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The Media Leaders’ Forum on CSR and Climate Change was held in Singapore on 7 December 2011 to discuss the role and responsibility of media companies in affecting positive social action and behaviour change on the critical issues relating to climate change.

The Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP),  Shun-ichi Murata, delivered a keynote speech on behalf of the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Dr Noeleen Heyzer.  The keynote was followed by presentations by a panel of experts comprising Robert Van Zwieten, Director of Capital Markets and Financial Sectors Division, Private Sector Operations Department,  Asian Development Bank, Manila; Martin Blake, Executive Director, The GreenAsia Group, Singapore, and Executive Chairman, Carbon Zero Solutions Ltd, London; Thepchai Yong, Managing Director, Thai Public Broadcasting Service, Bangkok; Ken Hickson, Chairman of Sustain Ability Showcase Asia, Author of ‘The ABC of Carbon’ and Governor of WWF Australia; and Dan Gibson, Managing Director, Ogilvy Advertising, Singapore.

Following the panelist presentations, Sharanjit Leyl of BBC World News moderated a debate between the panelists and 40 invited delegates comprising media leaders from developing countries, CEOs of international channels, advertising industry leaders, high level representatives of international development agencies, and heads of media, advertising, PR and communication industry associations.

The Media Leaders’ Forum was held as the opening conference session of the 2011 Asia Television Forum. Another 50-60 delegates to the Asia Television Forum attended as observers.

The purpose of the Media Leaders’ Forum was to discuss how partnerships with international development and donor agencies and private-sector companies with strong CSR initiatives can affect public engagement on issues relating to climate change, and to explore how the media companies could be persuaded to provide more advertising inventory, entertainment and editorial space to the issue so that a broad and extended campaign could be mounted throughout the region to raise awareness of climate change mitigation and adaptation issues.

In her keynote address delivered by Mr Murata, the UN Under-Secretary-General called on Asian media leaders to engage proactively on climate change issues to persuade governments, business and the public to accept choices needed to transform current unsustainable growth patterns into environment-friendly and socially inclusive development in the region.

Dr Heyzer said: “While climate change presents great challenges to economic and social development in the Asia-Pacific region, it also presents vast new opportunities,”

“The engagement of national media players, executive editors and senior correspondents in affecting mass, sustainable consumption of energy, water and food is crucial for environmentally sustainable economic development,”

“With this in mind, we ask that media leaders devote more production and editorial resources to the coverage of climate change and sustainable development.”

While impressive Asia-Pacific economic growth in recent decades has reduced poverty, this has come at the cost of environmental sustainability and the United Nations is striving to convert this trade-off into a win-win synergy, ESCAP told the media leaders.

ESCAP is working to help the region switch from the current ‘Brown Growth’ development pattern which is energy, resource and carbon intensive to ‘Green Growth’ aiming to improve the efficiency of the way we use our energy, resources, and in particular carbon.

According to ESCAP, green growth is a unique opportunity for developing countries: it offers a great potential for emerging and developing economies to leapfrog towards inclusive and sustainable growth without repeating the development path, which was in the past followed by now developed countries

However, this will need a “fundamental transformation of the way economy and society operate”, including redesigning and restructuring the ‘visible structure’ of the economy such as transport or energy systems, urban design or built environment, on the concept of ecological efficiency and low carbon.

“Governments have to initiate and lead the processes shifting towards green growth. Private sector needs to grasp environmental sustainability as a business opportunity. The public needs to accept the structural transformation and change their lifestyle as well as provide political support to the governmental leadership,” Dr Heyzer said.

“Media have a critical role in promoting behavioral change around the adoption of green growth initiatives and use of green technologies,” ESCAP told the media industry heads.

A copy of the key talking points of Dr Heyzer’s keynote and Mr Murata’s presentation can be downloaded here

A copy of Robert van Zwieten’s presentation can be downloaded here

A summary of Dan Gibson’s presentation can be downloaded here

Following the panelist presentations, Sharanjit Leyl invited the media leaders to respond to the points raised in the keynote and by the panelists. The ensuing debate focused on the use of media relationships and tools for advocacy, awareness and behaviour change in accomplishing companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives. The debate was wide ranging touching on issues as diverse as the need for more socially-responsible content, corruption in government broadcasting organisations, campaigns that can provide additional content and revenue streams for broadcasters, and the effect on brand-building and image enhancement of media companies and global marketers who support the production of pro-social content. Several speakers referred to the UNESCO Paris Declaration on Broadcast Media and Climate Change and said that more pro-active measures needed to be taken to advance this initiative in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Media Leaders’ Forum was organized by The Media Alliance and Reed Exhibitions, in association with CASBAA and ContentAsia magazine. The event was organised with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and in collaboration with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Other organizations supporting the Media Leaders’ Forum included the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the International Advertising Association (IAA), the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA), the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) Singapore, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Singapore, the Singapore Compact for Corporate Social Responsibility, and Ruder-Finn Asia.

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