Bangkok (ESCAP News) — The private sector, governments and the United Nations must work together to meet the challenges of achieving sustainable investment-led growth in Asia and the Pacific region, a forum of business leaders agreed this week.
The Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF), which closed today in Colombo, Sri Lanka brought together more than 300 participants to identify the challenges and opportunities for enhancing interregional business connectivity, increased investment and stronger partnerships in achieving inclusive and sustainable development. High-level professionals from both the public and private sector in the region attended this year’s forum, including Mr. R.C Bhargava, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki, H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, Former President of Maldives and Hon. Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana, Minister of Investment Promotion of Sri Lanka.
Speaking at the closing, Ravi Ratnayake, Director of ESCAP’s Trade and Investment Division highlighted that private sector investment has been the traditional driver of growth. However, there is a growing realization for business to also be sustainable. For this purpose, corporate social responsibility is being replaced by more inclusionary decision-making processes.
“The emergence of corporate sustainability does not lead to the erosion of the role of state agencies and civil society in delivering enduring value to communities and the environment. Instead, new demands are being made for multi-stakeholder partnerships,” he said. “I believe that APBF provides an ideal platform to forge such partnerships.”
Under the theme “Enhancing Regional Business Sustainability and Investment”, this year’s Forum was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with the Government and the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka.
The Hon. G.J.L. Neomal Perera, Deputy Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka said: “The political stability in Sri Lanka provides a conducive investment environment particularly in the key hubs of knowledge economy, commercial enterprises, naval and maritime activities, aviation and energy. The Sri Lankan government is committed to attracting investment through incentives and investment guarantees.”
The Forum included an ESCAP-led workshop on disaster risk management for business, which gathered recommendations that will serve as inputs for the ministerial round table on risk sensitive investment held as part of the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction being held in Sendai, Japan in March 2015.
Mr. R. C. Bhargava, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki emphasised: “It is essential for countries to develop a political, legal and regulatory environment that facilitates investment, jobs and growth. In that sense politicians in the region must give meaning to competitiveness and appreciate the importance of business growth to create wealth and jobs in the economy.”
This year’s programme also included the regional launch of the online business opportunity platform, “Myanmar SME Link”, a project of the EBAC Sustainable Business Network. The platform is a unique, free business-to-business online tool for networking and information sharing, connecting local entrepreneurs with global opportunities in products and services.
Another initiative of the SBN featured in the APBF programme was the release of the publication, “The 3Cs for Responsible Banking in Asia-Pacific: Corporate Governance, Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Sustainability”. It aims to enhance the understanding and spread the practice of responsible banking in the Asia-Pacific region and introduces the core concepts of responsible banking and outlines examples of best practices.
Since 2004, the annual Forum has facilitated exchanges between high-level professionals in the private and public sectors. Participants discuss pressing issues regarding governance, economic development, regional integration, trade and investment, corporate sustainability, disaster risk resilience, as well as other key subjects.
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