Published: 11 October 2019

Published: 11 October 2019

CSR Asia Summit 2019: From rhetoric to results

The 13th CSR Asia Summit convened in Bangkok on 18 – 19 September 2019 with a deep sense of urgency to tackle social, labor and environmental challenges and seize associated opportunities to advance corporate and supply chain sustainability in Asia. Keynote speakers Archana Kotecha, Liberty Shared, and Rob Kaplan, Circulate Capital, vividly captured the imperative of immediate action.

“The risk related to modern slavery, forced labor and human trafficking has extended well beyond reputational risk…and now is the time to get your house in order,” said Archana Kotecha as she counselled corporates and other organizations to address serious financial, legal and regulatory risks within the current environment. “We must proactively promote transparency and disclosure for effective risk management and collaborate with partners within and beyond your sector to scale your program impact.”

Rob Kaplan, CEO and Founder of Circulate Capital, an investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies that prevent the flow of plastic waste to the world’s oceans and promoting new models for the circular economy, echoed the urgency of effective action. “We can cut the amount of plastic flowing into the ocean by half, but the time to act is now,” he said. “The waste crisis is a business opportunity that can generate economic value in Southeast Asia, improve people’s livelihoods, and drastically reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans.” Kaplan described ways in which the waste and circular economy sector can be investable and bankable with significant positive impact in the next 5 – 10 years, and the roles that regional and global corporates and investors will play.



The Summit’s Leadership Panel tackled complex issues and drivers including migration, technology, digital inclusion, and the sustainability of Thailand’s tourism sector. The panel comprised Glenn Maguire of Visa, Alan Aicken, Huawei, Dana Graber Ladek of IOM, and Sorachon Boonsong of Baker McKenzie, led by ELEVATE’s Richard Welford. Through stimulating presentations, panel conversations and audience dialogue, a common thread emerged. Technology should not be seen as a disruptor, but as an enabler to connect people and to enhance transparency. As a result, the traditional drivers of consumption are changing rapidly and consumers are demanding more transparency into the products they buy. Digitization is a profound game changer in terms of inclusion. In addition, population migration will continue, and climate change will be one of the drivers for migration; environmental migrants may reach 1 billion people by 2015 according to IOM. The global economy is an enabler of labor migrants, placing more people at risk of forced labor in destination countries where there is poor regulation.

Over the course of two days, nearly 400 attendees including 60 speakers at CSR Asia Summit 2019 explored these critical topics across three streams dedicated to strategy for results, supply chain innovation and effectiveness, emerging issues and impact, and a fourth stream dedicated to partner events. Twenty-two sessions challenged participants to move beyond current paradigms to reach further for innovative solutions.

Some of the most popular sessions included responsible sourcing trends in 2019 and beyond, ethical recruitment and Southeast Asia supply chains, big data, technology and the sustainability in the age of digital transformation, building business success under our changing climate, investors and ESG data, measuring business impact on the SDGs, plastic pollution, air pollution, food sustainability, what’s next in gender equality, and developing tomorrow’s resilient workforce today.

Alongside the main streams, partners including Global Child Forum and ELEVATE hosted a breakfast roundtable to bring key stakeholders in agrobusiness tougher to address the common issues in children’s rights in Southeast Asia. Fair Finance Asia looked at sustainable finance through a gender lens, and Johnson & Johnson hosted a roundtable to harness the collective capabilities of the private sector and NGOs to positively impact mental health in Asia.

One of the many highlights at this year’s Summit was the closing session, World Café. Duleesha Kulasooriya of the Deloitte Center for the Edge led dynamic table workshops to gain new perspectives – Zoom out, Zoom in, and Scaling Edges to drive institutional innovation and transformation. It was great to see the energy and creativity of the audience sustained through this final session.



This concluded three days of ELEVATE and CSR Asia leadership, including the perennial Pre-Summit Training day on 17 September which offered 4 extended trainings. Key topics were building and implementing a sustainability strategy, understanding effectiveness and impact of community investment and CSR programs, Integrated Reporting and integrated thinking, and creating shared value. Nearly 100 participants took the opportunity to learn, upskill and be inspired by ELEVATE leaders and trainers from Hong Kong, UK, Australia and the US, including the latest Integrated Reporting <IR> approaches from BSD Consulting, an ELEVATE company.

Commenting on the Summit, ELEVATE CEO, Ian Spaulding, acknowledged the accelerating pace of climate change and disruption to world trade and supply chains. “We see the urgency to move beyond the rhetoric so that we can collectively achieve results in sustainability and drive impact. While the global community is taking action to tackle climate change as we advance the ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, there is more to be done by corporate actors. Companies need to work smarter than ever – to deliver results, to achieve transparency, and collaborate productively for program effectiveness and value creation.”

We’ve updated the CSR Asia Summit 2019 event site with post-event resources. We invite Summit speakers and delegates to view our photo gallery and to access approved, password-protected presentation decks.

We are deeply grateful for the support from and thought partnership with our sponsors without whom CSR Asia Summit 2019 would not have proceeded. We extend a heartfelt thank you to our Gold sponsors, Visa and Huawei, Silver sponsors Prudence Foundation, EQT and Baker McKenzie, Session sponsors Oxfam Sweden Sverige and Johnson & Johnson, Breakfast host Global Child Forum, and our conference app sponsor Thomson Reuters.

Similarly the Summit would not have been a success without our wonderful collaborative PR, media and outreach partners: TQPR, AsianNGO, AVPN, CSRone, HKCSS, ICTI Ethical Toy Program, Sasin Sustainability & Entrepreneurship Center, The Stock Exchange of Thailand, CanCham Thailand, Green is the New Black, Hellenic-Thai Chamber of Commerce, India-Thai Chamber of Commerce, Netherlands-Thai Chamber of Commerce, Plan International, TEBA, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Council for Sustainable Development.

And thank you to all of our speakers and participants. Your insights, expertise and probing questions elevated our content. Thank you for your feedback:

“Well done! Then benchmark has been set high for Singapore 2020.”

“The speakers were inspiring. I enjoyed seeing the innovative solutions that are being executed all over the world.”

“CSR Asia Summit is still the best conference on sustainability in the region: great networking, organization and audience.”

“Just a minor thing, but I must say that the food provided was fantastic! Also appreciated the consideration given to the sourcing of sustainable produce/ingredients.”

Yes! As announced at the Summit closing, the CSR Asia Summit returns next year in Singapore! Save the date for 23 – 24 September 2020. Prepare for a Summit that takes on a new look, new structure and new vibe. One thing remains the same: the CSR Asia Summit is the corporate and supply chain sustainability event in Asia that you cannot miss. See you in Singapore.



Thank you to our CSR Asia Summit 2019 sponsors and partners


Johnson & Johnson




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