By CSR Asia Centre
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Premier Wen Jiabao mentioned environmental protection, energy conservation, strategic emerging industries, and other related issues in his government working report. He also clearly pointed out that the government should further promote energy saving and ecological and environment protection as a next step. During the two sessions, NPC representatives and CPPCC members also provided many suggestions on the current status of energy saving and carbon emission reduction. "Strengthening the elimination of backward production capacity, and strictly controlling the total energy consumption” was the unified voice of the representatives and committee members.
We also saw various proposals to promote corporate social responsibility from the representatives and members at the Two Sessions, which includes strengthening the role of government in promoting CSR, improving transparency of Chinese companies on CSR, and establishment of CSR standards for China. A very interesting phenomenon was that all proposals on CSR were initiated by entrepreneurs. The following summarises the news on CSR at two sessions.
Huang Shaoliang, Chairman of the Guangdong Sunrise Group and a CPPC member, suggested that
China should develop national standards of corporate social responsibility based on international practice and the conditions of China. He also suggested that CSR should become an element in evaluating performance of government officials at all levels. “If any problem happened at a company, government officials in the district where the company locates should also bear certain responsibilities”. In addition, he suggested promoting public education on CSR, strict supervision of the assessment and certification of business, and increase punishment to business who violates the laws.
There were also proposals on promoting transparency of business on CSR by some representatives. Guo Xiangdong, a NPC representative and chairman of the Chongqing First Construction Group, has been recommending at the NPC meetings for two consecutive years that the Chinese government should attach great importance to corporate social responsibility and promote to business to publish CSR reports regularly. He said that CSR reporting is a process for business to gain a comprehensive understanding on its strengths and weaknesses, ways for improvement and sustainable development. Government and relevant departments should put forward these requirements and implement related regulations for encouraging business to report. NGOs should also play a monitoring role to ensure business reports regularly and ultimately promote a profound shift in corporate culture.
You Xiaoping, Chairman of the Huafeng and a NPC member, advocated the promotion of the 'Responsible Care' in the business world. He said that "Responsible Care" is similar to CSR in terms of achieving similar goals such as work safety, environmental protection, and energy conservation, etc. First, he believed that the Government should play a greater role in "Responsible Care" orientation. He recommended that the Chinese government should establish a corporate evaluation system of "Responsible Care" as an important part of business assessment. Second, industry associations should establish operating guideline on "Responsible Care" and at the same time, based on the characteristics of the industry, to establish professional agencies to provide services and guidance regarding "Responsible Care". Third, companies should incorporate "Responsible Care" into the process of business management, and put into consideration the environment and their stakeholders in every aspect of production and management. Finally, China should use a variety of media channel to promote the concept of "Responsible Care", so that more businesses can understand the concept.
In my opinion, the role of Chinese government in promoting CSR is to improve its current law enforcement and not to issue new “red-headed” document and other forms of instructions. The role of the civil society would be to monitor the business sector and identify any misconduct or non-compliance. "Small government, big society" is the living environment of responsible business. Based on the proposals set out in the two sessions, the Government should strengthen environmental and labour law enforcement so that businesses can compete on the same level playing field and adopt CSR as their core competitiveness.