Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) framework is vital to ensure sustainable and equitable development

12 Mar 2012

At the country's first ever forum to discuss the role of business and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the development of Lao PDR, participants agreed that now is the time to further promote and manage CSR. Achieving this will help to ensure fair distribution of the benefits of private investments, respect to human rights and reduced environmental impacts.

As Lao PDR focuses on foreign direct investment (FDI) in extractive industries, such as mining and hydropower, to achieve its 8% annual economic growth target, the issue of a socially responsible private sector is becoming increasingly important. CSR is as much about development as it is about human rights and environmental sustainability because of its direct impact on human development.

The special keynote speaker , Dr. Souvanpheng Boupphanouvong, Member of the Standing Committee, President of the Economics, Planning and Finance Committee, National Assembly, believes that now is the time to set a framework for CSR through a National Compact. “This will broaden the awareness and capacity for corporate responsibility and sustainability and community rights, as an integral aspect of the business environment in Lao PDR,” she said in her remarks at the Forum.

Mr. Minh Pham, UNDP Resident Representative, highlighted the importance of CSR to ensure that the impact on society from businesses is positive. “CSR is much more than philanthropy. It is a business philosophy. The reality is that no company, however large or small, operates in a vacuum. The very survival and success of any company depend not only on shareholders but also on the society,” he stated.

Over 200 participants, including business leaders from Lao PDR and across the ASEAN region, representatives from the Government, international organizations, universities, and national and international NGOs, joined the Forum to discuss the progress of CSR in Southeast Asia, how it can be further developed and adopted in Lao PDR, and how business impacts on the lives of communities.

Without accelerated economic growth and increased foreign direct investments the country will not be able to achieve its ambitious national development goals including the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and Least Developed Country graduation by 2020. The issue of CSR directly relates to the crucial role of the private sector as the main engine for the sustainable economic development of Lao PDR.

The Forum, 'Growth with Equity: Human Rights and the Role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Lao PDR', was co-hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union (EU). The International Law Project, implemented by MoFA, with support from UNDP, organizes this annual Lao International Law Forum.

H.E. Mr. Alounkeo Kittikhoun, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, opened the Forum, which was co-chaired by, H.E. Dr. Bounthavy Sisouphanthong, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment, H.E. Mr. Minh Pham, UNDP Resident Representative, H.E. Mr. Sayakane Sisouvong, Permanent Secretary, MoFA, Mr. Michel Goffin, Chargé d'Affaires, a.i , European Union Delegation.