Enterprises' reluctance to invest in green technology and poor enforcement of environmental laws are hampering Vietnam's sustainable development, experts said.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) and Director General of Vietnam Environment Administration Bui Cach Tuyen said the country's economy is still too dependent on industries such as mining that pollutes the environment.

He said the country's natural resources need to be exploited more efficiently. To achieve this, firms must invest in better infrastructure, waste disposal technology and improve employees' environmental awareness.

Cao Sy Kiem, a member of the National Monetary Policy Consulting Committee and chairman of the Vietnam Small and Medium Enterprise Association, said cash-strapped enterprises do not have the funds to invest in green technology and are instead directing resources towards new technology and better working conditions for employees.

In addition, some do not see the benefits of investing in environmental protection, he said.

Tran Vu Hoai, vice chairman of Unilever Vietnam, a founding member of the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development, said enterprises need to be made fully aware of the need to protect the environment.

He also said a roadmap should be formulated to force firms to become more environmentally friendly that includes better supervision and stiffer sanctions.

Hoang Duong Tung, vice general director of the Vietnam Environment Administration, said awareness about the need for environment protection has improved in recent years. He also said the Government allocates 1 percent of its national spending each year on environmental protection.

However, he said enterprises needed to be better informed about the Law on Environment (1993), which was amended in 2005 and may be further revised next year.

Tung said stiffer penalties need to be imposed on firms that broke environmental laws. He said a lot of firms at the moment would rather pay the existing fines than go to the expense of treating their waste.

In the last few years, environmental authorities have stepped up inspections. Fines have also increased 10-fold. The most serious environmental infraction can incur a fine of 400-500 million VND.

Tung also said firms that violated the law should be named and shamed in the media.

Christoph Von Waldersee, managing director of Asia Water Development Corporation, said that emerging economies such as Vietnam always face environment issues resulting from rapid growth.

"When investing into public utilities, the private sector usually looks for high yields... while the public sector can generate the political will, legal framework and share both the burden and profits," he said.

The forum on economic growth and its environmental impact was co-organised by Vietnam Holding Limited and MONRE last week. /.