Asian companies have mixed record on CSR

26 April 2010

HONG KONG: Some of the biggest companies in Asia are displaying a mixed performance when it comes to corporate social responsibility, a new report has found.

The study, produced by Oxfam and CSR Asia, was based on a survey of the members of the Hang Seng Index, and included 25 corporations headquartered in Hong Kong, 16 located in mainland China and one from the UK.

Overall scores were derived from the answers provided by the featured firms and the evidence used to support these claims.

HSBC, the financial services specialist, led the rankings on 80%, and was credited for measures varying from cutting down its carbon emissions to donating a share of its profits to charity.

CLP, the utilities group, followed in second on 77%, and posted the highest figures in terms of the clarity of its strategic objectives and the detail of its reporting process.

China Mobile, the telecoms giant, took third, having been praised for its workplace environment and regularly communicating with its stakeholders about CSR-related issues.

Cathay Pacific, the air carrier, came in fourth on 74%, with MTR, the transport network, closing out the top five on 71%.

Foxconn, the technology group, and Li & Fung, the supply chain management business, were among the other operators which received over 60%, said to indicate a generally strong performance.

Esprit, the consumer goods manufacturer, and China Unicom, the mobile company, were examples of mid-ranked firms, on 51% and 46% in turn.

At the other end of the spectrum, Wharf Holdings, a conglomerate, and COSCO, the services provider, scored 16% and 13% respectively.

More broadly, 29% of the participating organisations were depicted as being "leaders" in this area, with 45% in the "mainstream" and 26% being described as "laggards".

Nearly 60% of corporations produced dedicated CSR reports, but only 17% had signed up to the UN Global Compact principles, the largest voluntary initiative in this area worldwide.

Almost half of the businesses assessed had also set specific reduction targets in at least one key area such as greenhouse gases, energy, water or paper use.

However, while 69% had established an "ethical purchasing policy" only 45% were monitoring its implementation.

Some 57% of firms were engaged with all five key stakeholder groups identified in the study – their shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers and community groups – about CSR.

A further 60% were found to be communicating with other key organisations such as the media, government and regulators.

Alongside HSBC, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Tencent, China Unicom, Foxconn International and Ping An Insurance and Bank of East Asia all gave at least 1% of their post-tax income to good causes.

Many members of the Hang Seng Index, particularly those from mainland China, were also supporting education initiatives, with Ping An having committed funding to build 100 schools in remote areas.

The main recommendations for companies looking to boost their CSR credentials included giving the matter board level responsibility and adopting internationally-approved standards. 

Data sourced from CSR Asia; additional content by Warc staff