04 July 2008
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, Mr. Network President Nam Seung-woo, Mr. Network Secretary-General Ju Chul-ki, Distinguished members of the Global Compact Korea Network, Dear friends,
I am very excited to be here. Less than a year ago, in September 2007, you launched the Global Compact in the Republic of Korea. I regret that I was not able to join you on that the occasion, but I am all the more delighted to meet with you today.
The Global Compact did not have an early start here. It took a few years for Korean business to find the right approach to corporate responsibility and to set the right priorities -- in line with the priorities of a rapidly expanding economy eager to grow its share of the global market.
But in less than 10 months, you have demonstrated what Korean commitment, willpower and prudence can achieve. Almost 120 organizations, including some of Korea's largest corporations, have made a commitment to the Global Compact's universal principles. The Global Compact Korea Network now ranks among the largest -- and the most active -- country networks anywhere.
The Korea Network's strength and visibility provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate responsible leadership to the world. I fervently hope the Compact can help bring a new dawn of transparency and good governance to our country's business sector.
This is especially important as Korean corporations “go global” and navigate a complex international business environment. Today, long-term business success -- for both global and domestic companies -- is increasingly connected to the ability to anticipate and address social and environmental challenges.
In the end, the UNGC is not only about the moral imperative to treat workers well, to respect human rights and to embrace transparency and good governance as guiding principles. It is also about the business case: attracting skilled workers, saving costs, enhancing productivity, creating trust and building brands. By implementing corporate practices which respect the Compact's ten principles you can create sustainable value and benefits for your companies, workers, communities and society-at-large.
We must also make sure that the voice of responsible Korean business is heard on the global stage. I encourage you to further embrace the Compact as an organizing tool for your global operations by ensuring that your commitment to the 10 principles extends to your subsidiaries and supply chain partners.
The recent “Changing Landscapes” conference hosted by your Network is an important step to building your reputation. It was the first meeting of Asian business, global investors and civil society on such a broad scale, and I am proud that it took place in Seoul. Business and financial market leaders from all over Asia gathered here to promote the integration of environmental, social and governance issues into mainstream investment and business in Asia. I understand that it was a highly successful meeting on many levels.
The resulting “Seoul Declaration” encourages business and financiers to do more, and to do more together, to address the dramatic global challenges we face. It marks another milestone in our efforts to harness the forces that move and shape markets in pursuit of a more inclusive global economy.
Let me extend my personal gratitude to his Excellency Prime Minister Han Seung-Soo for attending the conference. This provided tremendous encouragement and momentum to the Global Compact.
I also want to extend special gratitude to Network President Nam Seung-woo and Network Secretary-General Ju Chul-Ki for organizing an event that brought together so many executives and investors from the region. You have made an important contribution by giving practical meaning to UN values, and helping to build bridges between countries based on commerce, trade and investment. For the UN, this is a great achievement which speaks to the importance of the shared principles that connect people and nations.
I hope your example will provide powerful impetus to the business case for engaging in the Global Compact. The more investors recognize that business responsibility is about reducing risks and enhancing benefits, the faster we can move towards market sustainability.
So much has been achieved since you embarked on this journey with the Global Compact, and I know that you will build on these accomplishments.
Taking steps to address climate change, uphold workforce standards, or achieve higher levels of corporate accountability is not just about the financial success of companies or rewards from the market. It is also about building a better future for our children, our country and our planet. It is a call to our humanity.
Thank you very much.