BANGKOK, Sept 10, 2015 - (ACN Newswire) - The Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (AFCSR), co-organized by the Asian Institute of Management - Ramon V. del Rosario, Sr. Center for Corporate Social Responsibility (AIM - RVR CSR Center) and the Asia Inc Forum, with the theme, "Unleashing Social Entrepreneurship: New Partnerships for a Better World", opened today at the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand.
"The 14th AFCSR takes place, as Charles Dickens would say, '(at) the best of times and (at) the worst of times'. These are the best of times, because human ingenuity, entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic advancement have transformed the lives of many millions of people for the better, in a way that previous generations could not imagine. These are also the worst of times - because millions of people continue to live in poverty, without access to health, and education; because inequalities continue to grow between and within nations; because environmental degradation continues unabated; and because violence and extremism continue to displace millions of people, resulting to a humanitarian crisis, which we see on television every day, almost without precedent," stated Dato Timothy Ong, AFCSR Conference Chairman and Chairman of Asia Inc Forum.
Recognizing the Knowledge and Abilities of Communities
Leading the discussions was Sanjit "Bunker" Roy, founder of Barefoot College in India, who shared his experiences working with rural communities in his home country. Since its founding in 1972, Barefoot College harnessed rural knowledge and skills to provide housing, education, and adequate water supply to communities.
"A professional who has the combination of competence, confidence, and belief," shared Roy, who has been training illiterate grandmothers to become solar power engineers. "The illiterate of the 21st century is not someone who cannot read or write, but someone who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
Roy emphasized that the Barefoot Model of partnerships between the government, community, and businesses is an alternative model that has generated significant impact, transforming grandmothers from 70 countries to be engineers and establishing 150 night schools powered with solar lanterns. "Social enterprise is about building peoples' capacity to solve their own problems. The Barefoot Model promotes growth from below and within," he said. "We have to value people who work with their hands, not just those who work with their minds."
Roy further underscored the spirit of risk-taking in order to create impact. He also called on young entrepreneurs to work with organizations whose values resemble theirs to understand what it is like to be at the bottom.
Going Out of Your Comfort Zone
This mindset of going out of a business' comfort zone was further echoed by Anna Meloto-Wilk, president and co-founder of Human Nature Philippines, who shared, "Businesses are in a more comfortable position to address society's challenges, but they need to overstep their boundaries and define their purpose."
"How can we be innovators in doing social good? To be innovative, you have to think like an entrepreneur. You need to do whatever it takes, and you don't quit," Meloto-Wilk added, who used her corporate background to build a popular Philippine brand whose products are developed by communities. "Businesses need to embrace inconvenience. Businesses like to be efficient and systematic, but we need to be willing to take some pain, whether it be our profits or having a longer conversation with our stakeholders in order to make really meaningful changes in our society."
Establishing the Foundations for Innovative Thinking
Meanwhile, Anjan Ghosh, Regional Director for Corporate Affairs, Asia-Pacific and Japan of Intel Corporation, illustrated how businesses could expand the boundaries of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
"Development is not just about propelling economies. It is also about promoting strong societies," stated Ghosh. "Innovation and inclusion seem to be two sides of the same coin. What you are essentially doing is creating opportunity and empowering people."
The sweet spot, however, as Ghosh pointed out, is creating shared value - how can companies do good in such a way that it goes back to the bottom line?
"How do you take what you're doing outside of your company," asked Ghosh, explaining that Intel Corporation is now moving toward CSR 3.0. "This is more transformative, as it shifted from being business-centric to user-centric. We help society by empowering individuals through skills and tools to innovate."
"The question we're asked is, 'Why do we do this?'" continued Ghosh. "We're widening the pipeline for innovation. The world is essentially your research laboratory. You have access to multiplicity of ideas, and you create diversity. Putting diversity goals is adding to your ability to innovate."
Making Financing Accessible
This year's AFCSR also explored new ways for businesses to support social innovation. Durreen Shahnaz, founder and chair of Impact Investment Exchange Asia (IIX), discussed impact investing, or investments intended to create positive social impact beyond financial return.
"Impact goes hand-in-hand with financing," Shahnaz stated, pointing out that businesses can act as catalysts for ecosystems, enhance credit to provide leverage, and promote inclusive business practices and policies. The IIX Impact Enhancer Program enables the private sector to go beyond the traditional CSR agenda to genuinely create impact to societies.
"(There is a need) to go beyond democratizing innovation. It has to be about democratizing finance and democratizing opportunities. The reality is that if corporate leaders don't play a role, you will be left out. The social side and the finance side coming together is a movement that is already happening. Don't just see society as purchasing your product; see it as a partner, where you are creating livelihood and opportunity, and you are financing these as well," Shahnaz emphasized.
AIM President Steven J. DeKrey commented, "One of the concepts stemming out of these discussions is the blurring line between civic, public, and private entities. Clearly, we may have a shared purpose, but different ways of getting there. If we partner with each other, we'll end up with fairly unique organizations coming forward. The Asian Institute of Management has this belief on 'business and society'. Having both a business school and a development school, we now collaborate and combine the knowledge base of these schools, similar to what we have talked about here at AFCSR. Having organizations and leaders with conscience is the way forward to solve the pressing challenges of our time."
Mary Khristine A. Dizon
AIM RVR Center for Corporate Social Responsibility
Asian Institute of Management
T: +63 2 892-4011 Ext. 2613
Topic: General Announcement
Source: Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (AFCSR)
Sectors: CSR, Environment
From the Asia Corporate News Network
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