CSR Penetration in Asia Pacific: At the Roots or On the Surface?

December 29, 20168:33 am1865 views

A candid conversation with Israel Gonzalez, Regional Director of Hypertherm Asia-Pacific reveals some startling facts about the CSR penetration and adoption rate by companies in Asia Pacific. Further roadblocks and challenges to adoption of CSR, seriousness towards the noble global cause to serve humanities and how this initiative can help build strong employer brand proposition to make each associate feel valued has been detailed in this exclusive rendezvous with HR in Asia. Read on…

  • Do you think organizations in APAC consider CSR responsibility seriously? If yes, list the challenges towards integrating CSR as a philosophy at work?

CSR is not a new concept in Asia Pacific, it is widely known and understood across the region. That said, most companies here have not been very motivated to seriously look into this area. In fact, MNCs are the key drivers for CSR in APAC as these initiatives usually would have been implemented across global supply chains.

Some of the challenges faced by companies in APAC include low awareness of the long-term value of improving management practices, the environment inside and outside the factory, and the community, insufficient stakeholder engagement to define CSR for the company, an impact on operational cost when company implements CSR, lack of support for CSR initiatives from the government and a general lack of knowledge and expertise in the region.

Israel Gonzalez, Regional Director of Hypertherm Asia-Pacific

Israel Gonzalez, Regional Director of Hypertherm Asia-Pacific

  • How important is CSR reporting and do organisations in Asia Pacific have effective reporting policies?

I would say that CSR reporting is important for the purpose of informing the public about a company’s policy Mr.in relationship to the environment, sustainability, and commitment towards social responsibility. An annual CSR report provides a summary of the accomplishment and challenges faced. It will provide a systematic approach for identifying future risks and opportunities, thereby enhancing the management and credibility of CSR.

That said, the effectiveness of CSR reporting is difficult to measure. The reporting styles and extent of coverage in CSR reporting varies greatly across companies within the APAC region. It could be a simple report on a website, or a distinctive and substantial CSR section in an annual report, or even a free-standing CSR report – which is what Hypertherm does.

As a whole, CSR reporting in Asia is less comprehensive, as compared to the most advanced Western countries. Despite the erratic levels of reporting, we have noticed a marked increase in the number of companies employing CSR, and a greater depth in the associated CSR reporting practices.

  • Share with us more details on the CSR initiatives at Hypertherm.

The CSR initiatives at Hypertherm are organised across three broad areas:

  • Community Engagement

We have a long-standing commitment to make a positive contribution to the areas in which our associates live and work. We use our talent, time, and financial resources to help build thriving, prosperous communities that improve people’s lives and support our business.

Through our Community Service Time (CST) program, all Hypertherm Associates around the world are given 24 hours of paid time per year to volunteer, and they are free to choose when and where to utilise this time. In 2015, we augmented our CST program to expand the opportunity for non-profit organisations to leverage the professional competencies of our Associates through skills-based volunteering.

While all volunteering opportunities require skill, some needs of the non-profit organisations require specific expertise, credentials, and certifications that may not be readily available in the general population.

In 2017, we are further boosting our CST program by increasing the amount of time allocated – from 24 to 32 hours to provide all associates with an additional eight hours of paid time-off each year to volunteer in their community.

Today, more than 80 percent of Hypertherm’s global associate population volunteers, serving an average of 15.5 hours a year. Collectively, that amounts to more than 18,000 hours per year and nearly 100,000 hours since the program’s inception.img-20161216-wa0007

Hyperthem Singapore team at Shan You Counselling Centre for a Food Distribution Drive this year.20161216_102959

  • Environmental Stewardship

We have established ambitious environmental impact reduction strategies for waste, energy, and carbon emissions, to be achieved by 2020. These strategies help guide our decision making, as we strike a balance between meeting current needs and building long-term resiliency and success in an increasingly resource-constrained world.

For instance, our goal is to make 100% of our products to be recyclable, reusable, and properly reclaimed. We have embarked on a long-term project to seek ways to reuse our systems, when they have reached the end of their industrial cutting lives.

  • Associate Engagement

What makes Hypertherm ‘tick’ is the personal and collective passion, and drive of our Associates. Together, we cultivate a culture of mutual care, respect, honesty, and integrity that enables every Associate to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled by their work. Every year, we measure all dimensions of engagement, and it reflects our emotional and rational commitment to the job, the team, and the company.

Hypertherm is a 100% Associate-owned company. This means that every single one is not just an employee.We are owners. These are but a few ways our Associate-owners are sharing in the wealth they help create. We are committed to making decisions in the best long-term interest of the company. We take pride in doing what is right for each other, our customers, our community, and our environment.

See: Promoting Corporate Giving Culture in Singapore: The Company of Good

  • Are there significant differences between the various countries within Asia with regards to dominant CSR practices?

There are different levels of CSR penetration within countries in Asia, as CSR practices in Asia are dependent on national factors. Differences could emerge around religious initiatives, social, and cultural heritages, or different levels of economic development, education, and even the environment. Therefore, less uniformity in CSR practices is to be expected.

In general, CSR is more advanced in Japan and South Korea, while ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines exhibit more similarities in their approaches.

  • Compare Asian CSR practices to dominant Western approaches, and indicate gaps in the system that do not support social responsibility?

Asia has always been considered a latecomer into the field of CSR and we are definitely lagging behind our Western counterparts. A higher level of social awareness in Western countries is one of the reasons for the greater demand for CSR. The consumer is always the key driver in the West.

On the other hand, CSR approaches in Asia tend to be driven by social necessity, such as community development. While CSR awareness is currently growing in Asia, it is unlikely to become a key driver for competitive advantage at this point.

More developed corporate governance, greater accountability, and transparency of business activities in advanced Western countries are factors that will encourage greater CSR there than in Asia at large. In the times to come, we can expect Asia to catch up with the Western world.

  • Do you think CSR initiatives are generally used as another branding strategy or honest philanthropy?

How an organization implements its CSR initiatives depends on how they define CSR, which could be honest philanthropy or branding. Whichever approach they choose, CSR serves best when it is part of the company’s corporate value, culture, and ethics. However, there is no doubt that an organisation will gain visibility by engaging in CSR. By achieving appropriate standards of CSR, they can expect to cultivate a more favorable image.

  • Why should corporations actively invest in socially responsible operations, instead of simply focusing on profit making?

From Hypertherm’s point of view, a socially responsible organisation will be sustainable in the long run. We are all closely interconnected to the global communities where we live and work. A company’s value should not reside entirely in generating financial wealth.

Having a well-managed CSR strategy in place will support business objectives, enhance long-term value creation, create social and environmental values, and enhance relationships with stakeholders and customers. This is a win-win situation. Not only will the company appeal more to socially conscious consumers and employees, the results can make a positive impact on the community and environment at large.

At Hypertherm, we’ve found that when our Associates have had the opportunity to give back to the society, they return to Hypertherm with a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment. Through CSR, we are building stronger communities and creating a more dedicated and engaged workforce.

  • Is collective consciousness about CSR being observed by the industry at large in Asia?

As I mentioned earlier, CSR penetration varies within Asia, and CSR has been developing at different speeds across the region in recent years. That said, the collectiveconsciousness about CSR in Asia is getting more apparent, and attention to issues related to sustainable development and business responsibility for society is growing.

For instance, six partner organizations of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development launched “Action 2020 in Southeast Asia” in 2014. The group has laid out specific science-based steps that businesses should take to achieve sustainability in the areas of climate change, pollution, transboundary haze, environmental degradation, and social disparities. The initiative also includes a timeline for what needs to be done by 2020, and what the participating organisations want to accomplish in the longer term by 2050.

Also read: Walking the CSR Talk

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Feature image credit: covaipost.com

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