Why Asia must look beyond profits to ethics

Author: Chandran Nair, founder & CEO of Global Institute for Tomorrow (a pan-Asian non-profitmaking think-tank), in Financial Times, Published on: 4 September 2005

Policed by strong civil societies at home, western businesses are beginning to exercise values of good corporate citizenship in the very countries where they intended to take advantage of cheap labour, large domestic markets, special incentives and even poor regulations and lax enforcement...Asian business leaders...believe that, having helped haul their countries’ economies from post-colonial second-class status to the riches of “tiger” nations, they are above criticism...They particularly resent that when some of the western giants were at the same stage of development, they ignored issues of ethics in their march to dominance. They remember slavery, Nazi collusion and gross environmental violations...In the west, civil society has driven companies to be more responsible in exploiting raw materials and labour; in Asia civil society is weakest, in contrast, in two of its most mature economies – Japan and South Korea – and nowhere else are corporate-government relationships as opaque and close...Today's climate requires business leaders to look beyond profitmaking. But not one Asian business forum exists with an enlightened and public position on corporate responsibility or climate change...We cannot shirk responsibility for shaping our own future by leaving the job to the west...The impetus ought to come from Asia's business leaders.

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