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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Beijing (China)

02 July 2008


Remarks at meeting with the Global Compact China Network

Distinguished CEOs and Global Compact Participants,

I am excited to meet with all of you -- the dynamic and enterprising leaders of Chinese business, so crucial to the future of this great country.

It is just over one month ago since I visited China after the earthquake in Sichuan province. In the aftermath of the tragedy, I was deeply impressed by the courage and resilience of the Chinese people. Today, I am all the more encouraged by the update you have provided on disaster relief and re-building efforts by Chinese business.

The United Nations, too, appealed to the global business community for assistance in Sichuan. Many pledges of support came from Global Compact participants around the world. This illustrates how seriously they take the Global Compact spirit of shared responsibility for a better world.

It is this need to find common solutions to pressing challenges that drives the corporate responsibility movement globally. It makes business a key partner to the United Nations as we pursue our goals for development, peace and security, human rights and environmental protection around the world.

I am profoundly impressed by the efforts of Chinese companies to embrace responsible business practices. The examples that I have heard today are world-class. I want to congratulate you on your leadership and enlightened understanding that business sustainability and social harmony are complementary objectives. We must now work hard to ensure that more business leaders in China follow your lead.

I am most encouraged by the decision of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of State Council earlier this year to make corporate social responsibility a core value within State-owned enterprises. Let us hope that this pronouncement will give great momentum to corporate social responsibility efforts by all enterprises in China.

Indeed, this decision underscores the growing recognition that responsible and sustainable business practices are essential to achieving core goals, such as enhanced innovation, workforce quality and corporate reputation. Proactively managing environmental, social and governance issues is not only good for the financial success of the business. It is also a practical way to address some of the world's greatest challenges, such as poverty and climate change.

Without a doubt, climate change is the defining issue of our time. It is the moral challenge of our generation. Succeeding generations depend on us. We cannot rob our children of their future.

It is also too big and complex a challenge for any country, corporation, or community to address alone. Finding swift and practical solutions to climate challenges is a necessity, it is in our common interest and it requires your active involvement.

There is now a growing consensus that to avoid dangerous climate change, globally, we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. To achieve this, we need nothing short of an energy revolution. The business community needs to be at the forefront of this revolution, leading other sectors to follow suit. We need your leadership and commitment. We need you to develop and provide solutions for clean technology, renewable energy, efficient products, and sustainable goods.

The good news is that experts from both the scientific and economic communities confirm that it is possible to cut emissions in half by 2050 -- if we adopt a combination of measures that lead to widespread use of renewable energy sources and improved efficiency, together with more ambitious standards and regulations. It is also good news that what is good for the environment also turns out to be good for the bottom-line.

Today, Chinese enterprises are developing exciting and innovative approaches. Already, your country ranks among the leaders in wind-generation and solar panel production. Important companies have demonstrated leadership by joining the Global Compact's “Caring for Climate” platform, focused on advancing practical solutions.

They include China Mobile, Haier, Broad Air Conditioning, China International Marine Containers, and Esquel Group. I hope they will be joined by many more who are equally prepared to set goals, implement strategies, and publicly disclose emissions and progress.

Environmental, social and governance issues are now understood as real factors in the long-term viability and success of business. It is just a matter of time before markets more systematically reward companies for managing such risks.

Of course, taking steps to protect the planet -- or to ensure high standards for workers, or to achieve new levels of corporate governance -- is not just about receiving rewards from the market. It is also critical for building a better future in your communities, reducing poverty and ensuring key societal goals.

As China increasingly invests and operates in more and more places around the world, it is crucial that Chinese companies carry this thinking abroad. Our discussion today has highlighted examples of Chinese companies doing just that. I applaud and encourage this trend.

By investing and planning today for a future that protects our planet, Chinese business has an opportunity to be a true front-runner. I'm sure Chinese businesses will not wait for the long and complex intergovernmental agreements to be finalized, but rather engage pro-actively in China and elsewhere in the world to pave the way for a low-carbon path to prosperity.

In the realm of peace and conflict, too, business leaders are called on to play an important role in addressing dilemmas. In the case of Sudan, the UN is bringing companies, NGOs and Government stakeholders together through a Global Compact network to discuss ways that business can contribute to peace and development there. I hope that relevant Chinese enterprises will engage in a Global Compact meeting being held in Khartoum later this month. Working to bring peace in Sudan is indeed a call to our common humanity.

Distinguished CEOs,

By advancing responsible corporate practices which support our planet, our societies and our collective security, Chinese companies can lay the foundation for a sustainable and prosperous future in this great country and around the world. I am grateful for your enthusiasm and support for the Global Compact, and trust that your good work will inspire other enterprises around China to join in our common cause.

Thank you very much.