(The spoken version shall take precedence)
On behalf of Prince Daniel and myself I would like to thank you for being part of this meeting on the subject of sustainable business. I know that all of you here today are engaged in these matters at the highest levels of government and business. So I am looking forward to hear about your work and your experiences.
Environment and sustainability are two issues close to my heart. As a swede I’m of course proud of our vast Swedish forests, long coastlines and rich wildlife. And I recognise the same sense of pride in the Colombian people I’ve met, who cherish the Colombian nature and the privilege of living in what is arguably the most biodiverse country in the world. This splendid richness of nature should be treasured by all Colombians, and indeed by all of us.
Investment and trade are foundations of prosperity and opportunity. Business brings work, innovation and development. But as modern history has taught us, we mustn’t fall for the temptations of short sighted growth at the expense of our long term interests. While limited resources may be depleted to meet our present needs, the resulting consequences to our world may be irreversible.
This is of course relatable to the widely discussed issues of environmental protection and global climate change. But it’s also important to appreciate sustainability beyond these well-known subjects.
The United Nations Global Compact addresses a number of topics that companies should be conscious of when conducting business. These range from fundamental human rights and labour legislation to anti-corruption and environmental matters. And leading businesses understand that they need a comprehensive approach in order to be truly responsible.
There are too many unfortunate examples, from different parts of the world, of how businesses that don’t recognise how they affect complex conditions on the ground can fuel, or even cause, social and environmental tragedies.
Through disregard or inadvertence companies may risk to further exploitation of natural resources with detrimental effects on the environment, nurturing of corruption, and even supporting armed conflict.
Hence a progressive view of Corporate Social Responsibility calls for genuine awareness of how businesses affect societies. This means having local insight in opportunities and vulnerabilities. In other words; to truly know the world around you - and recognise your role in it.
Being sustainable means having the knowledge, technology and will to meet the challenges around you. To be sure not only to operate in respect and consideration of known vulnerabilities and risks, but also to create partnerships and initiatives to prevent and counteract any harmful influence.
One such example I learned of here in Colombia is the initiative to heal social rifts through reintegration of ex members of the paramilitary forces. This is just one way businesses together with other stakeholders can make a real difference when truly engaged.
I am hopeful that the transparency pact between a number of Swedish companies and the Colombian Presidential Office is a further step toward other equally remarkable initiatives.
In closing, this year marks 140 years of friendly relations between Sweden and Colombia. Yesterday Prince Daniel and I visited the harbour of Cartagena and took notice of the Swedish companies that contribute to making it the most important maritime trading hub in the Caribbean. My hope is that future cooperation between our two countries will bring us even closer and offer many opportunities for successful and sustainable Swedish businesses in Colombia. Thank you.