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AIT hosts landmark CSR Asia Summit 2008


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AIT President Prof. Said Irandoust addresses
capacity crowd at the CSR Asia Summit 2008 opening session.

Watch the summit online here: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjRDgwGqDew


CSR is good for Asian business in
uncertain economic times, keynote speakers stress
 

For two days last week the Asian Institute of Technology was the final destination for representatives of global corporate giants and civil society who arrived en masse to participate at the CSR Asia Summit 2008, Asia’s most notable annual conference on the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Organized by Hong Kong-based partner CSR Asia, the two-day conference hosted by AIT Extension from 3-4 November brought together over 350 participants from Europe, North America and Asia, representing wide array of social enterprises and private sector interests interested in advancing the cause of CSR in the region. AIT was the first academic institution in
Southeast Asia to host the annual summit. 

Sponsors for the summit included Hewlett-Packard, Coca Cola, DHL, TOTAL, PTT Public Company Limited, Government Savings Bank, and Asian Development Bank (ADB), Provincial Electricity Authority of Thailand, UBS, Schulich School of Business, York University, The Bangchak Petroleum Public Company Limited. 

Amid the looming threat of a global economic downturn, organizers said corporate social responsibility (CSR) has never been more important in Asia. Indeed, this was a key message of the opening session which saw the AIT Center Auditorium filled to capacity. CSR projects aimed at alleviating poverty, tackling climate change and fighting disease are vital and will increasingly be recognized in determining a company’s brand, reputation and overall competitiveness in the Asia Pacific region, speakers told participants.

On day one of the summit titled “CSR: The next agenda: pushing the boundaries of environmental and social responsibility,” prominent speakers from corporate giants Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard (HP), CSR Asia, as well as the president of AIT, and a former Thai ambassador, all spoke of the need to push-forward efforts for CSR in Thailand and across the region. 

As host of the event, the president of the Asian Institute of Technology, Prof. Said Irandoust, welcomed the wide cross-section of attendees and sponsors and explained AIT’s ambition to be the regional academic thought-leader for addressing pressing social challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation and poverty. 

The unfolding global economic crisis and its potential adverse implications for CSR region-wide struck a chord with participants attending the conference on the first day. “Those companies that are able to engage with innovative and meaningful CSR initiatives are likely to better weather the economic downturn than those ignoring social responsibility,” CSR Asia Chairman, Dr. Richard Welford, told the large opening day audience. 

Fellow keynote speaker Mr. Kasit Piromya, a former Thai ambassador to five countries and current chairman of Thailand’s Good Governance Promotion Association, called on the Thai public and private sectors to deepen their commitment to transparency, accountability and public disclosure. He also felt governments needed to take the lead in encouraging companies to adopt CSR practices and to ensure improved governance standards, telling the international audience that “Asian governments must make CSR a matter of official national policy.”

The event also introduced Coca-Cola’s “water neutrality” concept for reducing its water usage, and recycling and replenishing fresh water sources to support efficiency in its operation. “As a company that operates in all but two of the world’s countries, responsible use of water is integral to our entire global operation,” explained American Mr. Greg Koch, managing director, Global Water Stewardship, Coca-Cola, who added his pleasure to be at AIT and to be a sponsor of this years’ CSR Asia Summit.

Mr. Ernest Wong, supply chain social and environmental responsibility program manager for Hewlett-Packard, a platinum sponsor for the conference, agreed that good CSR is good for the corporate bottom line, saying his firm aims to be not only a world leader in market and financial performance but also in terms of global citizenship. “Good environmental awareness is good for business,” he said.


The cutting-edge nature of the summit’s topics was augmented by its commitment to achieving carbon-neutrality. Each international delegate arriving in Thailand was required to purchase renewable energy offsets to ensure a zero carbon footprint for the event, Dr. Welford explained. Carbon offset sponsors were Anemone Green Capital, Climate Care, RESET (HK) Ltd.   

Another highlight was the launching of CSR Asia’s CSR Business Barometer report, which for the first time ranked companies in the Southeast Asia region according to their state of CSR disclosure.

The event also attracted a large number of supporting partners such as APCO Worldwide, the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand, The Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrlA), Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), The British Chamber of Commerce Thailand, Manpower, The Climate Group, ChinaCSR.com, Crossroads, CSRchina.net, Edelman, Ethical Performance, The Hong Kong Council of Social Service, KMAR, Syn Tao, Taiwan Association for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Taiwan) Worldwide responsible Accredited Production (WRAP).

About CSR Asia

CSR Asia is the leading provider of information, training, research and consultancy services on sustainable business practices in Asia. Operating as a dynamic social enterprise, CSR Asia occupies the unique middle ground between civil society organizations and fully commercial consultancies. This enables us to provide independent and cutting-edge services and expert insight into the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues facing companies in Asia. Across the region, CSR Asia builds capacity and promotes awareness of CSR in order to advance sustainable development. For more information, please visit  www.csr-asia.com.  


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Opening session speakers, from left, Prof. Said Irandoust, President of AIT;
Erin Lyon, Executive Director, CSR Asia; Ernest Wong, Supply Chain Social
and Environmental Responsibility Program Manage, Hewlett-Packard;  Kasit
Piromya, Chairman, Good Governance  Promotion Association; Greg Koch,
Managing Director, Global Water Stewardship, Coca-Cola; Richard Welford,  
Chairman, CSR Asia



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CSR Chairman Richard Welford opens the CSR Asia Summit 2008



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Former Thai ambassador Kasit Piromya


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A capacity crowd of approximately 350 participants packed the AIT Center
auditorium


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Coca-Cola's Greg Koch explains his firm's water neutrality concept for CSR.


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Hewlett-Packard's Ernest Wong


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CSR Asia's Erin Lyon


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AIT's promotional booth


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A host of corporate sponsors had booths promoting their CSR activities