CSR: a marriage between companies and stakeholders [China]
Author: Guo Peiyuan, socially responsible investment specialist, in Fortune China, special issue on corporate social responsibility, Published on: 1 August 2006
[Original article in Chinese. Title translation, and following summary of the article's key points, provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]
In this article, Guo Peiyuan introduces the concept of CSR by the Triple Bottom Line theory first advocated by John Elkington, i.e. economic, social and environmental bottom lines that are measurements for accountability not just to shareholders, but also stakeholders. Guo stresses that the endeavour to protect stakeholder interests is in fact in line with business interests. He quotes the World Resource Institute findings that by 2015 car companies with petrol-consumption reduction initiatives such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda are projected to have a 2-12% revenue increase, in contrast to traditional car makers General Motors and Ford which may see a 5% dip.
Guo says stakeholder interests are not always at odds with shareholder interests. He quotes the example of Hewlett Packard’s teaming up with NGOs and environmental groups in its Dragon Recycling Project which has seen much reduction in material costs. He notes that examples in local Chinese companies are common too, e.g. Leshan Yongfeng Paper Products in Sichuan has encouraged community development by transforming agricultural land through re-forestation and purchasing bamboo sheets from villagers with a protected price.
Yet Guo admits that CSR has its challenges in China. First, it is a relatively new concept which attracts much misunderstanding and thus resistance. Second, companies lack the experience in, and proper assistance for, implementation. Many have simply turned to the traditional notion of CSR being philanthropic donations. Third, the continuous engagement of stakeholders is vital and sometimes difficult to achieve.