Awareness, coordination and commitment to make responsible business conduct a ‘core’ business strategy in China

An RSCA outreach activity to supply chain and business students in China is raising the profile of CSR in a vital market.

News | 27 November 2021
Shanghai (ILO News) - Yifan Cao is PhD student of management science at Donghua University. A recent seminar on responsible business has prompted her to think more about the place of labour in value chains:

“In supply chains, the social dimension is much harder to capture and measure than the environmental dimension, “says Cao. “This seminar has provided us with many measurement methods of the social dimension in sustainable supply chains. It will benefit me a lot in my research work.”

Yifan Cao is one of 59 postgraduate and PhD students introduced to definitions of decent work, international labour standards, sustainable enterprises and other essential Corporate Social Responsibility concepts at an event, “Responsible Supply Chains”, jointly hosted by Donghua University, Sedex and the Responsible Supply Chains in Asia program.

China has a wide array of policies on responsible business practices, many requiring mandatory reporting of activities. However, on-the-ground actions to promote risk management, including related labour rights and environmental protections, are not yet widely considered elements of core business strategies.

Sunny Qin, Global project manager of SEDEX and presenting on carbon neutrality at the course, believes it’s the cumulative effort of actors up and down the supply chain that will move the needle on responsible business.
“As the saying goes, ‘constant dripping wears away stone’. We believe that the efforts of all stakeholders are drivers on the road of responsible business. “

The online workshop encouraged students to critically analyse the positive and negative impacts that business operations can have on the conditions of workers in global supply chains. It also looked at the broad range of institutions, actors and stakeholders and their role in improving those working conditions, implementing international labour standards and achieving decent work.

“Responsible business conduct is no longer an option for businesses; it is part of the rules of the game and a requirement to make businesses successfully in modern economies,” says the head of the RSCA Program and guest speaker, Fredy Guayacan. He also believes governments have a vital role in providing the right legal and social environment for responsible business. “There is a requirement for coordination and partnerships among relevant institutions, public and private, in order to promote policy coherence on responsible business conduct,” says Guayacan.

Event moderator, Dr Bin Shen, Associate Professor at the Glorious Sun School of Business and Management in Donghua University, is confident that awareness of the importance of CSR is growing among his students.
“After ten years of research, I recognise that sustainability and social responsibility are the driving force for business model innovation and important means for enterprises to win in market competition. Environmental and social issues are equally important in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Good knowledge of the latest international labour standards and carbon neutrality standards is the underpinning of Chinese companies’ commitment to social responsibility and the driving force of promoting sustainable supply chains.”

His student, Ziyi Zhuang, master student of supply chain management, agrees. “As the factory of the world, China has a complete supply chain system. A sustainable and socially responsible supply chain is imperative for globalisation, and (China’s) belt and road initiative.”