Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


China forges ahead on CSR

January 2010

Chinese businesses are making ‘rapid progress’ on corporate social responsibility, according to new research.

A report published by the AccountAbility think tank says companies in China are increasingly working with civil society and government to create a ‘culture of sustainable development’, are embedding responsible business practices in industrial growth, and have made ‘significant progress’ on CSR over the past three years.

Business collaboration with government is also helping to create a greener industrial policy and low carbon development possibilities. ‘In some areas,’ says the report, ‘China is set to leapfrog into the elite group of global green innovators.’

It adds that in contrast to many other countries, ‘strong government leadership’ is playing a key role in the growth of CSR in China.

The think tank notes that ‘progress has been dramatic and unexpected’ in some areas, especially in terms of governance, energy efficiency, human resources, supply chain management and the uptake and stewardship of voluntary standards and reporting.

Chinese CSR is also expanding beyond national boundaries, and is beginning to have an effect on supply chains in other countries. ‘In 2007, the Chinese business community strongly focused on compliance activities, but today China is asserting its responsible and green business credentials both at home and in global markets,’ says the report.

However, aspects that could retard the growth of CSR include a general lack of target setting and benchmarking (both within companies and at government level);  large knowledge gaps about best practice in areas such as labour and carbon standards; and the sheer scale of industrial development in the country.

AccountAbility’s upbeat assessment of CSR in China contrasts with a recent analysis by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), which found four in ten of China’s leading companies did not appear to be publicly engaged in corporate responsibility. However, CASS’s study concentrated mainly on the reporting of CSR programmes rather than actual activity (EP11, issue 6, p5).

AccountAbility | Asia | CSR

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