Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

Asian CSR set to reshape the global business environment, according to Lifeworth review.

Posted by jembendell on May 25, 2009

Press release, 25th May 00.01 GMT, Lifeworth, Manila.

Asia is becoming a leading region for corporate social responsibility (CSR), as its businesses gain international influence, according to some leading CSR academics and practitioners, writing in the eighth global review from a CSR consulting firm. “Diverse Asian approaches to responsible enterprise will increasingly affect business practices around the globe. Not only can this trend be welcomed, it is essential to achieve a fair and sustainable world,” argues lead author of the review, Dr Jem Bendell.

The Eastern Turn In Responsible Enterprise describes the rise of Asian business and finance that was hastened by events during 2008. It argues that although expanding economic power generates difficult social and environmental challenges, the world needs Asian business and society to help innovate the technologies, processes and concepts that will help us meet the critical challenges of our time, such as climate change and poverty eradication. It explores some initial implications of this global shift, and some characteristics of Asian forms of corporate social responsibility (CSR). “In order for executives to respond to the global challenges of our time, we must recognise and learn from sustainable innovations that are occurring everywhere, including across Asia, not just in one region,” concludes Dr Bendell, director of Lifeworth.

The review begins by chronicling the economic rise of Asia. The region has become home to the majority of the world’s middle classes. Asia now trades amongst itself more than with the rest of the world and it holds the vast majority of the world’s savings. Asian businesses continue to acquire famous brands from the West. “The current crisis has sharply accentuated the Eastern Turn in the world order,” notes the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Griffith University, Professor Michael Powell, in a foreword. The shift in global power is one of a number of implications of the economic crisis for responsible enterprise and finance that the review explores in detail.

The review shows how this rise in economic power is being followed by a rise in activity on the social and environmental performance of business. It describes how domestic factors within Asian societies are driving CSR, such as growing environmental awareness. Director of ethical reputation analysts Covalence, Antoine Mach explains that “coverage of CSR issues in Asia by the press and non-governmental organisations continues to grow year on year.” This domestic pressure marks a development from recent years where Western interests have been key in encouraging the adoption of CSR codes by Asian business.

Commenting on the review, Stephen Hine of the responsible investment analysts EIRIS, explains that “whilst CSR has traditionally been seen as something primarily undertaken by Western companies there is increasing evidence of it being seen as important by Asian companies.” The review provides data on the growth of CSR-related activities, such as the level of reports, institutes, and certifications on social and environmental performance. For instance Asia has become the top region for IS014001 environmental management certifications and reports issued in compliance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. It also highlights some environmental innovations from Asian businesses, such as BYD Auto in China, which is rapidly establishing itself as a leading electric car maker, and BetterPlace.com from Israel, which is a developing integrated electric car recharging systems with auto makers. “It is increasingly clear that many people in Asia see the need for a focus on responsible enterprise and will increasingly lead the way in responsible business development,” notes Professor Powell.

Rising academic interest in CSR within Asia is also chronicled. The review is published to coincide with the launch of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise at Griffith Business School in Australia. Professor Powell sees the potential for business schools to help address the changing global business environment. “No fewer than 30 business schools in the “East” have signed on to the UN Principles of Responsible Management Education and that number is growing all the time.” he writes in a foreword.

“The Eastern Turn in responsible enterprise is not an option,” explains Professor Jeremy Moon of the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ICCSR), at the University of Nottingham, a leader in internationalising research on CSR. “It brings new normative, conceptual and operational challenges,” he explains in the review. The Eastern Turn in Responsible Enterprise postulates on some common characteristics of Asian CSR in comparison to the West, highlighting implications for policy, practice, and research.

Also author of the new book The Corporate Responsibility Movement, which describes the emergence of a social movement of business people transforming corporations, Dr Bendell concludes that people working on CSR could benefit from more cross-cultural dialogue on globally responsible enterprise and finance. The review even suggests that insight into new forms of business and finance after the crisis could come from such a dialogue, pointing in particular to the Gandhian concept of the trusteeship of assets.

Further Information:

The review can be viewed for free via http://www.lifeworth.com where a fully referenced electronic or hardcopy can also be purchased.

The review is published by Lifeworth Consulting, a boutique professional services firm specialising in responsible enterprise strategy, evaluation and education. It includes the quarterly reviews from the Journal of Corporate Citizenship (http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com). It is written by Jem Bendell, Niaz Alam, Sandy Lin, Chew Ng, Lala Rimando, Claire Veuthey, and Barbara Wettstein.

The ideas in the review will be discussed at a conference organised by the Asia Pacific Academy of Business in Society (APABIS), in November 2009 (http://www.apabis.org). A special issue of the the journal Business Strategy and the Environment will also explore these issues in connection with inter-organisational collaboration, edited by the lead author of the review (https://jembendell.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/asia-pacific-csr-partnerships/).

The review is made possible with the support of the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ICCSR) at Nottingham Business School (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/business/ICCSR), Griffith Business School (http://www.griffith.edu.au/gbs), EIRIS (http://www.eiris.org), Covalence (http://www.covalence.ch) and Greenleaf Publishing  (http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com).

“The Corporate Responsibility Movement” is published by Greenleaf, March 2009, and is available at: http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com/productdetail.kmod?productid=2767

To contact the authors of this review email enquiries at lifeworth.com.

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