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Cablegate: Unctad: Corporate Social Responsibility Workshop On

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGV #1032 3291239
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241239Z NOV 08
FM USMISSION GENEVA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7621
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2876
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0411
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1990
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 4764
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 1332

UNCLAS GENEVA 001032

SIPDIS

DEPT for IO/EDA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNCTAD ECON ETRD
SUBJECT: UNCTAD: Corporate Social Responsibility Workshop on
Responsible Investment

1. SUMMARY: The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held
a Workshop on the Policy Context for Responsible Investment on
November 7, 2008, where the investment community and policy-makers,
representing about 50 countries, discussed ways to collaborate on
socially responsible investment. END SUMMARY

Highlights of workshop on CSR
-----------------------------
2. At an UNCTAD workshop on the Policy Context for Responsible
Investment held on November 7, Donald MacDonald, Chair of Principles
for Responsible Investment, emphasized that governments and private
industries must work to restore consumer confidence in world markets
by undertaking corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects that
focus on the environment, sustainable development, transparency, and
responding to stakeholder demands. McDonald stressed that
corporations and government must coordinate to create a regulatory
framework that supports common CSR targets. Private industry can
influence government policy-making by informing regulators about
best practices in their industries; performing due diligence of
their reporting; and sharing information on the policy environment
necessary for a company to be both profitable and environmentally
and socially responsible.

3. Delegates from Egypt and Bangladesh stressed that the state
should mandate corporate social responsibility through regulations,
but noted that the United States opposes such efforts. Panelist
James Gifford, Executive Director of the Principles for Responsible
Investment, and Matt Christensen, Executive Director of Eurosif,
opined that better government regulation and enforcement can improve
the quality of investment. However, Christensen warned governments
against using the financial crisis as an excuse to create
protectionist regulations. According to Christensen, efficient
markets and international cooperation on standards for investment
must be the tools to bring about sustainable development and
corporate responsibility.

4. Maged Soural of the Egyptian Stock Exchange said investing will
always have irresponsible aspects but that requiring greater
transparency in corporate decision-making can reduce the risk of
irresponsible investing. Steve Waygood of Socially Responsible
Investment Aviva, concurred that corporations resist openly
reporting on internal activities, and that hard regulation and soft
regulation tools can facilitate transparency.

5. Victor Kjaer, of the Danish Government's Centre for Corporate
Social Responsibility, outlined how Denmark combined soft and hard
regulations to promote socially responsible investment. Denmark
uses private-public partnerships to enhance CSR; corporations view
such partnerships as necessary to remain competitive in Denmark's
socially progressive market. The Danish National Action Plan is a
soft regulatory tool that encourages corporations to report on
strategically targeted issues such as supply chain management,
carbon dioxide emissions and internal climate adaptation/mitigation
strategies. Corporations that voluntarily took part in the Action
Plan saw a stock price increase of 25 percent. The Danish
government analyzes voluntary reports for similarities that will
influence other regulatory reporting mechanisms.

6. Michelle Joubert of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange said that
voluntary corporate reporting encourages environmental-socially
responsible investing. Within South Africa, CSR investing is
focused on local issues such as HIV/AIDS and race; sustainable
development and issues concerning the environment are less
prominent. A workshop attendee questioned how issues become part of
a socially responsible reporting framework; the panel responded that
the concerns of society and commonalities among corporations
determine the materiality of reporting. Joubert referenced the
largest socially responsible pension fund investor in South Africa
as an example of aligning corporate reporting and investing
structures with the concerns and demands of the private and public
sector.

COMMENT
-------
7. This UNCTAD workshop was well attended and topical, with a good
balance between those who favored government regulation to mandate
CSR and those who favored a more voluntary approach. All
participants agreed on the value of CSR and the positive role that
greater transparency in corporate decision-making and greater
disclosure of information such as carbon footprints, and supply
chain reporting, can have in promoting better investment decisions
by the private sector.

TICHENOR#

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