CSR News from around ASEAN

Regional consultation on business and human rights held in Singapore

ASEAN human rights advocates gathered at the Bayview Hotel, Singapore from 11 to 12 December 2012 to conduct a regional workshop and consultation on the topic of 'business and human rights'.

The 2-day workshop was organized by the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism in partnership UN Women, with support from the Canadian International Development Agency and Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Ambassador Rosario Manalo, Philippine representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, welcomed over 70 participants who attended the event, mostly from civil society organizations and national human rights commissions from around Southeast Asia.

Mr. Thomas Thomas, CEO of the ASEAN CSR Network and executive director of Singapore Compact for CSR, delivered the keynote speech and gave an overview of CSR practice in the ASEAN region. The ensuing open forum was a lively one as concerns were raised regarding the capability of CSR, as it is understood and practiced today, to effectively address human rights issues. Mr. Thomas argued that human rights are already accepted as a major component of CSR, as shown by the text of internationally-accepted principles and standards on CSR such as the UN Global Compact and ISO 26000. However, it was also pointed out that despite these international standards, reality is that CSR as practiced in ASEAN today is still largely focused on philanthropic activities and community development work that are seen as an 'add-on' to business operations.

The session showed a wide difference in perspectives and expectations on what CSR and business and human rights mean, and on whether the two terms or concepts are synonymous and interchangeable. The engaging discussion emphasized the need for more dialogue between different sectors in order to be able to educate one another on different perspectives and strategies.

Ms. Amarsaana Darisuren, human rights specialist for UN Women in Asia Pacific, presented on 'Women's Empowerment Principles', and Ms. Cynthia Morel, from Global Advocacy and visiting professor at Singapore Management University, presented on the merits and practicality of the 'Ruggie Framework' – more formally known as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Various cases on alleged human rights transgressions of businesses, and recommendations on how they can be resolved or avoided in the future, were also presented. These included the Xayaburi dam case in Laos (and the role of Thai banks in its financing), trafficking of factory and domestic workers from Cambodia to Malaysia, Oceania Gold Mining in the Philippines, and the Asia highway and port construction in Myanmar, to name a few.

Mr. Vinh Nguyen, Director at the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and trustee of the ASEAN CSR Network, commented that there should also be efforts made to promote positive corporate practices in the area of business and human rights.

The output of the workshop and consultation will be a set of recommendations for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) and other institutions to consider and act on.

9th ASEAN Business & Invesment Summit (ASEAN-BIS) in Phnom Penh concludes succesfully

20 November 2012, Cambodia -- With over 1000 attendees joining a range of highly informative panels and intense discussions on a range of topics on ASEAN development of the coming years and on the way to achieving the AEC 2015 (ASEAN Economic Community), the 9th ASEAN-BIS in Phnom Penh concluded with a key panel moderated by Cambodia's Senior Minister, Minister of Commerce and ASEAN Economic Ministers Chair 2012, Cham Prasidh. The discussion, featuring leading economists presenting their institutions' research visions on the future of ASEAN from 2013 to 2030, gave a lively insight into what will, and what should, be coming for the worlds most attractive investment and business community.

"This Cambodian-hosted ASEAN-BIS Summit raised great interest in ASEAN and its business environment, and the record number of delegates coming to Phnom Penh for these three days is proof that this region remains top of the list for the worlds investment community", says Neak Oknha Kith Meng, Chairman of ASEAN BAC in 2012. "The global and regional business community places very high hopes on this marketplace and is very curious about its most attractive investment destinations with the greatest growth potentials, such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar but of course also its more developed partner markets. Delegates and speakers place a lot of confidence in the opportunities that arise in ASEAN."

Organised by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) and co-hosted by the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, the ASEAN-BIS is established as an official side-event to the ASEAN Leaders Summit and the East Asia Summit (EAS), where no less than 16 Heads of States and Governments convene in the Cambodian capital.

This year's ASEAN-BIS included prominent speakers such as H.E. Samdech Decho Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia; H.E. Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce; H.E. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEAN; Donald P. Kanak, Chairman of Prudential Corporation Asia; Gilles Plante, CEO Asia of ANZ Banking Group; Dr. Jonathan Choi, Chairman of Sunwah Group, and many more.

Renowned BBC ASIA journalist and ASEAN expert, Rico Hizon, moderated the key sessions of the summit as well as the Gala Dinner and the ASEAN Business Awards (2012 ABA), which recognise the "Most admired ASEAN enterprises" which were handed to 26 outstanding companies, rewarding the most advanced SME's and large companies in a range of areas such as growth, employment, innovation and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Recognized in the area of CSR were: PT Bank Negara Indonesia (Persero) Tbk (Indonesia), Top Glove Corporation Berhad (Malaysia), and CapitaLand Limited (Singapore) in the 'Large Company' category; and Saigon Paper Joint stock Company (Vietnam), Siloso Beach Resort (Singapore), and Adrenalin Events and Education Pte Ltd (Singapore) for the SME category.

Ruben Hattari, Executive Director of the ASEAN-BAC and the organiser of the annual ASEAN- BIS, is pleased with the strong support of ASEAN Governments and the private sector both from the region and from Cambodia. "This was a very good result with, and the ASEAN-BAC and its members from the 10 ASEAN countries are pleased with the Phnom Penh event."

The 2012 ASEAN-BIS continues to serve as a prime platform for knowledge exchange and networking between the regional business community and ASEAN's political leaders. The summit provides insight into ASEAN developments by leading corporate, governmental and academic experts who are a major driving force for further ASEAN integration.

More information and photos from the event  can be found at www.asean-bis.com.

Singapore Businesses Keen on Exploring Business Opportunities in Cambodia and the Wider ASEAN Region

Singapore, Wednesday, 14th November 2012 – The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) will lead 21 members from 17 Singapore-based companies on a five-day business mission to Cambodia from 14 - 18 November 2012 to explore business opportunities and participate in the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.

Led by mission leader, Ms Low Sin Leng, Executive Chairman of Sembcorp Development Limited, the companies cover a broad range of sectors, including hospitality, real estate, logistics, venture capital finance, oil & gas, events management and specialist consultancy services. The delegation will visit the capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's political and business centre.

Read more

ASEAN CSR Network delegates take part in UNIDO CSR Workshop and Int’l Singapore Compact CSR Summit

22 representatives from 9 ASEAN-member countries participated in 3 days of networking and training in Singapore from 26 to 28 September 2012. The capacity-building trip was organized by the ASEAN CSR Network, a regional body that promotes the practice of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a means for achieving sustainable socio-economic development in the region in line with the ASEAN Community 2015 blueprint.

Read more