CSR in China: 2006 AMCHAM CSR Awards

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 23:15
Posted in category The Big Picture
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The Shanghai American Chamber of Commerce Corporate Social Responsibility conference is just around the corner (Click here for details), and the CSR committee has been working to evaluate and select the 2006 winners of the CSR Awards.   

It has been an interesting process to say the least, and while I cannot divulge the winner at this time, I will say that this year brought a more well rounded group of applications. In total, there were more than 20 applications from small, medium, and large corporations.  there were submissions from heavy industry, high tech, services, and even a local Chinese bank.  In the end, we had to select the best in 3 categories (Large MNC, SME, and Chinese company), however as a few programs really showed an amazing effort and commitment, we added a final award for most innovative program.

With everyone focused on making a market for their products in China or standing up their manufacturing operations, CSR initiatives can sometimes be put on a back burner. In a recent example, a large MNC was forced to scrap a large volunteer program as it became apparent that their 50 employees simply could not leave the office for a day of volunteering as orders needed to be placed, shipments needed to be inspected, and preparations for expansion occurred. It was not an easy decision, but for that company it was one that needed to be made.

Fortunately though, those stories are growing fewer and fewer, and many companies have begun the process of implementing well rounded and sound CSR programs. In terms of program design, implementation, and monitoring in relation to other programs within the same company elsewhere, many companies tend to focus on (or have strengths in) one or two facets.

The winner of the 2005 CSR awards, Mary Kay, provided members of the selection committee and participants of the CSR conference insight as to what some companies are doing here in China to  have a truly positive impact on the community. The program was comprehensive, involved the entire organization from the top executives to entry level sales, and had a measurable impact on those it was designed to benefit (women who have suffered domestic abuse).

Typically focused on either supply chain related issues (Employee health & safety and environment) or community outreach, many companies have only begun the process of implementing their Global CSR strategies in China.  Through our research and discussions with multinational operations, we have found that it is the manufacturing companies that have the most comprehensive CSR strategies as: (1) they were typically the first to entry China and thus have a longer operating history in China (2) a strong CSR program will increase efficiency throughout the supply chain by reducing downtime, cleanup costs, employee sick days, and so on and (3) Manufacturers like Nike and Corning are often the targets of articles questioning CSR practices and thus there has been a concerted effort to not only construct good CSR programs, but also to show how the efforts of those programs are benefiting the community they are operating in.

No doubt as the platforms of many companies in China stabilize, the ability to focus on all the areas of CSR will become much easier.  However, with so much to focus on, some companies have yet to find the time it takes to really design, implement, and manage components that they themselves as a corporation may hold as core values. 

Having just finished assessing the applications for the 2006 awards, I can say without a doubt that the programs have grown bigger and stronger, and that more companies are willing to discuss their efforts in an open light. 

I look forward to seeing what the 2007 AMCHAM CSR award applications hold

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