Bank of East Asia

Community service goes beyond the workplace

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 July, 2011, 12:00am

Believing the concepts and benefits of corporate social responsibility (CSR) radiate beyond the workplace, Bank of East Asia (BEA) chairman and chief executive David Li Kwok-po says the bank develops initiatives that benefit the wider community.

Stressing the interdependence between business and society, Li says the principles of CSR can be adapted from the workplace to the broader community.

For instance, he says, his bank's employees play an integral role in the firm's energy efficiency and resource reduction efforts, which can also be applied in the home.

As the largest independent local bank, BEA supports the needs of the city's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Li says this is also a form of CSR.

'Whether you are a business or an individual with a good education and a good job, I believe it is important to give something back to society,' he says.

Last year, the bank was given the Best SME Partner Award for the third year in a row by the non-profit Hong Kong Chamber of Small and Medium Business.

Li says it is through its close relationship with small firms that the bank is able to invite them to join its CSR projects and help them to achieve their objectives in this area.

For instance, the bank introduced SMEs to the Green Financing Scheme, a collaborative effort between the Hong Kong Productivity Council, green groups and strategic partners from banks including Li's.

SMEs applying for loans may be eligible for preferential terms for investment in equipment to reduce energy consumption and emissions.

Under the scheme, participating banks also donate part of the proceeds from each loan transaction to be distributed to four green groups: Friends of the Earth (HK), Green Power, The Conservancy Association and WWF-Hong Kong.

On a personal level, as the Legislative Council member for the financial constituency, Li says he is able to alert fellow lawmakers to CSR issues and request their support.

'I contact the organisations and people in the area I represent to see if they would like to join BEA with various CSR or community-related projects, and in this way I believe we have been quite successful,' he says.

'In addition to BEA's own programmes, we also encourage our staff to take part in volunteer programmes, such as assisting with elderly neighbourhood schemes and charities like Helping Hand.'

He says that during the recruitment process, in addition to job-specific skills, the bank looks for candidates who have a track record of taking part in community activities.

Organisations including the Community Chest and volunteer groups have played an important role in raising awareness of the need to help the underprivileged, Li says.

'There is always more we can do to improve our CSR efforts,' he says. 'However, with government and businesses working together, supporting initiatives and encouraging people to become involved, there is a lot we can achieve.'

He says the BEA Charitable Foundation supports education and poverty relief for the underprivileged.

'The foundation's main objectives are to promote, encourage, and support the advancement of education, the relief of poverty and disaster, and other exclusively charitable purposes.'

Recently, the foundation joined hands with 'la Caixa' Foundation, a Barcelona-based organisation, to contribute a total of HK$11 million in support of a palliative care programme for the elderly, which is operated by the Salvation Army.

The objective of the Palliative Care in Residential Care Homes for the Elderly programme is to create a new model of care for elderly people who are suffering from terminal illnesses. Patients and their families receive medical, social, emotional and spiritual care.

The initiative, which provides direct benefits to about 900 Hong Kong people who live in six residential homes for the elderly, depends on a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologists who have developed the integrated care programme.

Li says the co-operation is the first step for the two institutions, which intend to jointly promote social, educational, cultural and environmental programmes in Hong Kong and on the mainland.