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Finance Sector and Business Join Forces to Take on Environmental, Social and Governance Challenges

UN conference in Seoul discusses sustainable finance, responsible investment and corporate citizenship.
Joint “Seoul Declaration” calls for collective action by business, investors, civil society to promote greater integration of environmental, social and governance issues into mainstream investment and business in Asia.

(Seoul, 17 June 2008) – Global financial institutions representing more than 14 trillion US dollars in assets and leading representatives of Asian business are meeting in Seoul today to promote better environmental, social and governance performance in business and to strengthen its role in financial analysis and investment decision-making. Entitled Changing Landscapes: Towards a Sustainable Economy in Asia, the meeting is co-organized by the United Nations Global Compact and its Korea Network, the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

Held in conjunction with the annual meetings of PRI signatories and UNEP FI members, as well as the Asian regional meeting of Global Compact Local Networks, Changing Landscapes brings together a unique coalition of asset owners and managers, financial market actors, business leaders and civil society representatives. The goal of the meeting is to identify and discuss ways in which these groups can align their strategic and operational priorities to address key environmental, social and governance challenges, including climate change, human rights and workplace standards, transparency and accountability, and corporate governance, particularly in the Asian context.

A joint “Seoul Declaration”, to be issued later today, calls on conference participants to, inter alia, join forces around efforts to address the carbon challenge; further promote the application of labour and human rights values; put greater emphasis on improving governance structures; increase the transparency of business transactions and prevent corruption; push for a sustainable economy; and promote ways in which investors, financiers and business leaders can engage constructively with policy makers on these issues.

The joint session of Changing Landscapes will open with a video message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, followed by a keynote address from Han Seung-Soo, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea.

Special issues sessions with leading experts will focus attention on the environmental, social, governance and public policy dimensions of corporate responsibility.

“Changing Landscapes is a much-needed and timely effort to identify common ground and shared purpose between business and financial markets”, says Georg Kell, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact. “If we are to succeed in our mission to create a more inclusive global economy, we must capitalize on shared drivers and incentives, rewarding long-term value over short-term profit”.

“We are extremely honoured to host this important conference in Seoul. Asia including Korea is transforming into mature economy and diversified society where business and finance take ever increasing importance. Our main purpose for this event is to promote better environmental, social and governance performance in business. We expect that this conference will contribute to the advancement of the CSR and UN Global Compact values in Asia and beyond. Finally, we hope that business leaders, financers and investors will use the opportunity to realize further interface and cooperation for greater sustainable economy in Asia.”, said Chulki-Ju, Secretary
General of the UN Global Compact Korea Network.

“The issues of climate change and corporate governance have converged to provide a solid business case for mainstream financial institutions to apply responsible investment approaches to their core activities. The growth of the PRI, now representing USD 14 trillion in assets after just two years, is evidence that consideration of environmental, social and governance issues are becoming ‘the way business is done’”, said James Gifford, Executive Director of the PRI Initiative.

"Asia-Pacific will be the economic engine of the 21st Century. As such, the region’s economic opportunities and environmental challenges will be immense. Sustainable finance and responsible investment allow economic, environmental and social actions to be aligned effectively. This meeting will dig into the details of what financial institutions in the Republic of Korea and broader Asia can do on climate change, water, biodiversity and social issues. It is a pivotal meeting", explained Paul Clements-Hunt, Head, UNEP Finance Initiative.

“Facing urgent global issues like climate change, it is highly crucial to give the right signal to investors and entrepreneurs and also make them understood the new mechanism of sustainable economy, which internalizes ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues into markets.” said Cheong Hae-Bong, President of Eco-frontier.

For more information on Changing Landscapes, including the conference agenda and the text of the Seoul Declaration, please visit www.changinglandscapes.org.

Download the Seoul Declaration (English) (Korean).

View this press release in Korean.

About the United Nations Global Compact
Launched in 2000, the UN Global Compact brings business together with UN agencies, labour, civil society and governments to advance ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Through the power of collective action, the Global Compact seeks to mainstream these ten principles in business activities around the world and to catalyze actions in support of broader UN goals. With over 4,100 participating companies and hundreds of other stakeholders from more than 120 countries, it is the world's largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative. Visit www.unglobalcompact.org.

About the UNEP Finance Initiative
UNEP FI is a unique global partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the private financial sector. UNEP FI works closely with over 170 financial institutions who are signatories to the UNEP FI Statements, and a range of partner organizations to develop and promote linkages between the environment, sustainability and financial performance. Through regional activities, a comprehensive work programme, training programmes and research, UNEP FI carries out its mission to identify, promote, and realise the adoption of best environmental and sustainability practice at all levels of financial institution operations. Visit www.unepfi.org.

About the Principles for Responsible Investment
Launched in 2006, The PRI were developed by a group of leading institutional investors in a process convened by the UN Secretary-General and implemented by the UN Global Compact and the UNEP Finance Initiative. The Principles suggest actions for incorporating environmental, social and governance issues into mainstream investment decision-making and ownership practices. There are now over 360 PRI signatories, representing in excess of US$14 trillion in assets. Visit www.unpri.org.

About the UN Global Compact Korea Network
The UN Global Compact Korea Network was created on 17 September 2007. It is currently operating with 118 participating members, pursuing the aforementioned principles of UN Global Compact, liaising with the UN Global Compact Headquarters. Visit www.unglobalcompact.kr.

About Eco-Frontier
Eco-Frontier is a leading expert organization in sustainable development. Since its founding in 1995, it has developed many government policies, corporate strategy, financial solutions, corporate ESG rating, carbon related projects and environmental business. It organizes this conference with the UN GC Korea Network and is a signatory and the partner of UN Global Compact, UNEP-FI and PRI. Visit www.ecofrontier.co.kr

Contact:

Cecilie Hultmann
UN Global Compact Office
hultmann@un.org