Belgian Economic Mission’s High Level Seminar fosters CSR in Indian Businesses

Belgian Economic Mission’s High Level Seminar fosters CSR in Indian Businesses in the Presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium

MUMBAI: On Nov 28, at the SOFITEL Hotel, Mumbai, a high level seminar was hosted by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Belgium on “Corporate Social Responsibility – A true business case”. The seminar was hosted in partnership with UNICEF, Global Compact Network Belgium, Global Compact Network India, the Indian Merchants’ Chamber, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the Indo-Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Belgo-Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, a first for a CSR seminar of such magnitude.

The seminar was a milestone in the CSR landscape in India, wherein diverse stakeholders at the highest level came together to discuss how businesses can engage to drive the CSR agenda forward. Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium received a warm welcome at the seminar from all participants. A key note speech in the context of the Belgian Economic Mission to India, given by Jan Van Dessel, Director General for Bilateral Relations of the Belgian Foreign Ministry, on behalf of HE Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs, was well received.

Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders, who had planned to attend the seminar but unexpectedly needed to return to Belgium, conveyed that “Trade and economic integration have been the most powerful vectors for peace and development in the world over the past 75 years, thereby directly contributing to the enhancement of human rights. Conversely, the promotion and protection of human rights and of the rule of law are also key conditions for the business climate. Corporate Social Responsibility is thus not just a question of fairness and justice, but part of the best way a company can develop its sustainability in the long run. I am therefore encouraging all CEO’s and business people to continue their efforts.”

This seminar brought together Indian, Belgian and international high level experts, academics and business leaders to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the sustainability agenda in India, including the mandatory policy for CSR spends under the new Companies Bill..

The seminar featured a panel discussion of eminent panelists that comprised of Christian Leysen, CEO, AHLERS, Deepak Arora, CEO-CSR, Essar Group Foundation, Didier Malherbe, Vice President, UCB and Christine Ediers, Chief- Resource Mobilization, UNICEF India.

The panel discussion was moderated by Iris Van der Veken, Chair, Global Compact Network Belgium. The panelists discussed how Belgian companies investing in India and Indian companies could build a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

The panelists talked about the challenges that companies were facing in developing and executing their strategy for fulfilling social responsibilities and how they could to improve simultaneously their company’s bottom line as well as their social, environmental and governance performance. The panelists also highlighted the role of policy makers, NGOs, investors and capital markets in India. This event marked an important step in engaging and bridging the private sector with the government and NGO’s. Mr. Pooran Pandey, Chair, Global Compact Network India talked about the value of international collaboration and partnerships.

The attendees got to learn about the current strategies, challenges and trends of leading Indian and Belgian corporations on integrating sustainability in their core operations throughout the supply chain. At this event, several Indian and Belgian businesses not only understood the benefits and importance of CSR but also fostered partnerships and collaborations with each other to drive results. The panelists also talked about several success stories implemented.

Dr. Bhaskar Chatterjee, Director General & CEO, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, made the valedictory remarks and spoke about how and why CSR is the New Game Changer in India. According to Dr. Chatterjee “The CSR legislation is about what we can do to create facilities for those who do not have it. We know that the genius of the corporate sector, the companies, is the terrific efficiencies they have. The ability to deliver on the ground to get bang for the buck, to ensure that the money they put in is actually utilized for the best that rural communities deserve…that’s the efficiency of the corporate sector”. The seminar concluded with the MoU Signing Ceremony between Toolbox India & Edelgive as well as between FPIM-ILFS-KOIS.

According to the host of this event, Karl Van den Bossche, Consul General of Belgium, Mumbai “The Belgian economic mission, led by HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, Representative of HM the King, has been in Mumbai not only to cling deals, but to also reach out and integrate a human dimension in bilateral trade. This to the benefit of the further development of those communities in true need. I believe we have got an insight in how to do business and simultaneously generate benefits for the community. A Belgian business approach with a warm heart.”