(20 June 2008, Beijing and Hong Kong) Business Environment Council (BEC) and Peking University jointly staged the International Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Experts Forum – CSR as Key Drivers for Harmonized Community and Business Success in China at Beijing Island Shangri-La Hotel.
The forum was a gathering of senior executives at the forefront of the transformational trends, challenges and opportunities related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in both the global and local China context. Twenty renowned leaders from government, business, education and media sectors delivered in-depth and meaningful presentations covering global standards, guidelines, best practices and outstanding examples. Two hundred senior executives of various sectors were eager to learn, share their views on CSR and seek advice on the challenges they have encountered, which made the Forum even more fruitful and interactive.
"CSR is a new and evolving corporate management model and it is an alternative to the traditional growth and profit-maximization model. Companies should pursue societal goals, especially those relating to sustainable development - environmental protection, social justice and equity, and economic development. With the rapid developments in mainland China, CSR is receiving more and more attention from the community as well as from the central government. Companies not only concern with their financial bottom line, but also integrate social and environmental aspects into their business strategies and decisions." Dr Andrew Thomson, Chief Executive Officer of BEC said in the opening session.
He added, "We may not be able to avoid natural disasters, like the earthquake in Sichuan last month, but proactive and immediate responses from enterprises, such as donations and volunteer services, show that there is an encouraging uptake of CSR in mainland China. These initiatives indicate that we are not alone on the journey towards sustainable development and CSR."
"Since CSR is becoming a mainstream commitment undertaken by business today, Peking University opens its doors to new and useful programs to keep up with the change in times and increased awareness." said Prof Zhang Guo-You, Vice President of Peking University Council. "It is vital that CSR remains a strongpoint in our university’s core competency, and I believe that if corporate initiative is pursued, we can secure a bright future for generations to come."
Mr Peng Ning-Ke, Public Affairs Co-leader of Dow Chemical Company, said "CSR is subject to much debate and criticism. Some argue that CSR distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses; or it pre-empts the role of government as a watchdog over powerful multinational corporations. However, Dow believes that CSR is a concept whereby enterprises consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of our activities on customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities and other stakeholders, as well as the environment."
Prof David Jackman, Chairman of the British Standards Committee for Sustainable Development and the primary author of BS 8900: Guidance for Managing Sustainable Development, highlighted that "sustainable development should be seen as an intrinsic aspect of corporate culture. To be effective it needs to develop as a credible and routine basis of decision-making and everyday action at all levels in an organization.” He suggested companies that are not committed to CSR currently should start following some guidance and standard to help themselves operate in the fast changing environment, such standards can offer them some of the necessary approaches for developing and encouraging a more ‘mature’ sustainable culture."
Mr Edoardo Gai, Head of Sustainability Services of SAM Research advised that Chinese companies and investors should prepare for the change in business environment, "Sustainability Leaders should have the foresight to minimize their risk and recognize opportunities. According to demographics, we can foresee that ageing population in industrialized countries may cause problems like health care, pension systems, scarcity of workforce; population growth in developing countries may trigger resource scarcity including energy, water and food. It is time for companies to focus on its CSR policies, because traditional financial investors have started to integrate sustainability performance into investment processes. Companies willing to succeed in a changing business environment need to play an active role in managing their intangibles by elaborating a sustainability strategy."
Dr Andrew Thomson concluded that CSR in China is being considered more as an important management model and strategy by both the central government and corporations. The Central Government has aggressive environmental targets in its eleventh five year plan and includes a commitment to building a resource-conserving and environmentally-friendly society. Guidance has also been developed in 2007 for state-owned enterprises to fulfill social responsibilities, while large multi-national companies who have implemented CSR are increasingly requiring their upstream and downstream business partners to also behave in a more environmentally and socially responsible manner. This implies that companies that are not adapting CSR can be losing business.
This International CSR Forum is the first EnviroSeries conference held in mainland China. Since 1992, the EnviroSeries Conferences, hosted by the Business Environment Council, have become a central stage for the broadest range of stakeholders to address and discuss key environmental agenda crucial the sustainable development in Hong Kong and mainland China. EnviroSeries gather distinguished local and international speakers to discuss critical challenges, solutions and priorities as well as to identify how government, business and community sectors could collaborate for a sustainable future.
About Business Environment Council (www.bec.org.hk)
Since 1989, Business Environment Council (BEC) has been in the forefront of Hong Kong's sustainable development, striving to build capacity and facilitate action by partnerships with business, government and community groups. The Business Environment Council (BEC) is the longest running independent, private-sector non-profit organization in Hong Kong promoting corporate social and environmental responsibility. Set up by business for business in 1989, BEC offers sustainable business solutions covering baseline assessment, advisory, research, training and award programs for companies across all sectors and at any stage of their corporate sustainability journey.