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Asean aims to raise the bar on CSR

The Asean CSR Network outlines a shared vision to promote corporate social responsibility practices among businesses to support the regional community's goals of sustainable, equitable and inclusive socio-economic development.

A network of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners in Southeast Asia has initiated a three-year plan that aims to put responsible business practices at the heart of the regional integration of the ten countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).

The Asean CSR Network (ACN) on Thursday presented their ‘Asean CSR Vision 2020’, an initiative to mainstream responsible business in the region by setting up a common framework on CSR among the Asean business community and civil society. 

As the integration of the Asean community opens vast economic opportunities for the region, challenges naturally come with it. Economic growth in the region, if not achieved equitably, will only create tensions in society - and thus will not be sustainable, ACN chief executive officer Thomas Thomas told partners and members of the network at the launch event held in Singapore.

The Singapore-headquartered ACN said that it will work with Asean governments and various business and non-profit groups over the next three years to map a shared strategy and practices on CSR based on international CSR principles.

The launch of the ‘Asean CSR Vision 2020’ is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and builds on the initial work of the Asean Foundation, said ACN in a statement. The Asean Foundation, which paved the way for establishing ACN in 2011, has integrated CSR as an essential component in building the ‘Asean socio-cultural community’ - one of the blueprints included in the formation of the Southeast Asian regional bloc.

The CSR network outlined its plans to help raise awareness and build capacity on the adoption of known international standards such as the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibiity, the UN Global Compact Ten Principles and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

We must balance our quest for economic expansion with principles of corporate social responsibility – responding not just to the need for more profits but also ensuring that all the people of Asean benefit in the long-term

Thomas Thomas, Asean CSR Network CEO

Through the network, ACN aims to implement the Asean vision of sustainable development by creating strategies based on established CSR principles. These include respect for basic human rights, raising the standards of labour practices, protecting the environment and eradicating corruption, explained Thomas.

ACN is composed of Asean business organisations that include: Singapore Compact for CSR, League of Corporate Foundations (Philippines), Indonesian Business Links, International Chamber of Commerce – Malaysia, Thai Listed Companies Association CSR Club, Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Asean Foundation.

ACN said it will conduct workshops and forums to promote these principles in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

The Asean CSR Vision 2020 also emphasised collective action, specifically on key issues that include:

  • Tackling corruption and building integrity in the business: ACN will offer knowledge-sharing, peer learning and partnership-building in collaboration with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, UN Global Compact and national-level partners, as well as with the support of the United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
  • Enhancing food security, environmental sustainability and agri-business competitiveness in the region and globally: ACN will work with key stakeholders in the agriculture sector to promote the adoption of the Food and Agriculture Business Principles by the UNGC.
  • Adopting and implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: ACN will work with partners such as the Human Rights Resource Centre for Asean and the Singapore Management University’s Asia-Pacific Business and Rule of Law Programme to ensure adoption of the said principles.

“We must balance our quest for economic expansion with principles of corporate social responsibility – responding not just to the need for more profits but also ensuring that all the people of Asean benefit in the long-term,” said Thomas.

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