|Students from the National Economics University participate in the Demo Class on Responsible Business on April 20 at the Green One UN House in Hà Nội. This activity is part of Responsible Business Week which is an initiative under the Promoting Responsible Business in Việt Nam project implemented by UNDP Việt Nam in cooperation with the Swedish Government. — Photo Courtesy of UNDP
HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese enterprises still lack awareness of responsible business practices (RBP), a study has found.
Less than half of small domestic enterprises have a full understanding of RBP whereas 81 per cent of State-owned enterprises (SOE) understand the concept and its implications fully, the study found.
The 'Study on Corporate Awareness and Implementation of Responsible Business Practice in Việt Nam' was revealed on Thursday by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Embassy of Sweden in Việt Nam as part of the Responsible Business Week (19-24 April) and in commemoration of Earth Day (22 April).
The study, conducted together with consulting, focused on labour, environmental, and governance issues, with the data collected through focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and a survey with 279 respondents.
It aims to provide inputs for the design of interventions that are grounded in evidence, target real gaps in awareness and implementation, and guide strategy towards a better and sustainable business environment that respects people, protects the planet and brings prosperity to Việt Nam.
According to the study’s findings, 84-90 per cent of respondents comply fully with existing regulations dealing with labour issues like insurance, bonus and benefits schemes, safety and hygiene.
The corresponding percentage for environmental protection was 50-73 per cent.
Businesses stated that RBP in labour standards has been prioritised as they are directly relevant to human wellbeing.
However, environmental issues are a greyer area with relatively weaker enforcement mechanisms and therefore have been prioritised less.
The overall future trajectory in RBP implementation among enterprises is positive. However, Government support remains crucial in moving forward.
According to the study, more than 60 per cent of the enterprises have a plan for RBP adoption and two-thirds of large enterprises, State-owned enterprises and enterprises in the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector will adopt RBP in the future.
The businesses responded that a national action plan would be the best way to provide support and consistency for RBP implementation in the future.
This would also allow for longer-term investment plans in Việt Nam giving communities and other stakeholders the confidence to know their rights are being protected.
Ann Mawe, Swedish Ambassador to Việt Nam, shared the success story of Sweden at the event.
“Responsible business practice is essential to ensuring economic growth and green recovery. In our experiences, it does not come at the cost of social or environmental development; on the contrary, it drives profit, comparative advantages, and new business models,” she said.
“Sweden and Swedish brands have a good track record in this regard, making responsible business practice an important component of their business model, incorporating social dialogue and decent work conditions in the workplace as well as sustainable cycles resulting in sustainable products,” she added.
Addressing the launch, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Sitara Syed highlighted the timeliness of the study, saying that it was “critical at this moment.”
“Although Việt Nam’s rapid, yet relatively inclusive economic growth, and an influx of investment that have brought opportunities, they have also contributed significantly to environmental degradation and corporate-related human rights breaches. Việt Nam’s recovery from COVID-19 has also exposed pre-existing vulnerabilities in the economy, including in how we do business," she said.
“Recovering from COVID provides Việt Nam with an opportunity to build forward better, by developing businesses that are responsible to the people and the environment, and businesses that can continue to drive economic growth without compromising sustainable development."
Syed highly appreciated the Ministry of Justice for leading the design and adoption of Việt Nam’s first National Action Plan on Responsible Business Practices by 2022.
“The National Plan will be guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and UNDP is pleased to support this process and convene ample consultations with key stakeholders on the priority areas of the National Action Plan. All these efforts make the case for businesses to play a stronger role in accelerating sustainable development for the people, the planet and prosperity,” she said.
The UNDP in Việt Nam, in partnership with the government of Sweden, has been driving forward responsible business practices since 2019 as part of the regional programme 'Promoting Responsible Business Practices through Regional Partnerships in Asia', currently focusing on seven countries in Asia, namely, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Việt Nam. — VNS