPont Asia Pacific regional regulatory specialist, goes as far as to call ag chemicals, "the best tool the human being has ever invented." But, he goes on to say, "we have to know how to use it." There's a lot of chemical abuse in agriculture, Tran says. "Damage the environment, and you pay for it twice."

Nguyen Tien Minh, deputy chief of mission from the Vietnam Embassy, comments about the first Vietnamese company receiving the award: "It's very good news for us. It's a sign that our effort has been recognized internationally. Over time, more and more companies from Vietnam will evolve."

"That's why we honor Mr. Tam," DuPont's Tran announces. "He's an enthusiastic champion about environmental safety."

Cantho is "very highly honored to represent the Asia Pacific this year," Tam says. "Our effort to protect and improve our environment is not only for Vietnam, but for all countries. In receiving this award, we think Asia Pacific, with our efforts so far, can continue to contribute to protect our environment."