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Five unconnected observations about sustainable business in Asia

I’m at a CSR conference in Seoul at the moment. It’s organized by the newspaper ChosunIlbo and it’s NGO partner Arcon.

I was talking about how CSR, ethics and governance are linked. I’ll post a link to my presentation soon.

I’ve been really impressed by the level of debate and questions asked so far.

I’ve spent time with experts working here, in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and other places in the last 24 hours.

Here’s some of things I picked up so far:

1) Korean companies do more than you would know about from their communications. For example, SK Telecom, Posco and Samsung do CSR related work that few people know about.

2) ISO 26000 is a massive massive deal. No-one seems to talk about it in the UK, but you cannot underestimate how important it is in Asia.

Problem is, companies using it are not the ones who need to. They mostly already do the work it embodies.

Those who wouldn’t do much on CSR before, are often reluctant to use ISO 26000 because of the lack of certification.

The problems of “certifying goodness” are recognized by some, but that has to be weighed up against the huge challenge of scaling sustainable business thinking in Asia.

3) Certification fraud around standards is rampant in China. The cost of bribes and fake certificates has gone up, and can now be $3000 a time.

4) The Hilton in Seoul serves bluefin tuna, which is an endangered species. No doubt most other four and five star hotels do too. I’ve seen it on the menu in other big hotel chains across Asia who have sustainability policies which are supposed to be global.

5) There were about 1200 CSR sustainability reports produced In China in 2012. Chinese companies are fast catching up with MNC’S on reporting, although the quality and impact of these is of course suspect.

More random thoughts soon no doubt.