Singapore – To be a good force, businesses and governments must work together to instill a sense of stewardship in people, said Minister of Commerce and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Saturday (November 10th).
But he admitted it would not be easy.
He said: "How do we bring this concept of stewardship and put it into the next generation where the definition of our success is not how well we make ourselves here and now, but the definition of our success is how we allow our next generation to do even better From us? "
"It's our challenge, and it's a high order."
Governments and companies must first build a meritocratic system of talent and trade that will happen, Mr. Chan said in a keynote address of the Insead Graduate Forum Asia. The theme of the forum was "Business as a Force of Good."
"How do we build a system that enables human potential to flourish? How do we build a meritocratic system of talents and industries where each person's achievements are determined by his talent, his efforts and his commitment, not by his language, religion, origin or family ties?" Ann.
This is a fundamental thing, since businesses and governments can never convince people that they are here to do well if people can not hope to realize their potential without barriers along the way, he said.
"We need to talk with the individual aspirations of our people, no matter how varied these may be aspirations," he added.
Referring to 700 international business leaders, many of whom have completed Insight, the 28-minute speech at the Gardens of the Gulf addresses corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the challenges involved.
It is not easy to be a force for good, either for businesses or governments, because of the decorations of the prisoner's dilemma, he said. The dilemma describes why the two sides do not cooperate in favor of good, because of competing interests.
In some cases, a business that worries about its quarterly reports may only commit to social responsibility if their competitors do so, while governments will only act in climate change actions, for example, if other countries act accordingly. "For governments, routine democratic processes in an attempt to survive the next elections for most governments as well," said Chen.
One school of thought regards social responsibility as an oxymoron, as businesses need to focus on raising capital for their shareholders, who will decide to do good on their own.
A growing group of business leaders today, however, believed in another theory – one in which companies are of interest in society and have a responsibility towards society, he said. Such thinking will also help attract the best and brightest talent to join companies that have strong social tasks.
"The verdict still seems to be still open where the school of thought will prevail in the long run," said Mr. Chan.
With geopolitics driving the defense trade policy and increasing levels of disruption caused by technological change, he said there are growing concerns around the world about the quality and quantity of jobs.
The reality of a more integrated global economy today will lead to winners and losers, he said. This means states will have to adapt locally.
The way the company manages this gap will have political implications, he said, hinting at the way in which some countries in recent years have not properly managed their social divisions when the world became more globalized, and as a result there was a sharp reaction.
In a discussion following Mr. Chen's speech, industry experts discussed the same topic on the challenges of social responsibility, and added to those raised by the minister.
The partner of Bridges Foundation Management Clara Barbie said a major problem is defining how wealth and values are measured, since different cultures vary in their definition.
Discount Bank CEO Pius Gupta said oil-exporting countries, for example, had tackled this problem as the world moved away from the use of palm oil for energy because of environmental concerns.
"If you ask for the money, tomorrow, what will you do with the millions of people whose governments will not be able to deal with if palm oil is their only means of livelihood." Mr. Gupta.
"Is it a sense of colonial imperialism, who are we playing God, there are no easy answers."