Working hours: 9.00 AM to 5.45 PM from Monday to Friday (1.00 PM to 1.45 PM Lunch)

Speech/Interview
Home ›  Speeches and Interviews  ›  Ambassador’s Speech at the International Leadership Symposium...

International Leadership Symposium on Ethics in Business held in the European Parliament on 20 November 2015

"The Double Bottom Line-How rich we really are"

Edited transcript of keynote address given by Ambassador ShriManjeev Singh Puri in the Symposium also featuring

Dr, Monika Griefahn, former Environment Minister of Germany (moderator)

Mr Roland Koch, former Minister-President of Hessen and Chairman of Supervisory Board of UBS

Dr Sanjay Pradhan, VP, World Bank

Prof. Hermann de Croo, former Minister of State of Belgium, and

Mr JorgHimmelmann, Director, Global Training, Daimler AG

Thank you very much Dr.Griefahn

 

Guriji [Sri Sri Ravi Shankar], you inaugurated this conference by thanking the European Parliament for having re-scheduled so many events but allowing this one to go ahead even though there is a yellow alert [security alert]. I think it is your doing - the last time we had you in this building, we celebrated the International Day of Yoga and then also the alert level was yellow!!! I think the European Parliament is particularly courageous – the previous conference on ethics was held at FIFA HQs!

 

Prof. Herman de Croo spoke about various things that big business has been doing in Europe and the need for regulation. He used a very strong word –'cheating'. I do not know about that but my effort is to try and locate the 'sweet spot' synergizing ethics and business.

 

Sanjay, thank you very much but you confused me. This conference is about a "Double Line". The United Nation's CSR paradigm talks about a "Triple Line" and now you are talking about "Seventeen Lines" [he was referring to the Sustainable Development Goals]. My effort will be to maintain the focus on business and not about sustainability issues. 

 

Nowadays it is very fashionable to have these discussions. Indeed, my son who is a college student in the US and is currently interviewing for summer placements, started laughing when I told him that I would be speaking at this event. He said that he had just come back from a recruiting event of one of the largest financial services corporations in the USA. From the talk it would appear that they were a philanthropic organisation!

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's important that these  organisations remained focus on their business and its objectives but we try and see where we can find that sweet spot between innovation, ambition, competition and, if I may dare say so, greed, and common good.

 

We had Novartis speak here, we had UBS speak in front of us. These institutions are known for innovations and yeomen services and have done so much for what the world has achieved and yet I think we should recognize that we had a celebrated court case in India asking Novartis to keep its drugs affordable.

 

The need in all of this is to build convergence, as Sanjay so well alluded, and how can we try and put things together and what can we do? Of course, on many-many subjects we will not agree, we will not find easy common ground, but we need to dialogue and we need to be together. This is what makes these meetings on what we should do together particularly important.

 

In India we have a new government, which was elected last year with a huge majority and on the peg of development. Prime Minister ShriNarendraModi has undertaken path breaking initiatives to try and propel India on a path of fast growth and all around development. But, I want to underscore one very important factor. Speaking at a business summit earlier this year, he strongly underscored that all these efforts of the government were most importantly geared towards ensuring that "prosperity was for the welfare of all". We need to strongly recognise the importance of common good.

 

We have in various ways and means discovered methods and approaches to try and see what best could be done.

 

Corporate Social Responsibility, perhaps a new name to what used to be, at least in India, called the notion of 'Trusteeship'. We, in India, have done particularly well. We are, perhaps, the only country in the world which obliges companies by law to set aside a certain percentage of their profits for corporate social responsibility. But, I see that many others are also working towards it.

 

I come from a generation which can only applaud the fantastic work done by philanthropic organisations which were anchored in Big Business. I talk of the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation. Indeed, they were lead models, even for what the World Bank.

 

Today, can anyone of us forget what the Gates Foundation is doing? What this major foundation, perhaps led by the altruistic values of its founders cannot but be applauded and saluted for their gigantic contribution for a better life for all.

 

This is one aspect, but for me much more important is what I see in some of the newer studies. People are finding that in the corporate world, there is increasing recognition that companies which are rated ethical, and which make such efforts, are more admired. There are other studies which show that their financial performances are also better. Perhaps, this is one of those wonderful convergences that we all need to try and look at especially in terms of the biggest businesses.

 

In India, we have many such beautiful examples, the house of Tatas certainly stands very tall.

 

A classmate of mine is CEO of a Fortune 500 company- 'Mastercard'. Ajay Banga, who Sir (referring to ex-PM of Bhutan HE Mr JigmeyThinley, who was present) studied in the same college as you and me, and I am very honoured here to be the second speaker from St Stephens College after His Excellency, tells his employees - "Do well, Do good". He is one of the champions pushing financial inclusion. Obviously, it is not de-linked with his business, but what a huge amount of stride to global common good.

 

This to me is that particular kind of sweet spot that we should all try and work on and try and see what can be done to try and leverage the good that rests in business, the good that rests in innovation and indeed, if I can go to the extreme extent, and say the good that rests in ambition, competition and even greed to be made available for the common good of humankind.

 

Dr.Griefahn, you asked me to say a few words about Climate Change.

 

I come from a country which is perhaps one of the most vulnerable and one of the most affected country by climate change. Our global contribution to the emission of GHGs is among the lowest in per capita terms and indeed let me tell you it is among the lower end of the spectrum even among the developing countries, let alone developed countries.

 

What is it that we wish to see the globe coming to? We wish the world to come together to ensure that there is "Climate Justice", to ensure that there is ambitious action on GHGs but equally to focus on adaptation, and much more than all of that to use the human mind, which perhaps in a sense, is what is responsible for anthropogenic activities that have resulted in this accelerated climate change. We need to come together and see if we can develop breakthrough technologies. We must break the 'Carbon-Energy Nexus'. Energy, in the way we have structured our world, is absolute sine non qua for all of us in terms of better life. But, we need to try and see if we can address that particular nexus with carbon. And for this, the most important element is coming together in terms of human resources and financial resources.

 

I fully agree with you Sanjay that the Private sector has a huge and massive role to do and certainly we will not, in anyway, be in a position to do without their support and their active willingness. But, governments have an abiding commitment to do what they have to do. It is extremely important that they remain there to make that happen and not pass on their responsibilities.

 

I am not involved with climate negotiations now and cannot say much about what will happen in Paris but I am sure that all the global efforts that we are undertaking in my country, the USA, China, EU and so many parts of the world, will make positive differences. They have also brought about mindset changes in the way we work. I hope to see that it will also bring about collaborative approaches because I think that is where the way forward lies in the world.

 

Thank you very much.

 

***



Address: Embassy of India, 217, Chaussee de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.

Working hours: 9.00 AM to 5.45 PM from Monday to Friday
                        1.00 PM to 1.45 PM Lunch
Telephone Numbers: +32 (0)2 6409140 & +32 (0)2 6451850
Emergency help line No for consular assistance (after office
hours): +32 (0)2 6466872
Fax Number: +32 (0)2 6451869(Consular wing) & +32 (0)2 6489638
(General No)