HCM CITY — Four years after being introduced in Viet Nam, the concept of corporate social responsibility, or CSR, has caught on at many Vietnamese-Danish joint ventures and their local partners.
The private sector is increasingly setting the agenda for more focus on social and environmental issues and CSR is a tool companies are using for that, according to reports at a seminar on CSR held yesterday in HCM City.
CSR goes beyond costs and is seen as a part of the strategic management of a brand and engaging with the local community.
"Four years ago the CSR concept was very new to companies in Viet Nam," Le Thi Thanh Loan, head of section at the Danida Business Partnerships Programme, said.
"We had a very hard time in making businesses aware of the importance of practising CSR, but the programme has been progressing well."
Jeppe Solmer, commercial counsellor at the Danish embassy in Ha Noi, said more and more companies were becoming interested in CSR, realising it boosts their competitiveness since it is a requirement for them if they want to be part of the supply chain of international companies.
It would make them integrate better with the global business community, he said.
The conference was held as part of the Danida-sponsored B2B (business-to-business) programme established in 1997 to improve the competitiveness of Vietnamese companies.
In the last four years many seminars have been held to introduce and increase awareness of CSR among Vietnamese-Danish joint ventures and their local business partners, Loan said.
The seminar gathered more than 100 executives from joint ventures, Danish companies in Viet Nam, and local firms who compared notes on CSR.
Not only does CSR benefit workers and the environment, companies now see it as a competitive advantage to improve their overall performance.
It ranges from waste treatment to protecting the environment to providing a good working environment and healthcare to their own employees.
A pioneer in Viet Nam is the Vietnamese-Danish joint venture E-softflow Ltd which has been in the country since 2006.
Its CEO, Thomas Frisenberg, said the company benefited financially from investing in CSR.
"We practically have not got any employee turnover and this is crucial for our success as training a good employee normally takes six months."
However, a lot of challenges remained in raising awareness of CSR among companies that do not attach importance to social responsibility.
Solmer said the biggest was how to improve their awareness of issues like energy efficiency, environmental protection, and not hiring child labour.
Concurring, Bui Dang Quang, CEO of IT company NaviWorld Viet Nam which has been practising CSR for more than one year, said: "It is easy to start but it is not easy to make a long-term commitment on these responsibilities."
The Danish embassy has been playing an active role in promoting awareness of CSR and helping companies improve their positive impact on both the environment and social stakeholders.
At the seminar it introduced practical tools for companies to do CSR self-assessment.
It also offered a free 10-hour CSR review to joint ventures and Danish companies based in the country. — VNS