China's CSR leaders named

14 March 2012

BEIJING: Haier, Lenovo and Huawei are among the Chinese brand owners demonstrating the strongest corporate social responsibility credentials on the global stage, a study has argued.

The World Economic Forum, a Swiss not-for-profit foundation, and the Boston Consulting Group, the consultancy, assessed 95 leading Chinese firms and interviewed 130 experts to identify the country's CSR leaders.

Haier was praised for allying with operators from Dow Chemical to BEST to create green technology for its new appliances. It has joined forces with Mitsubishi, Panasonic and eight other manufacturers to develop eco-friendly air conditioners.

Elsewhere, Lenovo, the IT group, runs "product end-of-life" initiatives in 50 countries, collecting used PCs from individuals and companies. In all, it utilised 28,000 tonnes of recycled material in lines like its L series computers between 2005 and 2010.

Huawei, the telco, has assessed 670 global suppliers on their CSR performance, and uses such criteria to choose new members of this group. The firm also offers training for its partners in this area, and holds a related annual conference for them and its clients.

Moreover, Huawei has helped expand mobile coverage in nations like Bangladesh, Cambodia and Uganda by empowering female shoppers in rural regions to act as distributors. It backed this up with low-cost payment plans and greatly enhanced the telecoms infrastructure in these markets.

Organisations like Suntech, Gold Wind and BYD have also been leaders in popularising clean and renewable energy. Equally ZTE, Huawei and China Mobile all now deploy solar and wind power at base stations in many fast-growth economies.

Trina Solar was lauded for exclusively focusing on areas where it excels, such as R&D, production models and design, in-house. It also outsources non-core duties, and possesses its own "industry zone", or business park, to collaborate with suppliers.

"Trina's business model innovation has improved cost effectiveness and helped to promote a new energy industry that will reduce global dependence on traditional energy sources such as oil and natural gas," the study said.

In another example of CSR-led strategy, COSCO, the state-owned shipping group, responded to the financial crisis and government instruction not to reduce headcounts by adopting "economic speed".

This saw the firm slow down its ships and maximise capacity use, thus reducing margins but achieving higher efficiency. It also shared orders with small suppliers during the recession, thus helping support the entire industry.

Similarly, COSCO protected 9,000 jobs in Boston by setting up a local office when rivals were leaving the city, while Minmetals, the natural resources specialist, also retained all 5,000 staff upon taking over Australia's Minerals and Metals Group in 2008.

Data sourced from Boston Consulting Group; additional content by Warc staff