CSR Speakers Reveal Their Secrets for Success in China

April 26, 2016

CKGSB Prof Zhu Rui was joined by a fantastic line-up of speakers to discuss the best ways to do corporate social responsibility and share best practices at a packed event held at CKGSB’s Beijing campus.

“Do business for good, rather than do good for business.”

This quote, from Director of Corporate Relations at Visa China, Peter Wong,  was the closing thought at this year’s enlightening session on social innovation at CKGSB’s Beijing campus, but nicely encapsulated all that had gone before it.

The event, “CSR in China: Why To Do It & How To Do It Well”, jointly hosted by CKGSB and the British Chamber of Commerce in China (BritCham), saw a room that was full to bursting with attendees from across the business, education and NGO sectors in China. The speakers discussed the benefits of CSR, the challenges they face, the motivations behind it and the secrets to staging a successful campaign. The stimulating debate also emphasized the importance of social innovation in business and its greater purpose in China.

CKGSB Professor of Marketing Juliet Zhu addresses a packed room at the start of the “CSR in China: Why To Do It & How To Do It Well” session on April 25

CKGSB Professor of Marketing Zhu Rui (Juliet) kicked off the event by sharing an innovative CSR initiative she led with several CKGSB alumni, which helped a village in Gansu province raise their annual income by 35%. The team helped goji berry farmers in the region brand, package and distribute their products, generating sales of 2.18 million RMB in the first three months of the campaign.

A pioneer of the first compulsory EMBA philanthropy module in China, Prof Zhu’s keynote speech also detailed the three pillars of the “Golden Triangle” – namely the private, social and public/governmental sectors – the importance of scalability in a successful CSR campaign and the use of business principles in philanthropy. She also highlighted CKGSB’s multiple socially innovative initiatives, such as the school’s requirement that all graduates complete 48 hours of community service.

From L to R: Callum Douglas, CSR Director, PwC; Simon Webb, Senior VP, Ogilvy; Coco Zhang, VP External Affairs, Mary Kay; Zhang Huaying, VP Sustainability, Coca-Cola; Kiran Patel, Marketing & Communications Director, Lehman Brown

Moderated by Kiran Patel, Co-Chair of BritCham’s CSR Forum and Director of Marketing and Communications for Lehman Brown, the first panel of speakers included Callum Douglas, CSR Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Simon Webb, Senior Vice-President of Ogilvy; Coco Zhang, Vice President of External Affairs at Mary Kay; and Zhang Huaying, Vice President of Sustainability at Coca-Cola. They identified several key benefits and challenges to implementing CSR strategies in China. One clear benefit, they agreed, was helping to retain employees, while stakeholder engagement remains a challenge. 

PwC’s Douglas noted that CSR not only increases his company’s networks and skills, but also employee loyalty. Simon Webb added that CSR can demonstrate that a company’s values are in line with staff values, helping to attract quality employees. Meanwhile, Coco Whang pointed out it was important to conduct CSR for the right reasons, not simply for a PR boost, while Zhang Huaying commented, “We are people serving the business community, but we’re also all part of the community,”, when asked why it is important to give back. No one doubted that CSR is part of a growing business trend in China, with the panelist all agreeing that there is a huge amount of opportunity in this space.

From L to R: Peter Wong, Director Corporate Relations, Visa China; Charles Yan, Communications Manager; Standard Chartered; May Mei, Chief Representative for China, WildAid; Mark Dreyer, Senior Communications Manager, CKGSB

The second panel included Charles Yan, Communications Manager at Standard Chartered; May Mei, Chief Representative for China at WildAid; and Peter Wong, Director of Corporate Relations at Visa China, with Mark Dreyer, CKGSB’s Senior Communications Manager acting as the moderator. Each speaker gave insightful accounts into case studies they had been involved with and discussed their aims in both promoting CSR and how they engage internal and external audiences.

The three panelists all felt passionately about giving back to their communities, not simply as a means to creating more business opportunities, but as a social responsibility. “We are not doing CSR for business, we are doing it to make a better world and to give back to the community that we serve,” said Charles Yan. All panelists agreed that CSR strategies and responsibilities should be inherent in the business culture, with campaigns initiated and endorsed by senior management. When discussing how best to work with limited budgets, May Mei, an alumna of CKGSB’s EMBA program, talked about WildAid’s well-known “Shark’s Fin Campaign” which leveraged media partners and spokesperson Yao Ming on a pro-bono basis, noting the importance of partnerships in a successful CSR campaign.

Attendees at the packed event continued to network after the session had ended.

After several thought-provoking questions from the audience, guests and participants alike mingled after the event to continue the conversation. Attendees said they found the discussion engaging and praised CKGSB’s initiative to bring the CSR community together through dialogue, thereby helping to promote good among the wider business community. At the end of the event, speaker Callum Douglas said, “There’s some really great progress being made on collaboration between organizations. I think what came through very strongly today is that we need to work together much more if we are to achieve our CSR and social goals.”

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