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Thirdly, UVN and TMV are among typical successful examples of business firms that pursue a long-term plan for their CSR implementation. This can be seen in Unilever Sustainable Living Plan launched in 2010 which specifies the direction and sets out primary objectives to be achieved by the company up to 2020. In this plan, UVN not only sets clear targets but also presents major areas of CSR to be addressed as well as detailed action plans for each area. USLP is a comprehensive and useful guide for all of its CSR activities towards Vietnamese community. With regard to the case of TMV, the giant company also develops a CSR plan which is presented in Toyota Global Vision 2020 introduced in 2011. Through this plan, Toyota Global in general and TMV in particular include the rights of the communities (Enriching lives of communities) as one of the three ambitious goals across its entire business. In addition, TMV also incorporate social contribution and environmental protection into its business philosophy which is to be followed in its day-to-day operations. Thanks to the establishment of long-term plans with respect to the conduct of CSR, UVN and TMV have been enjoying great success. These long-term plans function as helpful and detailed guidelines for the two companies to effectively plan and manage their CSR activities.
Fourthly, UVN and TMV both direct their CSR plans through specialized divisions: Unilever Vietnam Foundation and Toyota Vietnam Foundation. These special foundations are the strategic movements of the two corporations towards more effective and successful CSR programs. Well established in 2004 and 2005 respectively, UVF and TVF have been effectively functioning as a key channel between their company’s CSR activities and the community as well as related agencies and organizations. With their existences, UVN and TMV can not only reap huge benefits from better CSR planning and management but also develop and maintain stronger relationships with stakeholders of their CSR activities
Last but not least, by constantly striving to acquire more certifications and integrate CSR-related standards into their operations, UVN and TMV have successfully proven their ongoing efforts in performing CSR. Many certifications and standards relating to quality management, environment or occupational safety such as ISO 9001 – 2000, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 have been effectively employed by both UVN and TMV. Besides, UVN and TMV also develop and ensure the compliance with their own CSR policies throughout their entire operation. Unilever’s Highest Nutritional standards; Toyota CSR policy; Toyota’ Environmental Protection Handbook or Toyota’s Health, Safety and Environment Policy… are all great examples of corporate policies towards a successful CSR.
Recommendations to Vietnamese firms
- Raising awareness about CSR among company leaders and employees
As mentioned earlier, lack of proper understanding about CSR is one of the major barriers to CSR performance of Vietnamese firms. Thus, raising awareness about CSR among both managers and staff is the top priority of any business wishing to pursue CSR. Raising awareness about CSR must firstly aims at the managers or leaders since their decisions have a huge impact on the production and business strategy of the company, particularly in small and medium companies. Company leaders will be the driving force behind the implementation of CSR; hence, promoting their participation in several courses and seminars on how to conduct and manage CSR is essential to the success of the company’s CSR plan. Besides, as the implementation of CSR requires the collective agreement from workers and employees in the company; it is also important to disseminate helpful information about CSR to these groups. Some recommended methods for educating company staff about CSR include integrating CSR into company’s regulations and policies or organizing educational workshops on CSR, etc.
- Establishing specialized agencies to manage CSR activities
Since CSR requires long-term financial investment as well as a great amount of time and efforts to be conducted, there is an urgent need for the formulation of specialized agencies which will be accountable for the planning, implementation and management of corporate social responsibilities activities. Just as UVN manages its CSR implementation through Unilever Vietnam Foundation and TVF through Toyota Vietnam Foundation, Vietnamese firms can follow these two pioneers to set up their own specialized divisions to take charge of the whole CSR plan in general and community-related CSR in particular. By having special agencies to prepare and carry out their social activities, businesses can not only save time and efforts to focus more on their business operations but they can also gain more benefits from increasingly effective CSR programs. Furthermore, these agencies may serve as useful intermediaries between CSR performing businesses and the public, government as well as international organizations, which are the greatest sources of support for businesses’ CSR implementation.
- Closely collaborating with company’s brands and specialized organizations when implementing CSR
Another recommendation for Vietnamese businesses when executing CSR is to closely cooperate with their sub-brands and governmental agencies as well as international organizations. By jointly working together with its brands, especially those well-known ones, businesses can enjoy the benefit of increasing popularity among the public. The fact is that for some multinational companies operating in FMCG industry, their sub-brands (or private product brands) are even more familiar to the public in general and consumers in particular. For example, many Vietnamese consumers may know very well about such brands as P/S, OMO, Vim, etc. without any reference to the parent brand Unilever. Thus, by closely collaborating with famous sub-brands, businesses can broaden the reach of their CSR activities as well as receive more supports from these brands both in terms of money and effort.
On the other hand, implementing CSR activities in close conjunction with governmental agencies and specialized international organizations is also of strategic importance to CSR practicing firms in Vietnam. While governmental agencies can facilitate the communication of their CSR programs among the public; international organizations and NGOs, especially those focus on improving community’s well-being, can provide local businesses with good advices regarding the implementation of CSR. These assistance and support not only help businesses successfully run and develop their CSR projects but also generate a powerful source of motivations for their CSR performance.
- Maintaining and expanding the application of CSR standards and policies
Among the biggest drivers behind CSR performance is the adoption and various CSR policies and standards. These policies and standards will provide Vietnamese firms with useful guiding principles when implementing CSR. Above all, at the core of their CSR implementation plan, Vietnamese firms should set out and integrate their own Code of Conduct and CSR policies into their business strategies. These policies should be designed to govern such CSR issues as production standards, labor, environment, etc. as well as point out clear goals to be achieved in each aspect of CSR. In addition, they should also acquire certifications and adopt international standards to ensure effective CSR performance. Some example of these universally accepted CSR standards include Quality Management System - ISO 9001 - 2000, Environmental Management System - ISO 14001 or Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Service - OHSAS 18001, Good Manufacturing Practices – GMP or Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production – WRAP, etc. By successfully developing and ensuring the compliance with these CSR-related policies and standards throughout their entire operation, Vietnamese firms are getting one step closer to a sustainable CSR implementation plan.
Recommendations to policy-makers
- Enhancing awareness about CSR implementation among Vietnamese enterprises
As mentioned in previous sections, lack of proper understanding about CSR is among the toughest challenges to the implementation of CSR by local enterprises. Thus, having the right perception and deep awareness of social responsibility is essential for any business wishing to perform CSR successfully. In raising and enhancing the awareness of the businesses about this issue, the role of the government is of great significance.
There are numerous measures for the government to adopt such as organizing more frequent CSR discussion forums and conferences; raising awareness through propagandas; integrating CSR into university programs or granting good CSR performers with prestigious awards.
Some of the above solutions have been addressed by Vietnamese governments such as awarding socially responsible businesses with the annual CSR Award since 2005. However, these awards have just been granted for responsibilities towards the environment and labor forces. It would be better if they are expanded into other areas of CSR such as community involvement or consumer protection in order to inspire more comprehensive CSR implementation among businesses.
Regarding the organization of CSR forums and conferences, some initiatives by the VCCI have been mentioned earlier. Since these conferences provide a good opportunity for businesses to discuss and exchange ideas about CSR; broadening the scope as well as maintaining the continuity of these meaningful meetings is of great importance. It would be better if the government also encourages the dissemination and sharing of valuable CSR experiences, especially from some corporations well-known for their CSR practices such as UVN or TMV, etc. through those forums and meetings
Currently, in universities, students are only provided with technical skills and professional trainings with little or even no official programs about business ethical behaviors or CSR performances. As theses business behaviors play a key role in determining the success of any business, the integration of such knowledge in the teaching syllabuses is really necessary. By integrating CSR as a subject in the curriculums of some major university’s programs, the government can help raise the awareness about this crucial business issue among Vietnamese youngsters. Through these programs, they can discover the important roles of CSR in business, while at the same time, recognize the long-term benefits from the undertaking of such responsibilities. As the young generation will become future leaders of the national economy, shaping their understanding about CSR plays a key role in the promotion of CSR activities in particular and sustainable development the country in general.
- Providing more support and incentives to encourage CSR implementation
For CSR activities to be performed more frequently and widely, the government should employ more effective incentive policies.
With regard to those who have been implementing good CSR policies, more incentives and motivations should be provided such as tax reductions, CSR awards or other business priorities, etc. At the same time, to facilitate enterprises in implementing CSR for the first time, the government should develop and establish a sample model for CSR implementation or take examples from some major businesses representative for good CSR practice. Additionally, the government can further support local enterprises in performing CSR by guiding them on how to apply environmental protection standards, clean production measures or worker safety requirements, etc. in their businesses.
Meanwhile, for those enterprises what violate the laws and cause great harm to consumers, community’s well-being and the environment, the government should take stronger measures to handle their violations. Competent agencies and authorities at all levels should also firmly say “no” to those businesses that solely pursue profitability aim without care for the rights and health of consumers and the community. In addition to the reinforcement of business behaviors’ monitoring, heavier punishments and penalties should be imposed on irresponsible businesses in order to discourage similar behaviors from others.
Since the majority of local enterprises are small and medium-sized, the greatest challenges to these enterprises when conducting CSR is lack of financial capability. Thus, Vietnamese governments can better assist by providing them with financial supports to carry out and sustain their CSR programs. These financial supports can be establishing funds to provide firms with access to capital; giving preferential loans or providing consultation services to local firms regarding the conduct of CSR, etc. Besides, the government can also launch some joint projects between government and business firms; promote the involvement of NGOs; encourage and create favorable conditions for the implementation of international projects on CSR in Vietnam.
- Revising the legal framework and regulations
The legal framework is the basic foundation and guideline for businesses to implement CSR. However, the current legal framework of Vietnam is still exposed to some shortcomings and inadequacies. These weaknesses have created legal loopholes for many businesses to take advantage of in order to evade their social responsibilities. Therefore, revising and strengthening the legal system and law enforcement are among the overriding needs. Specifically, the legal framework should be amended in the following ways:
The first recommendation is to issue the law articles in more details. Most of the current laws and legal documents relating to some issues such as the protection of workers, consumers, food safety standards or environmental pollution are still very generic. In addition, the objects which are directly subject to these regulations are often not aware of or only vaguely understand. Thus, the legal documents should be adjusted to become more detailed, specific and easier to apply as well as enforce.
Secondly, since most of the current legal documents have contradictions and often overlap each other, they cannot serve as helpful guidelines for businesses. Thus, there is a pressing need for a unified and consistent legal framework. High consistency and unity will help create a safe legal environment for enterprises when doing business as well as performing CSR. In order to achieve and maintain this consistency, the government should follow a longer-term vision when passing laws and legal documents to avoid frequent revisions and adjustments.
Thirdly, in the context of increasing openness and deeper integration into the global economy, Vietnamese governments should also take into consideration international laws and regulations concerning CSR. The reason behind this is simple: greater economic integration requires local firms to do business with foreign partners more frequently, which results in increased exposure to international standards and policies in respect of labor, environment or community, etc. Thus, national laws and policies should be built based on these international foundations to avoid misunderstanding and ensure effective domestic – foreign cooperation.