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‘CSR key for future business growth’

UNGC Korea chief stresses importance of CSR in new global business ecosystem

Corporate social responsibility is not just a token of goodwill or a means of public image promotion, but a way to create a sustainable culture of integrity, according to the head of the United Nations Global Compact’s Korea Network.

“CSR is no longer a matter of choice but a crucial business requisite for those aspiring to gain global leverage,” Lee Seung-han, chairman of UNGC Korea Network, told The Korea Herald in an interview.

“It has been proven through business practices over the past decades that top-ranking companies are those which are conscious of their social responsibility.”

Lee Seung-han, chairman of U.N. Global Compact’s Korea Network
Lee Seung-han, chairman of U.N. Global Compact’s Korea Network
The UNGC is a U.N. initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt socially responsible policies and to implement core values such as human rights, labor, environmental and anti-corruption protections.

Its Korean branch was first established five years ago, spurred by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“The initiation of UNGC displays the changing trend of our world today, the awareness that companies have to step beyond their conventional profit-focused paradigm and face their greater role in the world,” Lee said.

Throughout the history of capitalism, the key matter of interest for companies has been the pursuit of monetary profit, but such social ecosystem is now facing a fundamental change, he claimed.

“Companies, too, are part of this fast-changing world, and thus have to play a mutually beneficial role in order to win their share,” Lee said.

“This is why those that pursue only monetary gains, without contributing to the general interest of society, quickly reach their limits.”

Even global leading business units such as Samsung would have staggered in their long-term growth, should they have neglected their efforts to mingle and sympathize with the local communities to which they belong, he added.

“Companies should thus acquire a sense of emergency, realizing that CSR is not an option but a vital component of their business portfolio,” the chairman said.

“In this rapidly evolving world, it is actually the speed of response which defines the competitiveness of individual companies.”

He quoted a recent business report by Accenture, which said 93 percent of the world’s top CEOs answered that CSR is the most important factor for future growth.

“Korea has hundreds of world-class products and its economy has advanced at a stunning pace, but its social contribution level is relatively low,” he noted.

“Fortunately, the business leaders have been catching up quite well with the global trend over the years.”

Also, a company’s social contribution publicly displays its basic spirit and the core values which it pursues in the long-term, according to Lee.

He pointed to the example of Japanese automaker Toyota, which had faltered greatly in the world market after heavy dispute over the safety of its products.

“Toyota’s core corporate values, in the past, had been safety and customer satisfaction, but it somehow lost track and became preoccupied with productivity and cost-saving,” he explained.

“These intangible values are so easy to overlook but in the long term, they end up determining the company’s fate. It is with CSR that companies may keep hold of their true values.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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