Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Shared values benefit business, society

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

You know as well as I do the big issues that face our home today. There are the deepening divides of wealth and opportunity in our community. There is wasteful use of energy and resources, burdening our city with pollution and rubbish and harming the biosphere on which we all depend for our existence.


A rapidly ageing population is changing patterns of demand for services and tightening the labour market. Technology is changing the nature of business and undermining old patterns of employment. The processes of public discourse through which we learn and decide how to adapt to all these changes need to adapt as well so as to serve the community better.


Over the past three years, I have been heavily involved with the work of the Commission on Poverty. This has been seeking not just to safeguard individuals and families from the debilitating effects of poverty but, equally, to stimulate new thinking and action to open up avenues out of poverty and disadvantage, enabling as many as possible to live with effective choices as full participants in our city rather than as dependents on charity or the taxpayer.


A task force and a  Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Development Fund have been set up under the Commission chaired by Prof Stephen Cheung. The aim has been to encourage entrepreneurs to create new businesses that help to address social needs and to strengthen the ecosystem of support for idea generation, prototyping, starting up and scaling up new enterprises that integrate social purpose into the nature of their business.


It is an exciting area to be working in. There is an infectious demand among young people today to find work that has a social and moral purpose, tempered with understanding that if good ideas and intentions are to be put to good effect, the skills of nurturing and sustaining a viable business need to be mastered as well.


Maximising returns

Today we meet together to put the spotlight on another exciting field of work, the renewal and development of established businesses through the search to maximise returns to society as well as to business from the way that goods and services are developed and delivered.


This is not a new field of work. It is not an area in which government can tell you what specifically you should do in your particular businesses. But I can tell you why it is important.


Simply put, the sheer scale of the issues that I have outlined earlier makes it imperative that every business engages and reflects on how the way you operate affects the society in which you operate, and then acts on the ideas you have for reducing harmful impacts and increasing value for your business and the community you serve.


Whatever new businesses are starting up today, the choices you make - it is about how to treat those who work for you, the customers for your goods and services, the partners in your supply chains and the energy and materials you use - matter greatly for the condition of this city as a place for everyone to live in and enjoy, and as a place for you to do business in.


Against a background of an ageing population, a tightening workforce and deep pockets of poverty in the city, it makes even more sense to think how the potential of any and every person can be engaged and enhanced to their own benefit, to the benefit of society and to the benefit of business.


Safeguarding resources

Knowing the possible consequences of rapidly deepening stress on the atmosphere, on water supplies, productive land and fisheries, it makes sense to reconsider how resources are being used and what kinds of consumption are being fuelled by your business.


Regulation, public services and charities will always have a substantial role to play in addressing social needs and societal threats, but I believe that an equally important role can be played by the active partnership of business, not just through paying taxes, making donations or doing voluntary work, but through your creativity and innovation in developing new business practices that can flourish through respect for people and for the planet as well as attention to profit.


Your adaptability, your skill in rapid experimenting and learning, and your need to compete successfully to sustain and grow your business are all vital to the city as a whole maintaining its ability to learn and to adapt to new conditions and challenges.


Stimulating innovation

I am delighted to hear that discussions are already taking place around the creation of a private sector-led Shared Value Network for Hong Kong to promote awareness of this approach to creating new business, to share learning, to provide capacity building and to stimulate innovation in meeting social needs through business.


I understand that it is intended to follow up on this forum with a series of workshops to help identify opportunities for creating shared value, understand methods for implementing such programmes, explore social innovation processes and examine case studies. These will lead into a coaching and mentoring programme to help interested business develop specific plans.


I would be very pleased to see some new ideas developed through this programme starting to be put into practice in the coming year, helping to increase the diversity of efforts to address social challenges and create new opportunity to relieve poverty or overcome disadvantage.


Reaching out

I would also very much hope to see your interest and example serving to reach out more widely into Hong Kong's business community, stimulating wider innovation and enterprise and helping to establish this city as a hub for business-led social innovation.


A vigorous business community that is creating competitive advantage for itself through pursuit of shared value will contribute to strengthening Hong Kong's competitive advantage in the years ahead.


Over very many years, Hong Kong businesses have been great supporters of charity. The tax you have paid has supported many public programmes to mitigate social need. I know you will continue to pay your taxes. I am sure you will continue to be generous to the needy from your profits and with your time and skills.


I trust, though, that from today's forum will rise a more flourishing tree of enterprise in which ever greater social value is created for the city through the very way in which each individual enterprise conducts its business, a tree that through its growth increases the resilience and capacity of this city to manage change well, benefiting every person, every family, every business that resides here.


Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the opening of the forum on Shared Value: Creating Competitive Advantage.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

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