Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR] and Education for Sustainable Development [ESD] are closely related and complementary initiatives. CSR seeks to develop and expand the effectiveness of business contribution to our society. ESD seeks to provide all students [at all levels of learning] with the skills to incorporate socially responsible practice into their personal and professional lives. As such ESD is, in the long run, a major mechanism for the wide adoption of the responsible business practice. In the Asia Pacific region, developments in CSR and ESD are highly interconnected and interdependent.

This region spreads from Uzbekistan in Central Asia to the tiny Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean and includes India, China and Japan and comprises 5 significant sub regions. During 2008 Asia-Pacific Sub-regional ESD Consultations, organised by UNESCO, with the generous contributions of the Japanese Funds in Trust, key issues confronting the region’s effort to be a more socially responsible and sustainable community were identified. These are social (e.g. access to education, peace/conflict, human rights, drug addiction), cultural (cultural heritage, preservation, indigenous knowledge), economic (poverty, food security, urbanization, rural development) and environment barriers (natural disasters, climate change, air pollution, desertification, biodiversity).The recent UNESCO review at the mid point in the  Decade of Education for Sustainable Development notes that in the Asia Pacific region ESD has demonstrated most progress in the formal education system development. The report indicates that there is little government engagement and insufficient government funding for non-formal and informal ESD-awareness raising programmes and initiatives. Formal educational system remains the major place where local student first encounter with CSR and ESD.

There are some good examples of CSR and ESD integration across the region. Thus, in Malaysia, the Regional Centre of Expertise [RCE] for Penang Island and the Northern region of Malaysia has undertaken an extensive base-line study on existing sustainable development learning activities and the organizational capacity of the entities involved. In Australia, the St James Ethics Centre has established ‘the Hub’  as a focus for responsible business practices with view to providing an opportunity for small and medium businesses, as well as larger businesses, to actively practice responsible business approaches and to gain recognition of their efforts. This has resulted in the development of a national register of responsible business practice. In China, the Asia-Pacific Regional University Consortium (RUC) has been established to promote sustainable development education. A Leadership Programme on sustainable development was designed as a collaborative effort of the RUC as a means to provide training for emerging leaders from various backgrounds in the Asia-Pacific region. In Japan, the United Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies [UNU-IAS]has established a wide ranging program of action covering Biodiplomacy, Ecosystem Services Assessment, Education for Sustainable Development and Governance and Institutional Reform.

These initiatives are having a significant impact across the region. One example is the ProSPER.Net project www.prospernet.ait.asia supported by a consortium of regional universities to build issues of sustainable development and responsible business practice into the post graduate education curriculum. The ProSPER.Net academic and research alliance is an effort of the ESD Programme at UNU-IAS to bring about understanding and delivery of ESD and SD at the postgraduate level.