Implementing CSR policies can create big opportunities for companies that have the right vision CORPORATE SOCIAL responsibility can be a way to generate cash rather than leak it if companies follow a few necessary steps, according to Ashley Hegland, a specialist in CSR and sustainability at public relations agency Edelman. 'CSR is not a cost but a worthy investment; it is not an add-on but the key to successful reputation management. CSR can bring incredible benefits but many Hong Kong companies are not taking advantage of it. They are reacting to the trend but not really seeing CSR as their opportunity,' he said. Mr Hegland said CSR saved money by giving a company a different angle, a connection with the community and creating better brand value. 'CSR has evolved beyond philanthropy and community services. Companies have to comply with the changing laws and regulations, and develop good risk management. In this age of democratisation of information, people want to go beyond the products and learn more about companies.' Mr Hegland said companies could initiate CSR by generating a value statement and asking what CSR meant to their businesses. 'This step is critical. [Enterprise] leaders have to be on board to discuss the direction [the company is going in].' The next step was for companies to understand the links between their core values and their business. They then had to select issues that were relevant, and had to implement these policies in their daily operations, he said. During these steps, external and internal communication is important. Externally, the company must identify its stakeholders, which might include non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the government, partners, clients, end users and the public, he said. It must talk to stakeholders and determine the issues that needed to be addressed. 'One of the most important things is to have a meaningful two-way dialogue with stakeholders. If these relationships are well managed, stakeholders will think the company is adding value to them,' Mr Hegland said. On an internal level, the company must explain its direction to its staff and gather suggestions from them on what could be done to make improvements because the employees were in the best position to know. 'Effective sharing with employees plays a vital role in the process. If they can embrace the CSR idea, they will find their job more meaningful and know that they are contributing to Hong Kong and the community. It also makes the company a preferred company for job seekers,' Mr Hegland said. 'Europe has been leading in CSR for many years. Companies there integrate sustainability in their business strategy. Asia is generally lagging, but there are many branches of multinational firms in Hong Kong that are doing good CSR stuff. Hong Kong companies are feeling the pressure and that is helping them move in a CSR direction.' Microsoft Hong Kong senior director of business and marketing Adam Anger said every successful corporation had a responsibility to use its resources and influence to make a positive impact on the world. 'Microsoft is committed to creating opportunities in communities around the world. We foster economic growth and contribute to [society] through innovative technologies and partnerships with government, industry and community organisations. We are committed to serving the public,' Mr Anger said. Microsoft helps to bring technology to underprivileged people in Hong Kong, including schools. It offers grants, software and computer courses. And it supports networks to help people realise their potential through improved access to technology. The company also has a community-based technology and learning centre project that helps NGOs. Microsoft has helped to establish 15 of these learning centres, and more than 20,000 individuals have benefited from its free IT training programmes. 'Providing support to Hong Kong's underserved [people] is a key part of Microsoft's commitment to understanding and meeting local needs. 'Technology is vital to Hong Kong's ongoing success, and community partnership is the best way to foster growth, advance technology use and skills, and promote digital inclusion. With the support of partners and customers, Microsoft is committed to creating greater value for Hong Kong in the years to come.' Chevron Companies (Greater China) country chairman Xiaofei Peng said CSR helped to build good relationships with stakeholders and built up bonds between staff and the company. 'Social responsibility is our core value,' Mr Peng said. 'It is to conduct our business in a socially responsible and ethical manner, respect the law, support universal human rights, protect the environment and benefit the communities where we work. It is to do business the right way, with integrity and honesty. We are a caring employer. Our staff are very supportive. They all align with the company's values and most of them find their work satisfactory.' Chevron offers employees courses on safety and health. Staff have flexible working hours so that work does not clash with family responsibilities. The company has spent more than $6,000 per employee to give staff the best working environment. Thought goes into the work environment to ensure that chairs offer support and comfort, keyboards are in an ergonomic position and the lighting in the office is right. Chevron staff are committed to social services. Caltex, Chevron's retail brand, sponsored Caltex Project Chance for the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong last year to help children from low-income families. About 30 per cent of Chevron's staff visited the children several times and took part in teaching them skills and discussing their problems. 'We are very proud of our employees,' Mr Peng said. 'It's easy to donate money for charity work but not as easy to contribute time and effort. I think our staff's participation is more valuable than the money we spend [on sponsorship]. 'Everything is worthwhile when you see the smiling faces of the kids and our colleagues. The community service brings mutual benefits. The kids were well taken care of and our staff found the service rewarding. We give our staff and their families opportunities to have a meaningful and quality life. And they have a better sense of belonging to the company.'