Is your CSR strategy adapted to China’s changing business landscape?

Today, companies that are experiencing growth in line with China’s GDP (e.g. +8%) are those that have learned to manage multiple-stakeholder relationships with government, consumers and communities. Thus creating CSR strategy for your business in China means that you have to take into account more elements than just ‘doing something good’. ‘Under the new 12th Five Year Plan the central Government in Beijing is shifting the focus from developing the hardware of a harmonious society (roads, railways, cities) to the building of the software for personal development (education, healthcare and social society),’ said Wang Liwei, CEO of Charitarian Media Group and Vice-Mayor of Jinan city in Shandong, at a workshop on topic of building brand in China via CSR. ‘Therefore, the local officials are burdened with responsibility to reduce wealth inequality and improve social welfare. For companies that want to approach the local government, there is an opportunity to capitalise on your corporate resources to help local officials fulfil their social responsibility objectives. This will create a win-win output and pave the way for smoother government relationship at a later date.’ An example is Lenovo, China’s largest seller of personal computer, who integrates CSR thinking to reflect the government’s desires. As the government is desired to build green economy, Lenovo launched a CSR project to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions across every sectors of its business. To date it has achieved a 10% increase in carbon efficiency and set up an environmental management system to eliminate potential health hazards. According to Wang Liwei, the Government authorities that issue the license for companies to operate in China will not issue license from 2012 onwards to companies whom they consider to pollute the environment. Thus environmental CSR will become an operational pre-requisite in the future. In addition, foreign companies are now frequently criticised for coming to China merely to exploit a new market with cheap labour. ‘People in China will judge your brand by how much you care for the company and its people. In the scenarios of natural disasters like Sichuan earthquake, if your company does not have CSR infrastructure to make a timely respond, you will eventually end up in finding your brand is sieged by public criticism, and you will be ultimately rejected by the consumer. Thus every company interested in ‘risk management’ should have a disaster relief strategy as part of its CSR programme,’ said Wang Liwei.

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