Businesses, Government, and Development Partners Support Responsible Business Conduct in Laos

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Last Thursday, the Office of the Embassy of Canada, AustCham, The European Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the European Union, and the British Business Group in Laos co-hosted the 3rd Responsible Business Conduct Forum to share their commitment to and best practices in corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Exchanging information on CSR policies, procedures, and action plans supports further the government of Lao PDR in attracting and retaining quality investors.

The RBC Forum, which attracted more than 100 participants online, saw business leaders share their experiences in implementing CSR activities with members of the Lao private sector, government officials, development partners, international organizations, and civil society. Sectors of focus for the full-day event included Mining, Agriculture, Renewable Energy, and Public Policy.

“Businesses can only flourish when the communities and ecosystems in which they operate are healthy. Many companies now undertake environmental sustainability not just as a legal obligation, but as a business opportunity and moral imperative,” said Canada’s Ambassador to Lao PDR, H.E. Sarah Taylor, in opening the Forum. “Our objective is to work with local business communities, civil society organizations, foreign governments and communities as well as other stakeholders to foster and promote responsible business practices and thus support sustainable economic growth and shared value.”

Ina Marčiulionytë, EU Ambassador to Laos added “During a critical period like the COVID-19 pandemic filled with uncertainty, it is important to stay strongly committed to working together in a sustainable way. As Lao PDR prepares itself to reopen for tourism and attract new investments, to support its economic recovery from the pandemic, the issue of an environmentally and socially responsible private sector has become crucial. Indeed, the private sector has a central role to play in what we call the “Build Back Better” agenda following the pandemic.”

The 2022 RBC Forum featured a series of panel discussions that illustrated the benefits of a strong commitment to CSR. Participants heard that practical and cost-effective CSR measures resulted in sustainable consumption and production, enhanced employee benefits, and could be integrated into international mechanisms such as the Global Reporting Initiative. The forum highlighted that responsible businesses should incorporate CSR measures as part of their business strategy, and be informed by close consultation with local populations.

During the forum, participants discussed how to link principles of CSR tools and standards for the green and inclusive economy to business action plans where a green growth strategy is applied to promote electric vehicles and public transport to pursue the emission reduction agenda.

Peter Fodge, President of ECCIL EuroCham also added “It’s exciting to see how investors and businesses in Laos, through their chambers of commerce and with strong support from several foreign embassies, now are increasing their attention to Responsible Business Conduct and sustainable business practices.  Sustainability is today an integrated part of ECCIL EuroCham’s daily work with the objective of demonstrating and promoting a long tradition of European RBC values in Lao business. By setting good examples, we can hopefully foster a general appreciation of Quality Investments leading to more sustainable development of the country.”

CSR towards Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace was another key highlight discussed during the forum to understand that “diversity” is about differences, and “inclusion” is the way these differences are harnessed and brought together to reap the greatest possible value for companies and society, and for individuals. The panelists agreed that inclusive environments respect and facilitate connections, making it possible for people to apply their diverse attributes and capabilities toward a common goal.

The Office of the Embassy of Canada in Laos, AustCham, ECCIL EuroCham, the European Union, and the British Business Group in Laos joined efforts to underscore and promote the importance of being socially responsible when doing business. Forum participants agreed that it is critical to align CSR practices with Lao PDR’s long-term investment needs, with the aim to support the Government’s COVID-19 recovery, and by attracting quality investment allowing the country to build back better towards a carbon-free future.

“Last year I was privileged to be MC for the hugely successful 2021 RBC, with all panelists providing a fascinating insight into their approach to ethical and sustainable business conduct. And now as president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Laos, I should underline that AustCham sees RBC as one of the major benefits that the Australian business community brings to Laos. I am therefore delighted that we continue to be involved in an initiative that fits so well with Australian business values and that so many of our members were represented at the RBC Forum” said Alistair Brown, President of AustCham Lao

This was the third such event hosted jointly by Canada and AustCham, and newly joined by EuroCham, the European Union, and the British Business Group in Laos. An inaugural CSR workshop was held in September 2019 with a focus on the extractive sector.