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Robert Davies: We are Proud to Be Associated with the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum

March 11, 2003
Robert Davies: We are Proud to Be Associated with the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum

Robert Davies is the founder Chief Executive of The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum, and has lead its activities since 1990 with global corporations promoting responsible business practices and partnerships for development in over 40 countries. As an entrepreneur in the not-for-profit sector he was previously the deputy chief executive of Business in the Community in the UK and his career has encompassed urban and economic development, health, energy and social policy, the arts, TV production, journalism and communications. He has extensive experience in working with inter-governmental organisations including the World Bank, OECD, European Union, World Health Organisation and other UN organisations. He was awarded a 'CMG' (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael & St George) for services to foreign affairs and the IBLF in the UK Millennium Honours list.
Mr. Davies answered questions of Martina Iovcheva
Q: The Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year. How would you assess its work and development?
A: I am deeply impressed with how well the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum has developed since its foundation almost five years ago and we are proud to be associated with it. It has grown in terms of membership, range of support and recognition as a creative force for the promotion of responsible standards across the Bulgarian business community, and now holds its own with the earlier BLFs in Hungary and Czech Republic, which have taken 10 years. It also receives the support of top level business leaders and the Government which enhances credibility. It also fulfills a unique role as, while it doesn't represent business like a chamber of commerce, or a single national business grouping, it is a partnership for practical action and bringing business solutions to economic and social problems.
Q: The Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum board members recently launched the first Business Ethics Standard, adopted by over hundred Bulgarian companies. How will in your opinion the Business Ethics Standard help them change their attitude?
A: Attitudinal change is the starting point for improvement of business ethics, as well as strong leadership from business. Much can be achieved through voluntary initiatives. Obviously, the real test will be how far companies who sign the charter start a process to measure and report publicly on their performance, and how they contribute to wider change within the small and medium sized business sector. Also on how far this influences public procurement and tendering procedures and sets the whole climate for transparency. So I guess it will also be important for the larger companies with good management systems in place to share their know-how on implementation with others, and here the BBLF has a role as facilitator. In the long-run signing this pioneering charter is important, but not as an isolated measure.
Q: What is in your opinion the crucial factor for Bulgaria's sustainable economic and social development?
A: It is important that there is a good climate for investment, economic and political stability and fair regulation of the economy.
Equally it is important that there is a massive push for improved management development and training to underpin competitiveness.
Lack of corruption, widespread support for the market economy and a competitive labour market with a hard work ethic will all help as will communicating the positive role of business to the young generation. To achieve this transition companies must help build capacity for a sound functioning market economy through supporting collective initiatives with other companies for education and training, enterprise development and business standards which is where BBLF members can contribute.
Q: As founder Chief Executive of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum can you say which is the distinctive feature that makes IBLF stand out among other business communities?
A: Since we started we have been committed to promoting partnership action by business to assist economic and social development - and this has been strongly lead by our President HRH The Prince of Wales and our international Board. It is based on a social vision for sustainability and a belief that responsible business can play a critical role in development. Businesses who are even competitors have more in common by working together to improve the social and economic infrastructure. We have also stressed that this approach to business must be lead from the top as a natural part of modern and competitive business practice. We also know that unemployment and economic exclusion, whether of minorities or others with disadvantage due to race or educational background, undermines successful open economies and societies. So this effort to engage enterprises in entrepreneurial action to address poverty and social exclusion is vital for stable democracies.
Q: How does the Forum promote the principles of corporate social responsibilities throughout the world?
A: Our approach is based on three strategies. First, we promote the 'business case' which may vary in different countries - one size does not fit all, though there are standards and expectations in common.
Being a good neighbor and being honest and sensitive means pretty much the same thing in all traditions and cultures within the greater Europe and the world, even though circumstances may differ.
Secondly, we mobilise business leaders as we did in the early days in Bulgaria.
Thirdly, we promote the concept of cross sector partnership which engages all stakeholders in action for responsible business practices. In this initiatives such as the UN Global Compact and others have a key part to play in building the enabling framework for responsible business. I also think the media and journalists have a vital role to play - in understanding corporate citizenship, and not undermining good practices through over cynical reporting, yet being diligent when bad practice has to be exposed and then recognizing improvement where it takes place. A responsible media is also part of the corporate social responsibility movement.


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