The State of Responsible Competitiveness:
Making Sustainable Development Count in Global Markets”
(Sedutan sebahagian teks ucaptama Ketua Pembangkang Parlimen Malaysia, Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim, di forum di peringkat antarabangsa 'Arab Direct Mail & Marketing Forum' di Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 21 April 2009)
In the current economic environment it may seem counterintuitive to talk much about sustainable development. Sure – when economies are booming then one can afford the luxury of fighting climate change, unfair labour practices and unbalanced trade relationships. But companies today, and in some cases entire economies, are facing fundamental challenges. Survival in the midst of a recession of epic proportions can force a realignment of priorities, leaving less room for loftier ethical aspirations.
While the dust has yet to settle, we know that more jobs will be lost, more factories shuttered and balance sheets will remain thin at best. So the question arises – can we sustain our commitment to responsible and sustainable practices in the public and private sectors in such a constrained environment? Lofty goals have been set by the wealthiest countries in the world to improve living standards and ensure basic essentials of a humane life are made accessible to all. Yet most of these targets have been missed and for many the situation grows more perilous by the day.
There is a virtual consensus on the need to act on areas such as climate change and global health yet we still fumble when it comes to creating solutions.At the core of many of these failures is a crisis in accountability. The accumulation of power in fewer and fewer hands has not been accompanied by a greater sense of obligation by those people and institutions to act responsibly and be held to account.
Our failures have not come for want of trying. Political leaders speak often on the importance of probity all the while failing, repeatedly, and generally without penalty to deliver on their promises of social justice and sustainable livelihoods. Those we entrust the matter of business justify excessive profits and the destructions of livelihoods and the natural environment in the spirit of maximizing shareholder value and facing competitive pressures. There are literally thousands of NGOs created as the contemporary champions of the dispossessed masses. Yet their overall impact is difficult to gauge, and they sometimes fail.