Recognising Asian CSR Champions

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes have become the de facto practice incorporating sustainable business strategies enabling the sharing of added value amongst the community at large. The realisation of long-term sustaining benefits for corporations as well as communities and the environment has encouraged a wider participation from the corporate sector.  Channel NewsAsia, one of Asia’s leading media corporations, in collaboration with CSR Asia and Sustainalytics has undertaken the initiative, to recognise the efforts of Asian corporations that champion CSR, through a ranking list known as the Channel NewsAsia Sustainability Rankings. CSR Malaysia meets up with Channel NewsAsia, CSR Asia and Sustainalytics at the recent CSR Asia Summit 2015 on the 2015 Sustainability Rankings, the selection criteria for the rankings and the overall progress of CSR within the Asian corporate scene.      

Held on an annual basis within major Asian cities, the 2015 Asian CSR Summit took place recently at the Hotel Royale Chulan in Kuala Lumpur. It is the third time the event is held in Kuala Lumpur, the all-encompassing obdurate haze hanging over KL’s skyline adding to its relevancy. In its ninth year, the Summit has been acknowledged as a major event that recognises achievements including the progress of CSR activities within the region. Key speakers from multinational corporations and government agencies that champion CSR initiatives were well represented throughout the two-day seminar.

The CSR Asia team represented by Chairman, Richard Welford and Executive Director, Erin Lyon emphasised the importance of CSR initiatives from the perspectives of adding value to a corporation that in the long run provided benefits to the society at large. Channel NewsAsia joined the collaboration to create a greater social awareness of the environment amongst the corporate community. Yong Chung Jin, Vice President of Brand & Partnership for Channel NewsAsia commented, “The advent of modernisation has created isolated environmental trappings which should be cared for by all members of society. We joined the collaboration as we are keen on promoting sustainable environmental initiatives that safeguard our ecosystems.”

The 2015 Sustainability Rankings is formulated and managed by Sustainalytics.  Loic Dujardin and  Hardik Sanjay Shah, both from  Sustainalytics, explained, “The rankings are  based on the tracking of  corporate performance based on environmental, social and corporate governance initiatives that has an impact on employees, local communities, the environment and supply-chain partners.” The Rankings has been categorised as the Top100, Top20 companies within the Asian region and Top3 companies within each country.  The Asian region in this context refers to China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. The significance of the rankings from the industry perspective is that it provides an indication of the social awareness of the company and the need to engage with the right partners in ensuring the success of sustainability strategies. A higher level of transparency in CSR activities provides consumers with the required knowledge to make better choices.

There is a high presence of Japanese and Indian companies within the Top20 ranking which has been attributed to the prominence given to CSR by the respective governments.  Indian technology companies including Wipro, Tech Mahindra and Infosys lead the rankings of the Top20 for the 2015 Sustainability Rankings. Hardik explained that the positioning of Indian information technology companies in the Top20 is due to the economic capacities and market capitalisation of these companies in being able to support and champion employee initiatives, combined with close government support and regulatory requirements. “The top Indian companies are required to disclose their sustainability activities. There is also a mandatory 2% spend on CSR activities which provides the required support” elaborated Hardik. Within the Japanese corporate scenario, “There is a high level of corporate stewardship in Japan which impacts social consciousness including safeguarding of the environment.  This explains the focus on CSR activities within Japanese corporations,” said Dujardi. As for China, albeit currently the momentum of corporate CSR initiatives is low, however, there is a great potential for an increase in CSR activities. The growing safety consciousness of Chinese consumers especially within a rapidly expanding middle-class will ultimately compel Chinese corporations to introduce CSR initiatives. This is clearly evident in the areas of physical and social well-being.

Three Malaysian companies, Digi.com, Bursa Malaysia Bhd and Malayan Banking Bhd have made it into the Top100 ranking.  “The Malaysian involvement with CSR activities started early especially with Bursa Malaysia Bhd being the first in the region to put requirements in the listing rules for companies. The Bursa has done quite a lot in terms of CSR awareness, education and has developed its own sustainability index. The next stage is that of achieving critical mass in terms of support which calls for greater participation from corporations. For GLCs, there is the Silver Book which provides approaches towards sustainability through transformation programmes,” commented Lyon.

The Channel NewsAsia Sustainability Rankings are long-term CSR barometer rankings of Asian corporations. These rankings will provide a clear indication of the direction of companies towards the promotion of sustainable social and economic values while concurrently providing consumers with better choices.