(New York, 23 June 2008) – F or the first time, institutional investors and Global Compact participants came together in Seoul on 17-18 June to jointly explore environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Entitled Changing Landscapes: Towards a Sustainable Economy in Asia, the conference brought together 200 global investors representing 14 trillion US dollars in assets with more than 300 business leaders from Asia.
Co-organized by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), and the Global Compact Korea Network, the meeting aimed at promoting better environmental, social and governance performance in business and strengthening the role of ESG issues in financial analysis and investment decision-making. During the one-day meeting, investors and business representatives discussed risks and opportunities related to climate change, labour conditions, good governance and transparency, responsible investment in Asia, and public policy options to promote responsible corporate citizenship.
The meeting opened with a video message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “It is reassuring that investors, business and civil society are finding common ground under the banner of the United Nations. You have united around the universal values embodied by the Global Compact and the Principles for Responsible Investment”, said the Secretary-General.
Delivering the keynote address, Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo
stressed the importance of partnerships with the private sector, such as the UN Global Compact, for
fulfilling the vision of the United Nations. “As today’s global challenges require a collective
response, it is important that these challenges should not be overlooked by corporations and
investors. There is no doubt that the influence and impact of corporations on global issues will
continue to grow. In this light, the partnership among the United Nations, governments, and the
private sector will become increasingly important,” said the Prime Minister.
A Gala dinner was hosted by the Global Compact under the patronage of Mr. Yu Myung-hwan, Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In his keynote address, the Minister focused on the increasing awareness of corporate citizenship issues among businesses and investors in Asia: “Now, not only in Korea, but throughout the Asian region at large, people are paying greater attention to improving the governance of corporations and enhancing transparency. This kind of development, coupled with the dynamic features of the Asian economy as a whole, can have a great impact on the sound and sustainable economic growth not only in Asia but also of other parts of the world.
Bringing together responsible investors, financiers and Global Compact participants, "Changing Landscapes" created a platform for actions which will support the business case of the Global Compact. One of the main outcomes of the meeting was the decision by investors to approach companies on a large scale to inquire how they are planning to manage ESG risks and opportunities for the future, recognizing that the Global Compact offers and important value platform for doing so.
A joint “ Seoul Declaration” was issued, calling on conference participants to join forces around efforts to address ESG challenges and to promote ways in which investors, financiers and business leaders can engage constructively with policy makers on these issues.
The Global Compact Korea Network played a major role in ensuring the success of the meeting reaching out to Asian business to build a community around corporate responsibility in the region. Under the leadership of Ambassador Ju Chul-ki, Secretary-General of the Global Compact Korea Network, the network has grown from 20 business participants at the time of its launch in September 2007 to more than 120 today. Seven Korean companies, including KT Corporation and Shinhan Bank, joined the Global Compact during the event.
“Changing Landscapes” was preceded by the annual regional meeting of Global Compact network focal points in Asia, held on 16-17 June in Seoul. Supported by UNESCAP, by the regional support center for GC Networks in Asia, and by the Global Compact Korea Network, the meeting brought together 30 participants representing 13 Local Networks in the region. The event offered an opportunity to discuss key issues and challenges faced by Local Networks and provided a valuable platform for learning and exchange of best practices. Issues discussed included a proposal for network sustainability presented by UNESCAP, as well as network and company engagement on climate change, especially in the context of the Global Compact's "Caring for Climate" initiative. A call was made to focal points to assist in recruiting new signatories.
On 18 June, the Global Compact Korea Network hosted a breakfast meeting for
participants from the Japanese, Chinese and Korean Networks taking part in the "Changing
Landscapes" event. Ambassador Ju Chul-ki, Secretary-General of the Global Compact Korea
Network and Mr. Nam Seung-woo, President of the Global Compact Network in Korea welcomed
participants. After the welcome addresses, representatives from each of the three Networks provided
updates on the current status of Networks in their country.
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Final reports from the Changing Landscapes event and the regional meeting will be available here shortly.