By Clemence Aron, CSR Manager, Carrefour Global Sourcing, HK –
Business is not only about profit anymore. While the role of the private sector in society has been questioned over the past few years, today companies play an integral role and are expected to deliver sustainable impact and innovative solutions to overcome challenges such as climate change, reducing inequalities and alleviate poverty.
With the view to invest in a sustainable future, corporates turn into change makers.
In Vietnam, the undergoing rapid economic growth brings about new societal challenges leading not only MNEs but also SMEs and startups to rethink the way they operate.
For MNEs, it is important to ensure its global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies are embedded locally. And for newcomers to this topic, ensuring its business core values and CSR policies are built with strong foundations to improve their employees working and living conditions, environmental footprint and impact on communities.
Processes of transformation are not a piece of cake. CSR is part of the direction and strategy of the company so should be aligned with corporate culture, strategy, environment, operations, human resources, investor relations, etc. While charity is part of the engagement, CSR is a strategic and sustainable investment and is more than ad hoc donations to organizations.
As CSR should be integrated and applied within every departments, company decision-makers sometimes ask themselves:
“How to start?”
Having the willingness to get involved is a first step, implementing concrete programs is another one. Not everyone is an expert in CSR or Sustainability and building an action plan takes time.
That’s why asking for help seems to be a smart solution!
This article reviews 6 quick tips on what to think about when engaging on CSR in Vietnam to develop successful, efficient and impactful CSR activities.
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough we must do.” – Goethe
1: CSR is Not a One-Off Activity
You cannot wake-up one day and decide positive change will occur right away within the company. Becoming more responsible and sustainable is a journey. You need specific knowledge, skills and tools to create trust and make sure key collaborators will buy-in and act to think and implement effectively a CSR strategy.
The first step is definitely review what is material to your organization and what kind of impact you want to have. In addition to it not being a one-off activity, it should not be a stand-alone activity. It should be aligned with the business of your company.
2: Benefit from Existing Expertise and Learn Fast the Basic Principles
ISO 26000, ILO MNE Declaration, OECD Guidelines, UN Guiding principles on Business and Human Rights, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)…
There are resources that explain the principles of sustainability, adapted to specific industries, company sizes, countries.
If you don’t have time to read them all and identify which issues might be applied to your own company don’t hesitate to ask for expert help. An expert will do it easily and speak a language that you will understand when it comes to your case and give you guidance on how to improve your social and environmental impact.
What you learn will help to define a new vision which integrates CSR standards.
3: Work Together with your Stakeholders
There are many stakeholders to your company. It is important to identify the stakeholders that are important and critical to your business.
Usually the first ones are your employees.
Employees play an important role in the initiation and implementation of the CSR strategy as they will be your ambassadors at all times.
To align in your CSR vision and mission, an in-house training will help you communicate new priorities and directions as well as encourage a dialogue with them and on the topic: “Where are we going and how do we get there together?”.
It is important to understand employee expectations, values and concerns related to sustainable development if you want to develop CSR commitments and engagement from them.
Do remember, to incorporate into the training the “why?” the company is embedding this in the organization. The concept of CSR and sustainability is still a newer concept for some in the region.
Engaged and trained employees, when taken into consideration during the decision-making process, will proudly share the company values and apply the new Code of Conduct incorporating responsible business practices.
It’s always easier to put into effect something you understand and approve!
Another key stakeholder, if it is applicable to your company, are suppliers.
Communicating your Code of Conduct and training suppliers is also essential. This will ensure and drive the respect of business ethics in your entire value chain. Dialogue with them is very important to build your purchasing policy as well as providing guidelines if you want them to comply with your company standards.
4 : Learn from Others
The most valuable experience in learning from others by reaching out to peers, attending events or partaking in a training. It allows you to learn from experts but to hear about concrete stories around successes and challenges and debate on solutions: “What worked, what didn’t work and why? How did you deal with it?”.
Discussing with other participants and peers about experiences, tools and tips will inspire you as you apply them to your own context. Do not be afraid to raise your hand and ask your question whether to the expert or to your peers. This is your chance.
The combination of expert knowledge and peer learning you experience in such settings is crucial to success. Besides, such trainings are a great occasion to expand your network and engage with relevant stakeholders.
5: Get Strong Tools to Manage and Measure
CSR is not so different to how you run your business. You will still need to set goals, incorporate management solutions to implement CSR/Sustainability strategies and still evaluate its effectiveness by measuring progress.
This is an investment in terms of your future business and should not be considered an ad hoc activity.
Evaluation and measurement are essential steps in the CSR plan. Many other stakeholders are interested to read your reports and communications especially investors who now often add CSR/Sustainability when looking at a company.
As it is important to set specific goals, it is vital to choose relevant metrics to measure the social, economic and environmental impact of projects.
It is also an opportunity to ensure you are on track to making that sustainable impact and make tweaks along the way.
6. Engage with the Experts
You do not have to do it alone.
In the same way that you reach to an accountant or lawyer for expertise, there are CSR and Sustainability experts that can support you on your journey from setting foundations to engaging with stakeholders to managing your reporting to making sustainable impact.
“ If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” – African proverb
Click for more information on Sustainable Vietnam Contributor, Clemence Aron and hear her thoughts on why “sustainability is important as there is not alternative”.