|It's difficult for textile enterprises to observe social responsibilities as exporters, because they now have to follow various codes of conduct imposed by different importers.— Illustrative image
HA NOI (VNS)— Despite the potential for better opportunities in the global market, many Vietnamese enterprises struggled to fulfil their corporate social responsibility (CSR), according to a leading business development figure.
Speaking at a recent workshop themed "Responsible and Sustainable Operation – a Continuing Journey", director of the Viet Nam Chamber for Commerce and Industry's Office for Business Sustainable Development Nguyen Quang Vinh said small-and-medium-sized enterprises had a lot of ground to make up.
He claimed the firms, which make up 97-98 per cent of total enterprises in Viet Nam, still lacked proper understanding, vision and resources to observe CSR properly.
"Insufficient awareness over CSR is the biggest challenge that Vietnamese enterprises are facing," Vinh said, listing examples of malpractice including business fraud, environmental damage, salary violations and poor labour safety.
They usually believed that social responsibility solely meant arranging charity activities, Vinh said, noting that CSR also included activities to ensure efficient economic growth, legal operation and community participation.
Secretary of Viet Nam Textile and Apparel Association Dang Phuong Dung said enterprises paid little regard to social responsibility as they did not see the benefits or opportunities that CSR could bring them.
"It's difficult for textile enterprises to observe social responsibilities as exporters, because they now have to follow various codes of conduct (CoC) imposed by different importers," she said.
She added that small and medium sized enterprises with limited staff and financial capacity would find it particularly tough to meet the various evaluation systems of their partners.
Many enterprises have so far ignored their social responsibilities, because until now, Viet Nam's legal framework has not made it compulsory for every business to follow them.
Experts noted at the workshop that big companies took social responsibilities more seriously as part of their efforts to meet partners' requirements.
Bryan Fornari, a representative from the EU Delegation to Viet Nam, said CSR should be included in a company strategy, helping enterprises maintain and improve competitive advantages.
He warned that as consumers increased their expectations, companies which did not fulfil their CSR could lose opportunities to access the market.
Vinh, from the Business Sustainable Development Office, said that if Vietnamese enterprises wanted to become multi-national, they had to find a way to effectively fulfil their social responsibilities.
"It's key for sustainable development, not just an added burden for enterprises," he said.
The workshop is part of a three-year project entitled "Helping Vietnamese SMEs adapt and adopt CSR for improved linkages with global supply chains in sustainable production."
Saving energy, improving worker skills to match new technology line, as well as avoiding child labour and counterfeiting products are part of the contents applied by SMEs under the framework of the project.
With an overall budget of more than US$2.63 million, the project was led by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and its governmental counterpart the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in co-operation with eight additional partners.
Chief technical advisor Florian Beraneck said the project was launched in 2010 as one of several CSR facilitation programmes in Viet Nam.
Three years on, thousands of workers and hundreds of businesses have improved their understanding of CSR through more than 100 events which have included forums, workshops and training courses, he said. — VNS