HomeBlogAustralian Corporations opportunity to be more active citizens in the Asian Century

Australian Corporations opportunity to be more active citizens in the Asian Century

The Australian Government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper has documented what many of our most forward thinking leaders have been writing and talking about for decades; Australia’s future is in its backyard and not far across the seas with our traditional partners of England and the United States. Business leaders have certainly led the way in prioritising our nearest neighbours in Asia because, as the White Paper says, they are fully aware that in a few short years, ‘the region will be the world’s largest producer of goods and services, and the world’s largest consumer of them.’

Despite business’ increased focus on Asia through trade, many have not yet developed a corresponding emphasis on the opportunities for social investment.  There are certainly some pioneers who have prioritised the development of Community Impact in Asia with the realisation that just like in Australia ‘you cannot operate a successful business in a failed world.’

The emergence of networks such as Business for Millennium Development Goals, the UN Global Compact and CSR Asia each reflect a growing interest in Community Impact for Australia Corporations internationally but Asia so often remains a blind spot. In many ways this reflects the traditional roots of many Australians but this can’t continue. The 21st century expectations of customers, clients, shareholders and employees demand a more holistic view of business including positive social, environmental and financial outcomes within an international context. Increasingly, more stakeholders of businesses are aware of the tremendous opportunities to strengthen communities throughout Asia.

The changing composition of Australia’s population is shaping the expectations of business’s stakeholder. As the White Paper identifies ‘In 2010–11, for the first time in Australian history, Britain was not the main source of new permanent migrants—more people moved here from China than from any other country, and in 2011–12, India was the number one source of new permanent migrants.’ These new Australians have strong ties and a regional vision that will influence businesses both as customers and employees. It will not be good enough to simply treat social investment in Asia as an afterthought, but we will need to apply both the business and social rigour that would be applied domestically.

There’s not only a good business case but a strong social case for continuing the social improvements in Asia of the last decade where ‘many millions of people will have been lifted out of poverty. They will live longer and be better connected to the world.’ There is a tremendous opportunity for Australian businesses to be part of this work and leverage our relative prosperity and stability given that ‘Australia has a multicultural, highly skilled and creative population that has demonstrated capabilities in innovation and complex problem solving.’ There’s lots more to focus our time and energy and we need to think of the challenges as genuinely regional; collective problems to be collectively solved. Top of mind is the frequency of natural and manmade disasters, high rates of youth unemployment and the increasing migration of people and labour in our shrinking world. All of which is exacerbated by weaknesses of civil society and social infrastructure.

This transition for many Australian businesses won’t happen immediately but there is a good number of long standing bright spots and we can learn from regional and multinational businesses as well as local NGO partners. This all means that our conversations are important in that they foster insights from best practice organisations and greater cultural understanding which is critical for regional cooperation.

United Way Worldwide sits at the nexus of Corporate Community Impact in many countries throughout Asia investing over $600m with over 5,000 business partners. In light of this we are pleased to be hosting a Corporate Community Impact in Asia Summit on the 3rd of October, 2013 to explore these issues further with provocative thought leaders.

This event will offer a platform to explore the role of Regional Corporate Citizens and learn from regional best practices in order to strengthen local initiatives. Keynote presentations from Michael Wesley, Professor of National Security at the Australian National University. Simon Blair, Group Executive Commonwealth Bank, Brian Gallagher, President and CEO, United Way Worldwide and discussions with practitioners from Herbert Smith Freehills, KPMG, INGDIRECT, Fuji Xerox Australia, Macquarie Bank, AusAID, CSR Asia, ACCSR, the UN Global Compact Network as well as community practitioners from Asia Pacific countries including India, China, Korea and The Philippines.

Doug Taylor, CEO, United Way Australia

Pleasecontact Paul Metcalfe, Director Investor Relations, South East Asia and Pacific, United Way Worldwide if you would like to discuss further paul.metcalfe@uww.unitedway.org

 

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