BEIJING: Bayer, Lenovo and HSBC are among the companies with the best-performing corporate social responsibility programmes in China, according to a new study.

The Hurun Research Institute, a unit of luxury and business title The Hurun Report, surveyed 50 experts in this field, a panel that was comprised of industry executives, academics and senior figures from the media.

It then combined these results with a range of further factors, such as tax payments, the amount of jobs created and a company's annual outlay in charitable donations.

Overall, 32 indigenous firms and 18 of their foreign counterparts featured in the top 50, with the proportion of organisations headquartered outside China climbing by 50% year-on-year.

Bayer, the healthcare giant, led the way where multinationals were concerned, credited with offering $2m (€1.6m; £1.3m) to help people living in poorer regions of the country and establishing four university chairs focusing on CSR.

HSBC took second place, having rolled out independent financial education projects for adults and school children, and founded a formal staff volunteering drive.

Intel was in third, and has primarily linked its philanthropic output with its core areas of operation, such as by participating in ventures hoping to foster young talent in the disciplines of science and technology.

For state-owned enterprises, Vanke, the real estate developer, was praised for promoting environmental awareness, employing 17,000 people, paying $1.1bn in tax and allocating $1.3m to good causes.

Lenovo, the IT specialist, claimed second and was the leading member of the private sector based in China, and recently ran a high-profile competition for budding entrepreneurs.

China Mobile, which has been named as China's most valuable brand by Millward Brown, came in third, with its main social platforms having included bringing mobile access to 77,000 remote villages.

Ping An was in fourth, with its “Low-Carbon 100” initiative identifying a hundred ways through which the insurance provider could reduce its energy consumption.

Despite the fact the share of local businesses in the top 50 fell by 16% year-on-year, the value of the charitable donations attributable to this group rose to $103m, compared with $89m in 2009 and $47m in 2008.

The electronics manufacturer Midea, mining conglomerate Wusteel and the Agricultural Bank of China all made contributions of at least $1.5m to support the recovery effort after an earthquake in Qinghai in April 2010.

Vanke and Coca-Cola were also lauded for having directed over $10m each to reconstruction projects in Wenchuan since the area was hit by an earthquake in 2008.

However, the Hurun Research Institute added that the funds given to charity by the multinationals in its list had declined from the total of $15m in 2009 and $12m in 2008 to just $11m in its latest study.

More positively, the number of companies publishing a CSR report has grown from 31 to 41 year-on-year - a trend accompanied by a significant improvement of the “quality and depth” of the information available.

"Many brands realize the competitive edge a good CSR programme gives them. CSR is not just about being good, but being good for business," said Rupert Hoogewerf, founder/ceo of the Hurun Report.

Data sourced from The Hurun Report; additional content by Warc staff