ILO and ECOT organize a “Future and Current Business Leaders’ Summit” together in Bangkok on the 20th and 21st of March 2014 to connect universities, business schools and the Thai business community on topics of CSR and responsible business

Given the global reach of today’s supply chains, responsible business practices can have far reaching consequences. Management training systems and management education are crucial to ensuring that our future business leaders are equipped to handle the complex challenges and opportunities faced when adopting an integrated, socially and environmentally responsible business strategy.

News | 21 March 2014

The Future and Current Business Leaders’ Summit, a joint effort between the ILO through its ILO-IPEC programme on child labour and the Employers’ Confederation of Thailand (ECOT), sought to bring academics
  students, and business leaders together, to discuss how we are currently, and how we should be, preparing our leaders of the future to promote responsible business practices alongside competitiveness. 

The first day of the meeting explored the relationships between values and principles that are expected in doing business today by  Thai companies and how CSR and principles of responsible production are integrated by local business schools and universities in education. The second day saw a case study competition where five teams, sought to provide an integrated solution to a complex responsible business challenge of child labour currently faced in Thai fisheries sector.

In the opening of the seminar Mr Maurizio Bussi, the ILO Director for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR, highlighted the inter-connectedness of today’s global business and provided the audience with a broad perspective on the economic, environmental and social challenges of today. At the side lines of the seminar he said “both the ILO and ECOT hope that this will be the beginning of more conversations to come in academia and industry, on and around the topic of responsible business and the role of business leaders, future and current, play in promoting core labour rights.”

As Mr Anantachai Kunanatakul, President of ECOT added that, “business today has an increasingly important role to play in ensuring that they promote responsible business practices alongside business competitiveness. In order to remain sustainable, Thai businesses must address these aspects as complimentary rather than competing goals. Both ECOT and the management education community have a role to play in ensuring that business and business leaders are suitably equipped to tackle these often complex challenges.”

The summit was also opened with some remarks from Mr Thomas Thomas of the ASEAN CSR Network. He commented on the importance of responsible business practices today and the increasing relevance for business leaders of tomorrow both in the context of Thailand and ASEAN more broadly. Mr Thomas Thomas’ address set the scene for a rich panel discussion from both academics and business leaders alike.

While the academic sector focussed on what tertiary education is currently providing our leaders with, the business community reached out to students on why CSR and labour rights have become important for the future of Thai business. This provided a good starting point for the afternoon discussion, led by Mr Richard Brubaker of Collective Responsibility, on what social, economic and environmental issues are currently faced by business. Overall, the first day produced some forward-looking and inspirational discussion for both students and business.

The second day of the event saw the students partake in a case study competition. The case study which looked at child labour in the aquaculture supply chain in Thailand, presented a real life Thai-specific example of a labour related problem in an important economic sector in Thailand. The students were asked to engage with and analyse the case in order to come up with a systemic, integrated solution from the perspective of the business.

The students came from:

1. Chulalongkorn University
2. NIDA- National Institute of Development Administration
3. KMUTT- King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
4.Chetupon Commercial College
5.Mitraphon Business Administration Technological College

After an intense morning of group work the five groups presented their analysis and solutions to a panel of judges from Big C, ECOT and Mr Thomas Thomas from the ASEAN CSR Network. While the judges agreed that allfive groups were winners the one slightly more in depth response came from the team from the Graduate School of Management and Innovation at King Mongkut’s University of Technology in Thonburi and they were declared the winners.
While the focus of the case study was on the seafood sector, the types of problems that were discussed are found in various other sectors in Thailand. The purpose of the seminar was to increase connectivity between business and universities and highlight the need for a more integrated approach using the existing experiences and work done by businesses and universities in this area.

Overall, the participants of the seminar were very much aligned with the key rationale of the seminar: Today’s students are tomorrow’s political, business, and community leaders, and they need to be exposed to a wider range of learning experiences to prepare them for the responsible business challenges of the future. The ILO and ECOT are also in agreement and are already thinking of next steps to move this agenda forward.

ILO-IPEC Thailand
The ILO-IPEC project (2010-2014) in Thailand aims to address child labour and forced labour in shrimp and seafood processing areas and to help create an industry that is free of child labour and forced labour and offers decent working conditions and opportunities to Thai and migrant workers. Special attention is given to the situation of Thai and migrant children at risk of entering or/and involved in hazardous child labour. The ILO-IPEC programme is financed by the US Department of Labour.