Your Excellency Prime Minister Reinfeldt, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. Here in Beijing in April, spring is high in the air and flowers are in full blossom. On this delightful day, we celebrate the convening of the Sino-Swedish CSR High-Level Forum. Last June during the visit of President Hu Jintao to Sweden, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs signed an MOU on Cooperation in CSR on behalf of their respective governments, which officially kicked off our bilateral CSR cooperation and was vitally important for the sustained, steady and sound development of our economies. Today, we have Chinese and Swedish friends gathered here to discuss in greater depth on the topic of CSR, which I believe will positively shape our future CSR collaboration.
Since the 1980s, CSR has gone from being a new term to a global trend. Putting emphasis on CSR means companies not only have to be responsible to their investors, but also to their employees, customers, business partners, and to the environment and society. International success stories also show that CSR is part of a company's brand image and its core competitiveness. It is a vital source of sustained prosperity for business. So in order to survive and grow, it is imperative that companies should raise their CSR awareness and actively fulfill their social responsibilities. We have every reason to believe that future business competition will diversify from specific products, technology and talents toward CSR performance. As the proverb goes, "The rose is in her hand and the fragrance in mine", companies benefit from their efforts to honor CSR and promote social harmony.
As the socialist market economy gradually improves, there is also a growing sense of social responsibility among the vast majority of Chinese companies. They abide by the code of ethics and lawful operation and are committed to providing high-quality products for domestic and foreign consumers. They pay attention to conservation, environmental protection and CSR fulfillment. Some companies go even further by publishing their CSR reports to disclose their CSR performance and to voluntarily subject themselves to public scrutiny. Of course, constrained by the level and stage of its economic development, China still practices a rough-edged economic growth model, featuring high energy and resources consumption and high environmental costs. A handful of companies are still single-mindedly seeking profits and turning a blind eye to their social responsibilities.
The Chinese government has consistently attached great importance to the CSR initiative and has intensified its efforts in recent years. In 2007, Ministry of Commerce joined the environmental protection sector in issuing the Circular on Enhancing Environmental Surveillance on Exporting Enterprises, to restrict socially-irresponsible enterprises from conducting foreign trade. It promulgated the Opinions on Strengthening CSR at State Economic and Technological Development Zones, to urge enterprises based in development zones to better fulfill their CSR. It also adjusted its processing trade policy to ban CSR-neglecting enterprises from doing processing trade. In parallel, The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council published the Guidelines on CSR Fulfillment by Central-Level Enterprises, demanding a leadership by central-level enterprises in CSR implementation. The new Labor Contract Law which became effective on January 1, 2008 laid a legal foundation for a harmonious employer-employee relationship. I believe through the joint efforts in public and private sectors, CSR will continue to make new progress in China.
As I see it, CSR among Chinese enterprises should follow through "one main thread", focus on "three alignments" and achieve "four harmonies".
On following through the "one main thread", it means sticking to the scientific outlook on development. Guided by this outlook, we should use CSR as a major enabler for transforming the economic growth model, for balancing business profits with social benefits, immediate interests with long-term development, partial gains with overall interests, and business growth with employee development. The aim is to embark on a road of CSR with Chinese characteristic, featuring high economic and social productivity, low resource consumption and pollution, effective protection of consumer and employee rights and interests and to move ahead with building a socialist harmonious society and to achieve sustainable socio-economic development.
On focusing on the "three alignments", first is the alignment of government advocacy with business practice. The government needs to create incentives, give positive direction and strengthen supervision. They should require enterprises to take on mandatory social responsibility, encourage them to take on moral social responsibility and penalize enterprises against severe anti-CSR practices. Companies need to play a central role, update their operational philosophy, be responsible to the society and discipline themselves under the public eye. Second is the alignment of international best practice with China's national conditions. International exchanges and cooperation must be stepped up to fully internalize the best practices of countries such as Sweden and push forward CSR compliance among Chinese enterprises. At the same time, China needs to proceed from its national conditions, take into full account the level of its socio-economic development and the capability of companies, and refrain from pursuing over-ambitious targets to the detriment of business and the society. Third is the alignment of critical breakthroughs and comprehensive progress. We need to target weak yet critical linkages which may affect the overall outcome, especially in industries and sectors which have a high level of energy consumption and pollution, which are labor-intensive and prone to safety incidents. At the same time, we should start with small steps, build on existing experience, and gradually enhance the overall performance of CSR.
On achieving the "four harmonies", the first thing is the harmony between employers and employees. We need to harmonize the employer-employee relationship, fully unlock employees' potential, ensure employees' legitimate share in business profits and enable employees' career advancement alongside business expansion. Second is the harmony among enterprises. We need to build a healthy business partnership that is both competitive and collaborative. We need to foster a level playing field that respects honest and ethical business practices, fair competition and common development. The third is the harmony between business and the society. Companies need to increase their CSR awareness and behave as fully responsible social citizens. They should work toward social harmony and a business-friendly social environment. The fourth is the harmony between man and nature. We need to transform the business growth model into the one that is powered by technological advances, product innovation and resource conservation, build a resource-conserving and environmentally-friendly society and achieve the harmony between man and nature through economical, cleaner and safer developments.
Ladies and gentlemen. The Chinese and Swedish governments both attach great importance to their bilateral CSR collaboration. Sweden, as a developed market economy, is tremendously experienced with CSR. China, as a fast-growing emerging economy, is actively pursuing CSR. This morning, China and Sweden launched a joint CSR website and training program. I sincerely hope the consensus of senior Chinese and Swedish leadership will be acted upon by both governments and businesses, through intensified collaboration and mutual learning, so as to take the CSR endeavor forward.
To conclude, I wish the Forum a complete success. Thank you.