Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.

Remarks at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit, Singapore

Printer-friendly version

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Friday, November 13, 2009

CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

202-482-4883

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit
Singapore

Good evening, I trust that all of you are having a useful and productive week here at the APEC meetings.

With so many trade, technology and economic development issues on the agenda at these meetings, it’s a pleasure to talk about another issue that doesn't always get the attention it deserves.

Although you won't see it in quarterly earnings statements, it is of the utmost importance to businesses and the communities in which they operate:

I'm talking about corporate social responsibility.

Corporate social responsibility has certainly got a lot of buzz over the last few years—but one of the things I find interesting is that it can mean so many different things to different people.

Many hear corporate social responsibility and they imagine corporations writing checks to charities.

But I think corporate social responsibility can best be described in much broader terms.

It’s about more than philanthropy.

To me, corporate social responsibility means changing the definition of what it means to be a successful business.

It means being more sustainable in everything you do, from how you use resources like water, land and energy to how you treat your employees to how you replenish the local communities where you are doing business.

This isn't just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do. It’s good for the company’s bottom line and it contributes to social prosperity.

Take energy and the environment for example.

For a good hundred years or so, businesses have enjoyed cheap fossil fuels, with little concern for what their emissions were doing to our atmosphere.

Those days are over.

Fuel is no longer cheap.

And if we don’t curb the carbon, the consequences for our environment and our economy will be devastating.

Now, companies can certainly keep using energy like they did in the 20th century and they'll enjoy a few more quarters or a few more years of uninterrupted growth.

But when the seas start rising, when floods start increasing and droughts begin spreading and lasting longer, you'd better believe that's going to be bad for business.

It’s time for companies to adapt to the new realities of the 21st century:

Start being more efficient and using cleaner fuels – and companies won't just be leaving a better world for our kids, they’ll be helping to save the only place where you can do business: The Planet Earth.

That's an example of doing the right thing and doing the smart thing being one and the same.

The same is true when companies partner with communities to contribute to local educational and health care programs or to help build up local infrastructure.

Every school you help build, every child you keep healthy is increasing the odds that someone will grow to reach their full potential.

And when you've got an educated, healthy populace, you've got a population that is going to build and create things, start new businesses and create a more robust local economy that will help everybody thrive.

Many of you here today in this room represent companies that are engaged in corporate social responsibility practices throughout the APEC economies that improve people’s lives as well as help build sustainable business.

And I'm proud that United States companies are doing this in a variety of different ways, from investment in schools to funding local infrastructure projects.

Take Coca Cola for example. They have become one of the leading advocates for sustainable water usage around the world.

By:

  • reducing the amount of water it uses to produce beverages;
  • recycling water used for manufacturing, and
  • funding local water replenishment project.

Coca Cola is seeking to return the same amount of water it uses in beverage production back to the communities where they operate.

In effect, Coca Cola—one of the largest beverage makers in the world – is attempting to completely neutralize its impact on the world's water supply.

And they are trying to teach others throughout APEC economies to do the same.

In Thailand for example, they are training almost 10,000 teenagers to be "young water ambassadors," who can then teach people in their communities about water conservation and sustainable irrigation techniques.

This is a textbook example of doing something that is both good for business and good for local communities.

So too, is the work Intel is doing to help educate children throughout the APEC economies.

Over the past decade, Intel has invested more than $1 billion to help improve education in 50 countries.

Its signature education program, Intel Teach is helping teachers integrate technology and "real life" active learning into their classrooms to develop critical skills.

By the end of 2008, this program had trained over 1.6 million teachers across Australia, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia and other APEC member economies, as well as India.

Now, this is undeniably good news for the children in these countries.

But for Intel, they're helping create smarter, more technically savvy kids who one day may grow up to become Intel engineers or scientists who can keep their innovation pipeline stocked for decades to come.

Wherever possible, the Commerce Department seeks to support business in their efforts to use sustainable and responsible business practices.

We work with many companies through the American Chambers of Commerce throughout the world and other business associations to share best practices and to raise awareness of the good work that you do every day in the communities where you operate.

We are supporting private-sector led initiatives to promote business ethics and corporate governance in emerging markets in a few APEC economies.

The Department of Commerce is proud of its efforts to expand corporate social responsibility opportunities.

But ultimately, the initiative needs to happen in the private sector.

And I am very pleased to see that so many businesses are starting to see that they have a bigger responsibility than just hitting earnings estimates four times a year.

We all want to live in a world where we have ample resources for future generations, and where there will be enough well-paying jobs for all of our children.

And I look forward to working with all of you to achieve that goal in the months and years ahead.

Thank you.