PRESS RELEASE - 9 February 2015

For immediate release, 9 February 2015
'Next Generation' of CSR in ASEAN must include businesses addressing
core issues of human rights, corruption

Bali, Indonesia -- 6 February 2015


Focused on finding “breakthroughs for inclusive and sustainable growth in ASEAN post 2015”, the ASEAN Next-Gen Corporate Social Responsibility Forum was held at the Laguna Resort in Bali, Indonesia from 3-7 February, with ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh and Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Puan Maharani as guests of honour.

opening - asean next-gen csr forum

Secretary General Le Luong Minh addressed the importance of 2015 as a milestone for ASEAN’s development in ASEAN as we approach an integrated community at the end of the year, emphasising the vital role of the business sector in helping achieve inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. He reiterated the need to fulfill the provisions in ASEAN’s Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint on ensuring that CSR is in the region’s corporate agenda, and that it is defined and practised in line with international standards and norms. Puan Maharani spoke on the importance of partnerships between government and businesses in solving problems, especially at the community level.

ASEAN CSR Network Chair, Yanti Triwadiantini, declared that as part of the ‘ASEAN CSR Vision 2020’, ASEAN must harness collective action on CSR. The agenda must go beyond corporate philanthropy and move towards businesses working jointly to address key issues as part of their business operations and strategy. The four-day Forum included focused sessions, consultations and workshops on business and human rights, business integrity and anti-corruption, food security and sustainable agriculture, and governance and creating shared value in the extractives sector.

The Forum was organised by the ASEAN CSR Network in partnership with the Government of Canada through its Embassy in Jakarta, the ASEAN Foundation, and the Government of Sweden through its Embassy in Bangkok. Key support was received from the Japan-ASEAN Solidarity Fund, the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (UK FCO) Prosperity Fund, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), and platinum sponsor, Intel.


Finding Breakthroughs and the 'Art of the Impossible'

Keynote speaker John Elkington, a renowned thought leader on CSR and sustainability, described CSR as the “art of the possible”, while stressing that we should constantly push the agenda and find breakthroughs to achieving a new way of doing business. We should not be limited by what is possible in today’s context, but instead have a bold vision for achieving what is seemingly impossible. He cited examples of visionary business leaders who have embraced the CSR agenda, such as Interface founder Ray Anderson who was seen as ‘crazy’ by many when he first declared his Mission Zero plan,    and helped transform their business into truly sustainable organisations.

Addressing a question from a participant, John Elkington expressed concern that CSR and related concepts such as the ‘Creating Shared Value’ are becoming widely misunderstood and misinterpreted as they gain popularity. This leads to companies practising it the wrong way and create doubt on its value.  At the same time, he said he shared a great hope for the future because today’s youth think differently and have different expectations, paving the way for a new breed of business leaders. However, he emphasised the need to empower this idealism starting in business schools, which are generally as latecomers to the sustainability agenda.

Corruption  an impediment to ASEAN competitiveness, leads to bigger problems

Huguette Labelle, former Chair of Transparency International (TI) and Board Member of the Global Compact, in her keynote speech on achieving a corruption-free ASEAN, spoke on the importance of cooperation between governments, civil society and business sector in tackling corruption. Panelist and UK barrister Gerard Forlin QC stressed that when a company engages in corruption, it exposes itself to severe global legal and reputational risk. Further, he cited that poor corporate governance usually directly leads to broader problems on health and safety, environmental management, and human rights violations.

Teresa Pacis, Vice President for Corporate Affairs at GMA Network (Philippines), shared practical examples on how an ASEAN-based company can avoid corruption and contribute to corrupt-free ASEAN by joining collective action programmes such as the Integrity Initiative. The session was chaired by the Regional Adviser on Anti-Corruption of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),  Shervin Majlessi.

On 6 February, the Regional Working Group on Business Integrity in ASEAN, composed of seven private sector networks engaged in anti-corruption work, continued the discussions through a consultation meeting. The meeting was organised with the support of the UK FCO and UNODC, and included partners from Transparency International. The outputs of the meeting will inform the Regional Working Groups Framework and Plan of Action, and efforts by TI to advocate for an ‘ASEAN Integrity Community as part of ASEAN’s post-2015 strategy.

Business & Human Rights agenda in ASEAN takes leap forward

On 4 February, a pre-Forum Consultation on Business & Human Rights and developing National Action Plans was co-organised by the ASEAN CSR Network and the Singapore Management University School of Law. The consultation saw more than 100 speakers and participants taking part, including the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia, and members of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights representing Asia and Africa.  Participants were from national human rights institutions, civil society groups, and business networks.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’, “Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework” (Guiding Principles), have become the main reference for streamlining efforts to address adverse corporate-related human rights impacts. There have been calls to develop National Action Plans that can be instruments for the strategic and coherent implementation of the Guiding Principles.

Indonesia Representative to AICHR Rafendi Djamin delivered the keynote remarks at the consultation and shared that Indonesia already has plans in place to develop a National Action Plan and expects the process to be completed this year.

At the closing session of the Forum, Economic Advisor to the President of Myanmar Prof. Aung Tun Thet also announced his country’s intention to develop National Action Plan on implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  He emphasised the importance for Myanmar, being a latecomer to the global economy, to engage at the regional and international levels in order to learn lessons from the experience of others and ‘leapfrog’ its development.

MNCs must lead way in ensuring ASEAN Food Security and Sustainability through their supply chain

During the session of Sustainable Agriculture, the Working Group discussed on the Integrated Sustainable Agriculture Programme (ISAP), a system using a unique UNGC of registering farmers and small and middle sized enterprises to  using a unique UNGC code and linking up their contributions to global supply chains.  It would be a way to demonstrate how responsible and sustainable agribusinesses can rapidly build transparency and resilience into global food systems.  The programme will generate knowledge for free public use.  The initiative will raise levels of performance and expectation from farmers to consumers, to make global food systems more secure and equitable.   It is a mechanism to enable collaborative solutions to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #2, that is, to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Among the issues raised were, on how the registration and tracking may assist.  The Head of the Sustainable Agriculture of the UN Global Compact, Dr. Puvan Selvanathan, said it would contribute to capacity building of farmers and increase in consumer awareness when companies capitalise on the information and it would be able to leverage on their consumers.

This is part of the ACN programme “Leveraging Business in ASEAN for food security and sustainable agriculture”.  This programme will support post-2015 global targets for food security within the ASEAN region by actively encouraging businesses, governments and other stakeholders to build informed, principle-based partnerships that deliver high-impact outcomes. The output of the Consultation will inform stakeholders and together work on the next steps of actions and outcomes.

Good Governance is the basic building block in the O&G, mining sectors

If there is one sector that can lift a country out of poverty, it is the natural resources sector.  Discussing the core issues from policy to legislation, contracts and fiscal regimes, the dialogue presents the pros and cons of various models illustrating that getting the right balance between attracting investment and optimising a country’s benefits is often an art rather than a perfect science.

Today, in addition to the legal licenses to operate companies also need social licences.  One of the challenges to this, is the fact that communities have different expectations and there is no one size fits all solution.  Local consideration needs to be taken into account and non-governmental organisations play a critical role and should be consulted.

The discussion led by Daniel Dumas, an energy expert with the Canadian International Resources Development Institute (CIRDI), who is also its Executive Director, identified three building blocks, of legal framework and fiscal regime, appropriate institutions, and good governance for attracting investment and optimising a country’s benefits.  At the base of the block according to Dumas should be good governance.

Dumas believes that companies can adapt to anything.  Although he is of the opinion that businesses do not like to be taken by surprise.  Therefore according to the Executive Director, it is good to have predictable, stable framework in place.



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