S Korean firms want to play a bigger role here
South Korean companies operating in Bangladesh want to play a bigger role to ensure sustainable economic development in the country alongside good corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, their representatives said on Sunday.
"Around 200 Korean companies doing business in Bangladesh are contributing to the country's economic development in various forms," said Lee Jang-keun, the South Korean ambassador to Bangladesh.
"They are not just making profits but also spending money to help the local people improve their lives," he told a virtual Korea-Bangladesh CSR Conference 2021 styled "CSR for Human Resource Development and Economic Growth".
South Korean enterprises also set examples on how companies can be responsible for and responsive to the needs of society, he said.
The event was jointly organised by the South Korean embassy in Dhaka and CSR Centre in partnership with Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra).
Jang-keun went on to say that one of the main goals of the conference was to invite companies from around the world to join the CSR campaign and put in efforts to become more socially responsible.
"I believe that there is much room for many Korean companies in Bangladesh to do more and better CSR activities," he said.
The ambassador also shared South Korea's various official development assistance programmes.
These include three Korea International Cooperation Agnecy (Koica)-sponsored vocational training centres in Dhaka, Chattogram and Rajshahi, National Institute of Advanced Nursing Education and Research, and 100 IT labs in secondary schools in Dhaka.
The South Korean government launched a project with the University of Dhaka this year to establish an education and training centre to promote creative youth entrepreneurship in Bangladesh.
A startup support programme with ICT Division is also ongoing to cultivate entrepreneurship and foster innovative startups among local youths, the Korean envoy said.
"South Korea has been our great friend and its development is an example of hard and decent work and innovation. Transforming from a lower middle income country to a G20 nation, it sets an example for Bangladesh to follow," said Planning Minister MA Mannan.
"Good business and good CSR activities are now intertwined. Through CSR, the companies supplement and strengthen what the government has been doing for the country's development," he added.
Mostafa Kamal, president of the Korea-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce & Industry and chairman of the Meghna Group of Industries, said the chamber's members were contributing to the country's development and were dedicated to implementing their CSR programmes.
"For example, the Bangladesh-Korea Technical Training Center in Chattogram is providing vocational and technical training to create local and overseas employment opportunities," he added.
Sung Ki-hak, chairman of Youngone Corp, spoke about the Korean Export Processing Zone's (KEPZ's) Blue and Green Initiative, under which 2.5 million trees were planted at the economic zone, where 25 lakes and other water bodies were also developed.
Besides, there is an ongoing project on installing a 40 MW rooftop solar power plant to meet the electricity demand within the KEPZ as well as the local community, he said.
Youngone's other significant CSR contributions include the conservation of Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans, employment of over 75 per cent female workers, construction of student dormitories in Mymensingh and support for autistic children.
Youngone also helped establish the first computer graphics lab at the University of Dhaka, promote Bangladeshi art, and the multimillion-dollar restoration of Baro Sardar Bari in Sonargaon, which was recently inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Representatives of Samsung Electronics, Samsung R&D Institute, Hyundai E&C and Dohwa Engineering also presented their respective CSR activities at the conference.
They shed light on various CSR projects conducted over the past years, including the establishment of community clinics and livelihood support programmes for Matarbari residents, donation of personal protection equipment, and train accident relief and support for flood victims.
They also highlighted the projects for afforestation in the Khulna and Sundarban mangrove forests, reconstruction of schools and donation of sports equipment, hosting of student field trips to project sites, IT training sessions for students/teachers, sponsoring coding contests, establishing IT labs at BUET, and providing education and IT materials to underprivileged students.
After the presentations, the guests and participants discussed ways to further deepen South Korean companies' engagement with local communities.
By sharing the best CSR practices of South Korean companies operating in Bangladesh, the conference revisited the importance of the private sector's role in maintaining a balanced and sustainable society while promoting strong bilateral commercial ties.
Sudipto Mukerjee, resident representative of UNDP Bangladesh, also spoke at the event.
Farooq Sobhan, chairman of the board of trustees of CSR Centre, hosted the virtual conference.