SINGAPORE- A group of Asean organisations has launched a three-year initiative to encourage sustainable growth in the region through responsible business conduct.
Called the Asean Corporate Social Responsibility Network (ACN), the group hopes to engage regional businesses, governments and civil society to "ensure that in the course of doing business, basic human rights are respected, labour standards are raised and the natural environment is protected", said ACN Chief Executive Officer Thomas Thomas.
"The first step is to correct the misconception that corporate social responsibility is all about giving out money. It is not - it is being responsible in the course of business," said Mr Thomas. ACN will work with governments, businesses and civil society to create a document outlining a shared understanding and strategy on CSR - the Asean Vision 2020.
In the next three years, ACN will engage Asean businesses to teach them about international norms of corporate responsibility under the ISO 26000 framework. This includes standards on human rights, labour practices and environmental awareness. ACN will also conduct seminars for businesses to teach them how and why corruption occurs and encourage integrity pacts among industry players to agree that they will not pay bribes.
Corporate responsibility is receiving increased attention in Asean as large multinationals want to do business with smaller companies which are responsible. Consumer backlash may be a concern on their end, said Mr Thomas.
ACN will also engage academics to work out a list of good practices, giving businesses an idea of what responsible corporate practices look like.
"We must balance our quest for economic expansion with the principles of corporate social responsibility - responding not just for profits but ensuring that all the people in Asean benefit in the long term," he added.
ACN is a network of organisations from Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar which believe in encouraging responsible business practices, such as re-training workers instead of laying them off in a downturn.