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28th APO Top Management Forum on Corporate Strategies for Driving Sustainability in the Asia-Pacific [13-15 February 2012, Kyoto, Japan]

Opening Statement
by Ryuichiro Yamazaki
APO Secretary-General

President Masayoshi Matsukawa of the Japan Productivity Center,
Chairman Takashi Tsuji of the Kansai Productivity Center,
The 37 overseas participants representing 17 APO member countries and the participants from Japan,
Distinguished Speakers,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the 28th APO Top Management Forum. As you know, this forum has been an annual event since 1985, co-hosted by the APO and Japan Productivity Center as a platform for leaders from the corporate, government, and academic sectors to gather in an informal setting in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto to share experiences and exchange ideas on good management and leadership practices.

This year, we will be discussing corporate social responsibility (or CSR) and looking at various management strategies for promoting a culture of environmental awareness and sustainable productivity enhancement, while clarifying the role of organizational leaders in this process.

The APO, especially since the turn of the century, has consistently emphasized the importance of CSR. It is important not only because it is based on the fundamental ethical value of contributing to society but also because it is a management strategy that can create organizational value, help enterprises to remain globally competitive, and ensure the sustainability of business activities. The APO has organized various training and capacity-building projects to assist member countries in the promotion and implementation of CSR strategies, including the 20th Top Management Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility in 2004, which responded to growing regional and global interest in how corporations could contribute to society. Another APO milestone in this area was the introduction of projects covering ISO 26000, the international standard on Guidance for Social Responsibility, which was published in November 2010. Furthermore, more than 200 individuals from 12 APO member countries enrolled in the e-Learning Course on ISO 26000 last May through the World Bank’s Tokyo Distance Learning Center network. After that course, 22 participants from 12 member countries attended the Seminar on ISO 26000: Development of Social Responsibility held in Taipei last August, both of which underscored the significance of CSR to the APO membership.

This year’s Top Management Forum provides yet another unique opportunity, not simply to discuss the importance of CSR principles, but to examine in depth how CSR can become an integral part of an organization’s core business or activity, as well as how it can be incorporated into a long-term management strategy that strengthens sustainability and contributes to overall productivity increases in the Asia-Pacific.

The APO region was no exception in facing many challenges in the past year. Organizations are increasingly compelled to address and overcome the unexpected, whether that is a challenge presented by Mother Nature or by economic or environmental circumstances. Sustainability can only be achieved with corporate foresight, courage, and agility. These require strong, visionary leaders to guide their organizations effectively toward the light at the end of any dark tunnels encountered.

Peter F. Drucker once said that: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” As we discuss the importance of promoting CSR in the region and share experiences and best practices in doing so, Drucker’s words are relevant in the sense that we have come together today to understand the leadership aspect of “what” can be done in terms of policies, strategies, and approaches to ensure sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific. In addition, we will examine the management aspect of “how” our corporate and public-sector top management teams can fulfill their roles effectively as leaders and as innovators.

We look forward to learning from the speakers of this forum how excellent organizations interpret their roles within the surrounding economic, social, environmental, and in some cases political contexts. They will not only introduce strategies and programs that have been developed to respond to identified social needs but also explain how such practices were integrated into core businesses and activities. The speakers will also illustrate how CSR strategies contribute to strengthening competitive advantage and the uniqueness of an organization.

For an international perspective, we have invited Mrs. Nora Abdul Manaf, Senior Executive Vice President and Head of Group Human Capital, Malaysian Banking Berhad, to share with us Maybank’s experience as a financial service provider in determining its social responsibility role within communities in Malaysia and neighboring Asian countries. We also have with us a distinguished group of Japanese speakers from the private, public, and academic sectors who will share their best practices and insights. My sincere gratitude goes to them all.

In closing, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Japan Productivity Center for jointly organizing the 28th Top Management Forum and to the Kansai Productivity Center for its continued support.

Last but not least, Kyoto is one of Japan’s most beautiful and historical cities, with 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. I hope that all of you, especially our international guests, will have a chance to enjoy the jewels of this city and have a memorable and an enlightening stay.

Thank you very much.

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