Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: A new role for the corporate sector

After the unprecedented 24-day occupation of the legislature by the Sunflower movement that ended on April 10, “inspiration” has become a hot word for people who have been impressed by the student protesters’ creativity and capabilities, including the corporate sector.

Last week, Huang An-jie (黃安捷), chairman of the router and Ethernet switch producer Accton Co, unexpectedly announced his resignation, saying that the student-led movement had given him the courage to leave his post to allow for a generational transition. Tung Tsu-hsien (童子賢), chairman of Pegatron Corp, an assembler of Apple’s iPhone and iPad products, said in an interview with the Chinese-language magazine Business Today that he felt students were bringing up their concerns about a generation gap, with the movement embodying national aspirations for better democracy.

Meanwhile, recognizing that the economy has lost its dynamism and is caught in a bottleneck, several technology veterans, including John Hsuan (宣明智), honorary vice chairman of United Microelectronics Corp, and Michael Wang (王震華), former president of Quanta Computer, launched a business roundtable last week that aims to foster innovative entrepreneurship in light of the vibrancy and ambition that students showcased during the Sunflower movement.

Even so, the public may want the corporate sector to answer more questions in the aftermath of the protest, such as: How thoughtful are businesspeople after being enlightened by the Sunflower movement? Do companies realize that the government’s pro-business attitude has fanned the flames of public anger toward the corporate sector, particularly if its operations and investments have adverse impacts economically, socially or environmentally? Are large companies aware that they obtain most of the benefits of trade liberalization and if so, will they be willing to give up some of those benefits to other segments of society?

Although there is no easy answer to these questions, years of experience have shown that while companies have vowed to promote corporate social responsibility, the public seems to have lost trust and does not believe that companies will voluntarily conduct business in a morally acceptable way to the benefit of their employees, stakeholders and communities in which they are embedded. That the Greater Tainan Government on Friday revoked a building permit for agrochemical maker Rotam Global AgroScience following a clash between the company and residents over environmental concerns just reflects the latest example of the public’s underlying suspicion of corporate intentions.

Thus far, the student protesters and the government have still been unable to see eye to eye over the cross-strait service trade agreement, because young people’s worries over the deal are not just about the pact, but also about future job security, as well as issues of equality or social justice when it comes to trade liberalization. Certainly, globalization has made people feel more insecure and in need of government support to ease the pressures on their livelihoods. Companies should play a more active role in public affairs and conduct socially responsible operations to help the government meet people’s demand for greater security, while themselves building strong partnerships with the communities they are an integral part of.

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