Most Asian firms we have experience of are not explicit with a vision for the way their company will do business around the world, let alone a vision for how any business should be conducted anywhere in the world, or to work for that global objective. Often nationalism is a key motivator for greater contributions to society from leading companies in Asia, such as JN Tata.68
The colonial legacy of the West, its modern era of leadership within inter-governmental institutions, and its levels of education and wealth, have led many Westerners to have an opinion about the state of the world and its people (for better or worse). Anwar Ibrahim summarises this West’s sense of itself as “having something unique and benevolent to disseminate to others.”69 To risk a vast generalisation, many Asians do not have that sense of global responsibility or global purpose. You will be hard pressed to find an Asian who is concerned about the rights of workers in factories in Scotland, for instance, in the way some Scottish people are concerned about the rights of workers in Asia. We have been met by laughter whenever asking such questions in Asia. Yet patterns of ownership and investment described in this introduction show how Asians are acquiring a global role, influencing billions of workers, consumers and community members. Cultivating a sense of global responsibility is key.
There were sparks of this new global responsibility from within the responsible enterprise community during 2008. The global vision of Mohammed Yunus, taking microfinance to the low income communities in the United States, is one example, as is the creation of a Global Social Innovators Forum (GSIF) by Singapore MP Penny Low (see: From CSR in Asia to Asian CSR).
One implication for those in the West who are active in making the world a fairer and sustainable place is to find, engage and support similarly committed people with an internationalist view in the East. An implication for responsible enterprise professionals in the East is to seek to evolve indigenously derived principles and agendas that resonate with existing international principles, and seek to apply them globally, not just domestically or in the Asian region.
(The references are available in the pdf download and hard copy versions of this annual review, available from Lifeworth’s bookstore.)
This section can be referenced as:
Bendell, J., and C Ng, ‘Introduction’, in J. Bendell, N. Alam, S. Lin, C. Ng, L. Rimando, C. Veuthey, B. Wettstein (2009) The Eastern Turn in Responsible Enterprise: A Yearly Review of Corporate Responsibility from Lifeworth, Lifeworth: Manila, Philippines. (Page numbers for this section are available in the pdf download and hardcopy.)