The 10th Asian Leadership Conference [A New Era for Responsible business with SDGs - a Conversation with Leading Companies]
The Global Compact Network Korea has held a session on the [Better Society] track as a “knowledge partner” at the 10th Asian Leadership Conference hosted by Chosunilbo. Asian Leadership Conference is an event where political leaders, business leaders, and academics convene to search for solutions of issues in the modern society. The event with the title of ’The World at a Crossroads: Searching for Concrete Solutions’, was held at The Shilla Seoul from May 14th to 15th. Nikki Hayley, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Paul Ryan, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Gerhard Schröder, former Chancellor of Germany, Yves Leterme, former Prime Minister of Belgium, Mateo Renzi, former Prime Minister of Italy and other 200 prominent speakers have participated.
The session ‘A New Era for Responsible business with SDGs – a Conversation with Leading Companies’ was held on May 14th at The Shilla Seoul Meeting Room 3 (Topaz). Moderator of the session, Suk-bum Park, Secretary General of Global Compact Network Korea, articulated the purpose of the session. “Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact mentioned that ‘our actions are not transformative enough to meet the 17 SDGs’ and that ‘we might even regress’. This resembles the current situation very well. SDGs were adopted at the UN General Assembly in 2015, but they are difficult to achieve. It is easy to assume that the SDGs are responsibilities of respective countries, however it is not true. Without the contribution of businesses, meeting the 17 SDGs by 2030 does not sound promising. As so, we would like to search ways to maximize corporate participation of the SDGs in this session.”
Kanako Fukuda, Associate Executive Officer of the CSR Dept. of Sumitomo Chemical Co. was introduced as the first speaker. Fukuda explained about the history and philosophy of sustainability, SDG strategy and activities, and sustainability initiatives of Sumitomo Chemical. “Sumitomo’s values of ‘having a good spirit of doing business that does not only benefit the company, but the society and the whole world’ aligns with the values held by the SDGs.” It was also mentioned that Sumitomo has been operating with such virtues, considering the needs of the local society for more than 100 years.
Fukuda further introduced the TSP approach, which is one of Sumitomo Chemical’s sustainability strategies; T (Top management), S (Solution), P (Participation) are the basis for the sustainability of Sumitomo Chemical and values pursued by all 30,000 employees.
Heekyung Jo Min, Executive Vice President and Executive Director of CSV of CJ CheilJedang was introduced as the next speaker. Min said, “The mission for CJ is to provide a new comfortable life to our consumers with our products”. The CJ Sustainability Compact Map, covering all of the 17 goals was presented with some of the examples of CJ CheilJedang’s SDGs practices including production of environment-friendly feedd for livestocks and the Vietnam Sustainable Farm Village Development Project. Min concluded by stating, “SDGs were greatly helpful when we tried to create social values along the business value chain.”
Taleb Rifai, former Secretary General of UNWTO participated as a panelist. Rifai said, “Corporate investment in the tourism industry should be helpful for a better quality of life in the community through advancing decent work, education, medical support, etc. Social responsibility of businesses should nurture the self-supporting abilities of the locals rather than being a charity. Even if large resorts are built, locals can sustain themselves if they have such abilities to operate their own business.”
As the final speaker of the session, Jae Young Lee, former Associate Director of Asia at the World Economic Forum, pointed out “We need to look at sustainability in a more comprehensive perspective. Sustainability does not only cost, it also creates new opportunities as SDGs must be considered in business models for companies to succeed globally. As the social need for corporate sustainability and influence is increasing, businesses should consider such needs of stakeholders and implement SDGs in corporate strategies to minimize negative impacts and maximize positive ones.”
Secretary General Suk-bum Park, expressed that “The key to a successful business is doing business while also contributing to the society to flourish. Our fundamental perspective about the meaning of SDGs needs to be changed. Social problems should be resolved through creativity of businesses. That is how capitalism evolved.”
As the mic was open to the floor after the panel discussion, there were questions about the difference between sustainable development and CSR, ways to narrow the gap between CSR activities and businesses, and the next step on sustainability for Sumitomo Chemical. After the session, Kanako Fukuda of Sumitomo Chemical and practitioners from the Korean chemical industry shared insights on sustainability.
The session held by the Global Compact Network Korea discussed corporate contribution to the SDGs and development prospects at a large-scale conference, which convened representatives from governments, businesses, and academia to discuss about main issues surrounding Asia. We thank all speakers, panels, moderator, and participants and hope the session provided meaningful insights on promoting sustainability of our society. As the Global Compact Network Korea will continue to provide opportunities to share and discuss corporate strategies to promote SDGs, we are looking forward to seeing you in future events.