Helen Clark: Corporate Social Responsibility

May 18, 2012

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group
Corporate Social Responsibility: A Gateway to Sustainability
Dialogue on Corporate Social Responsibility for South-South Cooperation, Beijing
18 May 2012, 15:30-17:00

Mr. Zheng Wantong, Vice-Chairman, 11th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference,

Distinguished members of the private sector,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon! Da Jia Hao!

It is my great a to be here today to meet with distinguished representatives of the private sector who are contributing to economic growth, job creation, and the overall development of China today. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation of your support and your friendship to the United Nations.

Economic growth has contributed to rapid human development in China for three decades. There has been a fifty-fold increase in per capita income, and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. This would not have happened without the contribution of thriving businesses.

With its impressive domestic growth and rapid expansion overseas, the Chinese private sector is well placed to contribute to sustainable and equitable development, at home and abroad. In the last decade, China-Africa trade alone has enjoyed annual growth rates of more than thirty per cent. The Ministry of Commerce estimates that China’s Foreign Direct Investment stock in Africa amounted to US$9.3 billion in Africa in 2009.

I am told of a Chinese proverb which says that “an ordinary person is duty-bound to the rise and fall of the world.” In our globalized world, each country, each person, and each business affects the well-being of neighbors. While economic progress yields substantial dividends for people as we have witnessed in China, when corporate social and environmental responsibility are embedded at the core of business practices, the human development gains will be magnified. UNDP encourages businesses to pursue a triple bottom line approach which seeks to impact positively on the context within which businesses operate.

For a number of years, UNDP has been actively promoting strategies for the private sector in development, focusing on what we have termed “growing inclusive markets”. We encourage companies to explore how they could make a contribution to ending poverty a part of their way of doing business.

In China, during the past decade, UNDP has partnered with world-leading private companies from a wide range of industries. To date, our partnerships have focused on improving energy efficiency, water management, biodiversity conservation and gender equality through corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Recently, UNDP has also been involved with a private Chinese company, creating vital links between the production of traditional ethnic minority products and modern markets.

Corporate Social Responsibility is internationally recognized as a significant contributor to achieving sustainable development across its dimensions. Companies we work with which are pursuing inclusive business models find that they are also able to achieve their corporate goals, benefiting from improved efficiency, cost savings, stronger branding, increased public trust, improved employee health, and better market access.

Conversely, those companies which do not engage in corporates social responsibility may suffer reputational risk, as awareness rises of the importance of corporate good citizenship at home and abroad.

UNDP in China is launching a new programme on corporate social responsibility to:

· Assist more Chinese enterprises to lift their capacity to implement corporate social responsibility approaches. These approaches need to go beyond philanthropy to the creation of value chain opportunities, and be based on mutual learning and negotiating solutions to shared challenges;

· to share CSR knowledge and experience as it develops in China with enterprises in other developing countries within the framework of South-South co-operation;

· to promote the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and advance global sustainable development.

The fast growing size and significance of the corporate sector in China has encouraged UNDP to develop this strategy and to see partnerships with the sector as powerful tools for development.

We seek to build broader and more strategic alliances with the private sector and other partners around key development challenges of common concern, such as job creation, promoting both the economic and social benefits of growth, and supporting green growth.

Meeting these challenges not only advances development, but also helps to unlock the potential of unrealized markets at the bottom of the economic ladder. Helping to achieve the MDGs and sustainable development offers opportunities for corporate philanthropy, building new markets, and incorporating new players in value chains. All this is conducive to development.

In just over a month, the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development will convene governments, civil society representatives, and business leaders to identify pathways to a more equitable and sustainable world. I hope that the Chinese private sector will actively participate in the dialogue at Rio+20 and beyond, as it has such a significant role to play in building a more equitable and sustainable world.

In this audience today are many strong advocates of the work of the United Nations and of development. China, with its rapid development and increasingly innovative business sector, has many experiences to share with others through international exchange and co-operation. UNDP stands ready to engage in partnerships to that end with the business community.

UNDP’s new programme will seek to incorporate CSR into existing management training, raise awareness of the importance of CSR among present and emerging business leadership, and also develop case study resources on the experiences of Chinese companies operating abroad.

Overall, the initiative will contribute to mainstreaming and systematizing CSR into company strategies and management structures, so that it does not rely on the good will and commitment of individual managers and business units.
I encourage businesses leaders represented here today to become part of the corporate social responsibility initiative UNDP is launching, to add even more value to human development to your work.

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