As the awareness for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in China is growing rapidly, CUHK Business School has been offering numerous opportunities to encourage its students to put this concept into practice. Asian Business Studies fresh graduate Alva Lau shares her experience during her exchange study in Shanghai in the CSR department of Jebsen & Co. (China) Ltd. and her internship at SOCAM Development Limited in Hong Kong.
By Alva Lau with editorial input from Fion Chan
As the awareness for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in China is growing rapidly, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School has been offering numerous opportunities to encourage its students to put this concept into practice. Alva Lau, a fresh graduate from the Integrated BBA (IBBA) programme’s Asian Business Studies (ABS) stream, shares her experience during her exchange study in Shanghai in the CSR department of Jebsen & Co. (China) Ltd. and her internship at SOCAM Development Limited in Hong Kong:
“CSR is definitely interesting and meaningful to me. I have been a volunteer for more than nine years. I am fond of helping while learning from those in need,” says Lau. She explains that developing her career while contributing to the community at the same time has long been her dream: “When I first heard about the idea of CSR, I planned to learn more about it and found ways to acquire more knowledge in this aspect.”
Internship at Jebsen
Lau was grateful to have been referred to an internship programme at Jebsen by the CSR Centre at CUHK so that she could seize a precious opportunity to explore CSR in China. She says: “My main duties as an intern in the CSR Department of Jebsen & Co. (China) Ltd. in Shanghai were to assist with the launch of environmental initiatives and well-being programmes for the staff.” She wrote green articles for the company’s intranet to share environmentally friendly messages with her colleagues, and spread the message on health by organising luncheons with health talks for the staff. Through this internship, Lau has gained a much deeper understanding of CSR in China. She found that companies in China put more emphasis on the environmental aspect, which is probably one of the easiest ways to start the development of CSR.
Alva Lau (right) enjoyed her internship in the CSR Department of Jebsen & Co. (China) Ltd.
Lau continues: “I conducted a research on the topic of CSR in China for a research scholarship. I learnt that CSR in China is quite different from CSR in other parts of the world. For instance, it is partly regulated by the Chinese government as companies generally lack the incentive to contribute back to the society through voluntary initiatives. This is due to the political background of China. All these gave me a deeper insight into the development of CSR in the Mainland.”
Internship at SOCAM
Awarded with the CSR Research Scholarship, Lau worked as an intern in the field of CSR at SOCAM Development Limited (SOCAM). SOCAM is a Hong Kong-listed company principally engaged in specialised property development in the major cities of Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, leveraging on its solid foundation in the cement and construction industries. Her main responsibilities were to conduct CSR research and provide assistance in the promotion of CSR initiatives such as staff luncheons and Work-Life Balance Week. Lau recalls: “It was a really fun and meaningful experience. I have understood what a profit-making organisation does when it is determined to give back to the community. I gained first-hand experience of how a company cares for its staff and the environment. This has broadened my horizons, helping me develop a clear picture of the global CSR development.”
Lau (second row, far left) participated in the promotion activity of “Work-Life Balance Week” at SOCAM Development Limited in Hong Kong.
CSR in China
Lau recounts her experience in China: “I am really lucky as I can learn from both companies with the best CSR practice ― both Jebsen and SOCAM are ‘Caring Companies’ recognised by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and awarded the ‘Hong Kong Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Awards’ by the Hong Kong Productivity Council in 2013.”
The importance of CSR is undoubtedly growing and Lau firmly believes that it will be a mandatory practice for all responsible enterprises in the future. However, there are some obstacles hindering its development in China, such as the lack of CSR expertise and incentives for employees. Companies in China are short of motivation to implement CSR initiatives due to the absence of official recognition by the Chinese government. The training of CSR experts and organisation of CSR events, such as the CSR Conference organised by the MBA programme of CUHK, should be actively promoted as they can raise public awareness as well as generate interest within the business sector.
Nevertheless, CSR is at the forefront of the government’s agenda, observes Lau. For instance, the Chinese government has announced targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent (based on the 2005 benchmark) by 2020 under the 12th Five-year Plan. The Chinese government has begun promoting CSR as a social objective in China through its mandate for state-owned enterprises to set up independent CSR departments. “Hopefully this will help attract more people to engage in this field,” says Lau. “Although it may be a challenge for organisations to integrate CSR into their business strategy, they can create dedicated CSR positions and provide these employees with formal training.”
Personal View on CSR
“As a business school student, I truly cherish the opportunity to gain practical experience,” Lau concludes. “Through various means such as research and internships, I aimed to acquire more practical knowledge in CSR. This was not just for gaining first-mover advantage but also for making contributions to society and hopefully speeding up the development of CSR in my community and later on, in other parts of the world. By incorporating CSR in their strategies, I believe companies will be more sustainable in their future developments and the world will become more harmonious.”
Alva Lau is a graduate of IBBA-ABS in 2013.