Chinese firms need new, broader definition of CSR

By Toumert AI Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/5 14:18:17

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

As China is entering a new economic era that will focus on high-quality production, technological innovation and social wellbeing, questions have arisen as to how State-owned enterprises (SOEs), corporate leaders and entrepreneurs can be part of the new drive.

The economic fabric and social interactions of the future will require Chinese economic actors to take a hard look in order to progress rapidly from embracing their sacred social duty as a business to actually taking the lead in creating a more ethical, progress-oriented system of doing business that seeks to bring value, rather only financial gains.

Both SOEs and privately owned businesses have come under growing scrutiny from the public and the government to integrate to their business planning and operations the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and creating shared value (CSV).

The urgency to implement CSR and CSV measures has become crucial in order to sustain orderly economic progress, taking into consideration not only economic indexes, but also the social, cultural and environmental concerns of all stakeholders in Chinese society and the global market.

Some leading SOEs -including Sinosteel, Sinopec, China Minmetals Corporation and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) - and major private companies such as Tencent, Huawei and Alibaba - have begun to disclose publicly their social investment and the impact of their CSR reports with a focus on addressing sustainability, both in China and around the world.

As Chinese cities became shrouded in smog, authorities questioned how serious companies were about their commitment to sustainable growth and providing quality of life to the communities where they operated. 

The pressure on SEOs and the private sector to pursue a more balanced approach between financial gains and bringing value to the communities involved directly or indirectly in their operations became more relevant. That was especially the case since China took the lead in protecting the Paris agreement on climate protection and became actively engaged in dozens of economies through the Belt and Road initiative.

It is time for all economic actors in China to go beyond slogans and reports aimed at meeting a policy requirement. CSR is not charity. It doesn't mean giving away money or handing out a few bags to struggling students in rural areas.

Chinese companies should start showing how they bring value to local communities where they do business in a two-step action approach.

First, they should play a bigger part in mobilizing the entire supply chain, which means they should support their suppliers by providing training and expertise. This will improve the quality of the material supplied, bring value to the quality of procurement and increase their income.

Second, they must find ways to enhance community outreach, job security and social initiatives. At this level, they should start providing clear plans on how many jobs they are creating in the local community, with information on the conditions of work and benefits for the families of their employees. 

They must also state clearly how they provide social support to their stakeholders, by seeking opportunities to invest some of their profits in projects to protect water, provide solar panels to small business and homes, and work with other local partners to create jobs, incomes and sustainable futures.

The author is director of Education, International Bachelor Program at the International School under the China Foreign Affairs University.


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