Asia still has a long way to go in CSR: consultancy CEO

Richard Welford, CEO of CSR Asia, said the region still has a long way to go in corporate social responsibility.

Richard Welford, CEO of CSR Asia, said the region still has a long way to go in corporate social responsibility.

Over the past few years, corporate social responsibility has found a permanent place in many Asian boardrooms. But CSR Asia, a consultancy group on sustainability, said the region still has a long way to go.

HONG KONG: Over the past few years, corporate social responsibility has found a permanent place in many Asian boardrooms. But CSR Asia, a consultancy group on sustainability, said the region still has a long way to go.

Speaking on Friday (Sep 19) at Channel NewsAsia's CEO Dialogue series on 'Leadership In Sustainability', Richard Welford, CEO of CSR Asia, explained that natural disasters and human rights are pressing issues in the region for the next decade.

"As climate change kicks in, we're going to see more storm-related and flood-related disasters," said Mr Welford. "Another hot topic is about human rights, particularly, modern day slavery, and deep down the supply chain of many companies, there are some abusive labour practices so it's not good enough to audit the first factory tier. We need to go beyond that."

But Mr Welford concluded that companies have made headway over the years, in practicing corporate social responsibility.

"I think 10 years ago, for most companies, CSR was about doing right, being seen to be doing the right thing, in terms of environmental performance, in terms of local communities, their own employment practices," he said. “Ten years later, I think the while agenda has become much, much more strategic. And I think companies that really understand social responsibility and sustainability are now embedding those principles into their business strategy."

However, Asia is still lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of best practices, according to Mr Welford.

"It's difficult to find Asian companies that are doing as much as some of the most advanced Western or European companies," he said. "But on the other hand, one of the things I've realised about Asian companies is that many of them are family-dominated, and many of them do take a long-term view of their business. They're not so much driven by these quarterly financial reporting because they are thinking longer-term."

- CNA/xq