UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Petko Draganov (front row, fifth from left), with participants at UNCTAD's first Global CSR Retreat and staff from UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise.
The retreat was organized and hosted by UNCTAD in collaboration with Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). The event builds on UNCTAD's established track record of research on CSR issues and activities to promote best practices among transnational corporations (TNCs).
"This retreat was an opportunity for CSR managers to rethink their strategies, so they can relaunch their efforts," said Mr. Petko Draganov, Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD. "It was an opportunity for all of us to push the envelope further and brainstorm the best practices of tomorrow." Thanking the German Government for its support, Mr. Draganov went on to say, "We share a common interest in further capacity-building in the area of corporate social responsibility, and we look forward to continuing our cooperation."
Aimed at CSR/sustainability officers within TNCs from developed and developing countries, the event welcomed participants from five continents, and included well-known international firms from a wide variety of industries including apparel, electronics, chemicals, mining and food, among others. The participants included executives from Adidas Group, Arcor, BASF, Cemex, CP Group, Codelco, Contour Global, Deutsche Bahn, Dole, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, H&M, Hayleys, Inros Lackner AG, Lenovo Group, Mettler Toledo International, MTN Group, NEC Corporation, NEC Europe Ltd., OAO Severstal, Peabody Energy, Philips, Samsung, Schneider Electric, Vale, Virtusa, Volkswagen Argentina, and Weibo.
Featuring a series of workshops spread over three days, the retreat gave participants the opportunity to explore CSR issues in depth, and to share insights gained from practical experience. The workshops addressed a range of issues, from materiality and corporate reporting, to international standards and the management challenges of addressing CSR issues across large value chains. The workshops were guided by expert facilitators from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, alongside UNCTAD and GIZ staff.
"UNCTAD is an implementing agency of the Rio+20 call to action on sustainability reporting, so we were here in part this week to facilitate action on this important international agenda," said Tatiana Krylova, Head of UNCTAD's Enterprise Branch. "Engaging directly with CSR officers on the challenges of sustainability reporting is an important part of our work to promote best practices in corporate reporting around the world." Ms. Krylova noted that 6-8 November this year would mark the 30th annual session of UNCTAD's Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting. "Sustainability reporting is one of the main agenda items for our thirtieth anniversary session, so our workshops with these executives will help us better address the current challenges in this area."
In addition to the workshops, participants engaged with international organizations active in the area of CSR via a question-and-answer session held with representatives from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Labour Organization, the International Trade Centre, the United Nations Global Compact, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the ISO 26000 working group. The participants also engaged with senior staff of the World Economic Forum (WEF), during a special evening reception that was hosted at WEF headquarters in Geneva and featured an addresses given by Mr. Alois Zwinggi, Managing Director of Resources and Processes at WEF; His Excellency Mr. Hanns Schumacher, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva; and Ms. Susanne Dorasil, Head of Economic Policy, Financial Sector, BMZ.
The special receptions also included a luncheon in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, with a keynote address given by Dr. Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors; and a dinner at the World Meteorological Organization, where participants heard from Dr. Renate Christ, Secretary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
By sharing and comparing their experiences, CSR managers were able to further strengthen their capacity for building and advancing sustainability strategies within their own companies. Participants expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to engage with their peers from leading companies from around the world, and with experts from the United Nations and other international organizations.
"The Global CSR Retreat provides a unique platform for the private and public sectors to share knowledge and further develop strategies for improving CSR management practices and promoting sustainable development," observed Mr. James Zhan, Director of UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise. "This is an important element of our overall work programme, which seeks to bring together key stakeholders that can promote responsible international investment practices and contribute to sustainable development around the world."