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Businesses should regard CSR as long-term investment: experts



Panelists at the seminar themed “CSR Endeavor: Toward sustainable development” held as part of the Saigon Times CSR 2020 Merit Ceremony on Friday

HCMC – Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is commonly defined by businesses in Vietnam as charity work and regarded as a part of their operational costs. However, they should see CSR as a long-term investment for the sustainable development of the community and themselves, noted experts at a seminar on November 20.

The seminar, themed “CSR Endeavor: Toward sustainable development”, was part of the Saigon Times CSR 2020 Merit Ceremony held by The Saigon Times (, the English news site of the Saigon Times Group. The merit ceremony gathered experts and leaders of companies with outstanding CSR practices.

Binu Jacob, Nestlé Vietnam CEO, said businesses should start believing that CSR is a nice-to-do, not a must-do. “The thinking has to shift. CSR is something that benefits the company […] Companies should start thinking about how they can make a difference to the society, while at the same time making a difference to themselves and benefiting them in the long run. When these two things come together, then comes sustainability,” he shared.

“If you start thinking that CSR involves a lot of money and resources, then you start thinking of costs. But if you start thinking about it as an investment, then you start thinking about how to do more of it and make more business sense. 

“In the Central Highlands of Vietnam, one of the largest coffee growing regions in the world, many farmers have small farm plots, commonly only one hectare. In the last 10 years or so, Nestlé has been supporting thousands of farmers in the region to improve the quality of their coffee, reduce their water usage by over 40% and cut the use of pesticides.” 

As a result of this, the productivity of coffee has increased and the income of farmers has doubled over the last 10 years. Jacob noted, “We wish we could help 10 times more farmers so more people can benefit. This makes sense for businesses, the government and the small farmers. If we only think of costs, none of these could become scalable.” 

Regarding the opinion that it’s hard for most small businesses to carry out CSR programs because they don’t have the budget for these programs while their revenues remain modest, Do Thai Vuong, vice president of sustainable business and communications at Unilever, said CSR neither depends on the scale of businesses nor their revenues.

“In fact, not all large businesses can practice CSR effectively. CSR must come from the heart and the determination for sustainable development,” he said. According to Vuong, CSR can start right from the operation of businesses, from human resource strategies to manufacturing processes, waste treatment and using renewable energy.

“CSR is not just about doing some charitable work. You should incorporate environmental protection and social factors into all your business activities, into everything that you do. It’s not really a conflict with profit. In fact, CSR helps businesses grow sustainably and maximize shareholders’ value in the longer term,” noted Harini Gopalakrishnan, director and ESG lead of VinaCapital Group.

Mimi Vu, partner at Raise Partners, said, “Companies in Vietnam need a lot of support in not only understanding what CSR is but also the evolution of CSR into environmental, social and governance and other economic development benchmarks. A lot of companies in Vietnam still believe that CSR is simply charity and it is limited in the scope of supporting the community instead of incorporating CSR into their performance.”

According to Vu, also a CSR expert, Vietnam is one of the few countries that has successfully contained the Covid-19 pandemic and has reported positive GDP growth this year. “We have a lot of opportunities coming to the country now and in the foreseeable future. Many businesses in Vietnam have a very slow evolution from charity to CSR. To take advantage of these opportunities, we have to change our mindset right away,” she said.

Vu suggested that businesses in Vietnam make long-term plans for CSR programs, instead of only short and medium term, and work with non-governmental organizations to ensure their CSR activities are effective and have more sustainable impacts.

Launched in 2019, the Saigon Times CSR is an annual event of The Saigon Times to honor enterprises for their significant and meaningful contributions to the community. This year’s program received nearly 100 stories about CSR activities from Vietnamese and foreign-invested firms. Among them, 44 enterprises with meaningful and impressive CSR practices received certificates of recognition from The Saigon Times.

Saigon Times Group’s Editor-in-Chief Tran Minh Hung (R) offers flowers to the panelists at the seminar





VN-Index continues to fly high



Maybank Kim Eng Securities employees monitor share prices in this file photo. The VN-Index of the Hochiminh Stock Exchange expanded by 0.54% on December 2 – PHOTO: THANH HOA

HCMC – Despite unfavorable news about the complicated Covid-19 situation, active trading continued to help the VN-Index of the Hochiminh Stock Exchange fly high, ending at 1,014.32 points today, December 2, increasing by 0.54%, or 5.45 points, against the previous session.

Winning stocks outnumbered losers by 234 to 199. The southern market saw 684.5 million shares worth over VND14.3 trillion change hands, surging by 17.4% in volume and 22.6% in value against the previous session. Some 200 million shares worth over VND4.64 trillion were traded in block deals, including 160 million shares worth VND3.44 trillion of construction enterprise DIG.

The strong cash flow helped many bluechips extend. In the VN30 basket, electricity stock POW shot up to the ceiling price at VND10,800. Other top performers were property firm VHM, brewery SAB and low-cost air carrier VJC, increasing by 2.28% to VND85,200, 1.71% to VND196,800 and 1.27% to VND119,500, respectively.

Among bank stocks, TCB grew by 2.45% to VND25,100, while MBB and VCB were up 2.4% to VND21,350 and 1.63% to VND93,500, respectively.

Other large-cap stocks that gained ground included GAS, MSN, GVR, VRE, PLX, FPT, BVH and EIB, but at modest rates.

In contrast, industrial development corporation BCM, lender TPB and mobile phone retailer MWG were the biggest losers, declining by 4.16%, 2.01% and 1.72%, respectively.

Lender TCB led the southern market by liquidity with 27.5 million shares traded, followed by POW with 24.8 million shares.

On the Hanoi Stock Exchange, the HNX-Index increased by 1.25%, or 1.86 points, against the previous session, to close the day at 150.8 points, with gainers outnumbering decliners by 95 to 63. There were 69.8 million shares worth over VND1 trillion traded on the northern bourse.

The top gainers were service company THD and port operator PHP, which soared by over 9% to VND121,000 and VND15,700, respectively, and investment and trading company TNG and industrial development firm IDC, which shot up to the respective ceiling price of VND15,000 and VND32,400.

Major contributors also included securities company SHS, bank stock SHB and construction stock VCG, up 2.07%, 0.58% and 0.48%, respectively.

SHB led the northern market by liquidity with 9.8 million shares changing hands.

Lender ACB, one of the largest and most actively traded stocks on the Hanoi Stock Exchange, will be moved to the Hochiminh Stock Exchange from December 3.


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Social impacts key success factor for Vietnamese startups: experts



Social impacts key success factor for Vietnamese startups: experts

Entrepreneurs attend the Gala Startup Viet 2020 in Ho Chi Minh City in December 2020. Photo by VnExpress.

Vietnamese startups using technology to create positive and sustainable impacts on the larger community have higher chances to succeed, experts say.

Le Diep Kieu Trang, a popular entrepreneur in Vietnam’s tech industry and founder of private equity firm Alabaster, said while many entrepreneurs focus on short-term benefits, those who can deliver products and services that are both profitable and have a positive influence on society are usually more well-received by the public.

Trang, one of the judges of the Startup Viet Gala 2020, a competition hosted by VnExpress Wednesday for young entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and raise funds, said many youngsters think creating an app is by itself guarantees success, but in reality, attracting users to the app is the key and this is not easy.

“Apps only have impacts if they can attract users,” she reiterated.

Truong Gia Binh, chairman of tech giant FPT, said although technology is very important and the modern entrepreneur needs to have knowledge of artificial intelligence and Big Data, the most important knowledge is about humans.

“Startups need to know what value are you bringing and to whom.”

To succeed, entrepreneurs also need to find the right teammates and persevere. “No matter how many times you fail, stand up again,” he said.

Other experienced entrepreneurs also said that being persistent was very important. Phan Xuan Canh, CEO of recruitment platform Viec.Co, said in order to achieve a vision, startups will have to try different paths and fail, and perseverance is needed to go through the process.

As a judge at Startup Viet Gala 2020, Trang said she prefers startups that can bring a new and breakthrough product to the table with high technological application, and the company needs to be able to expand its market throughout Vietnam and the world.

“If your business model does not survive in Vietnam, I don’t think you can survive overseas.”

Step out of comfort zone

The problem with many startups in Vietnam is that they try to improve on the traditional business model with modern technology without bringing in any breakthrough idea, and those that only do this will not attract investments, she added.

Trang said she wants Vietnamese startups to think bigger. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has caused major difficulties in most sectors, it has also opened new doors for startups, not just in the Vietnamese market, but the world as a whole, she said.

Entrepreneurs who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and take this opportunity to move forward with more emphasis on the online market will have bigger advantages, she added.

Startup Viet 2020 Gala seeks to identify the best 15 startups in Vietnam and award them with a prize pool of VND3 billion ($130,000).

The winner of the competition on Wednesday was Tep Bac, which provides management and analysis services for seafood farms using technology. Other notable startups in the top five were Drone Pro, a provider of delivery services using drones, and BioStarch, which produces environment-friendly plastic bags using a mixture of cassava powder and primary microplastics for fast decomposition.


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VND4 trillion tower: no buyer after 10 years



Many buildings up for sale cannot find buyers.

JLL has reported a slowdown in the number of real estate M&A deals in the first nine months of the year.

VND4 trillion tower: no buyer after 10 years

One example: BIDV announced the selection of an institution to organize the auction of the debt of Tai Nguyen Construction, Production and Trade Company. The assets put into auction were the principal and interest on the auction day, worth VND4.063 trillion.

Kenton Residences is one of the projects developed by Tai Nguyen. It was initially designed covering an area of 9.1 hectares, comprising nine 15-35-story towers, 1,640 high-end apartments and a 20,000 square meter shopping mall. The total investment capital was $300 million.

The construction began in 2009, but stopped in 2011. In 2017, Kenton Residence was activated again, renamed into Kenton Node, and had the design changed.

BIDV Gia Dinh Branch also announced the compulsory sale of 65 apartments at Ky Nguyen Apartment Bloc in district 7, HCM City developed by Duc Khai JSC. The starting selling price was VND2.188-5.4 billion per apartment with the area of 135.98 to 368.45 square meters.

The prices are reasonable at VND15-16 million per square meter, including VAT.

This is the third time that BIDV has offered to sell Ky Nguyen apartments. The first auction was organized in October 2019, when only one out of 27 apartments was sold.

Commercial banks, one after another, have continuously put real estate into auction to collect debts since the beginning of the year.

VietinBank has offered to sell the land-use rights and assets on land at Can Tho Center, 3.23 hectares, with the starting price of VND190 billion.

On its website, SCB have offered to sell 10 real estate assets which have value of between several billions of dong and hundreds of billion of dong. These include Phuoc Son storehouse in Thuan An commune in Binh Duong province, offered at VND830 billion.

The other assets, houses and land use rights are offered at VND2.2-10 billion.

Dinh The Hien, a finance expert, commented that banks have recently put real estate into auction to collect debts, while they previously sold assets through many different channels.

Though the selling prices are viewed as ‘very reasonable’, many assets still cannot find buyers. The assets of Hung Ngan Housing JSC have been put into auction four times with prices falling by tens of percent compared with the first auction. But they still cannot be sold.

In the latest auction, BIDV set the starting price at VND396 billion, or 24 percent lower than the figure at the first auction in February 2020. 

Duy Anh


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