Myanmar is a country with tremendous opportunities, but also tremendous risks. I was fortunate enough to host and chair a seminar in Singapore yesterday on responsible investment into Myanmar.
Introduction by Rt. Hon Hugo Swire MP
The seminar started with an introduction and overview by the Rt. Hon Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Hugo provided an overview of Myanmar’s historical context (including explaining that, in deference to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the British Government calls Myanmar Burma) and current UK government actions to support its development and reintegration with the international community, in particular giving examples of how the UK is working to improve the business environment as a whole by strengthening the Myanmar government’s capacity for economic governance, transparency and accountability.
A framework for responsible investment
The next speaker, Richard Welford, Chairman, CSR Asia, set out a framework for responsible and inclusive investment into Myanmar. Author of CSR Asia’s report “Responsible and Inclusive Business in Myanmar” report, he explained that responsibility encompassed developing six aspects of Myanmar’s capital (in the economic, not geographic sense) and addressing three areas to increase inclusion:
Development of capitals through responsibility
Richard explained his view that responsible companies will contribute to development of
Myanmar’s capitals through their business activities, in particular how companies make their profits and how they provide benefits to stakeholders through their economic activities. The six capitals are:
- Economical Capital
- Political Capital
- Legal Capital
- Technological Capital
- Social Capital
- Environmental Capital
Including the poorest members of society
Richard went on to explain that “inclusive” business is a commercially viable and scalable way to incorporate low-income populations into corporate value chains. It aims to combat the poverty challenge in Myanmar and provides access to goods, services and livelihood opportunities for the poorest. The report outlines three ways of including poor people in Myanmar:
- New employment opportunities and capacity building
- New consumer markets and distribution networks
- Business linkages along the value chain
More details on responsibility and inclusion (including practical steps) can be found in the full report.
CSR in ASEAN context
The final speaker, Thomas Thomas, CEO, ASEAN CSR Network is the lead author of the report on CSR and human rights in ASEAN for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. He explained the context for CSR across the ASEAN region and provided his perspective on practical steps companies could take.
The seminar closed with a lively interaction panel discussion of questions from the floor.