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Moving CSR in Vietnam towards qualitative goals




Merely from scratch not so long ago, corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Vietnam has made long strides forward, with hundreds of billions of Vietnam dong being committed each year now by enterprises across the country to lend a helping hand to the disadvantaged people, to education, to environmental protection, and to economic development. Needless to say, millions of people and the economy in general have benefited from the generousity of corporate citizens, and the endeavor increasingly goes on.

Experts and practitioners agree that CSR has seen impressive transformation over the years, starting with few enterprises showing the sympathy towards underprivilleged people in the first place before becoming a strategic goal among many enterprises who are now aware that community development is vital for the sustainable development of themselves and the wide society.

Looking back at the transformation, Rad Kivette, CEO of VinaCapital Foundation, says material changes have taken place. The implementation of CSR in Vietnam has made a lot of progress, moving from basically a charity orientation many years ago to a much more scientific approach, says Kivette.

“I’ve been here for 20 years and CSR has developed from nearly nothing in 2000 to very active and vibrant reactions to the problems in Vietnam today. In Hanoi 20 years ago, CSR activities at that time were basically family-oriented. I’m sure there may have been other international corporations that were involved in CSR, but from a Vietnamese standpoint, it was very much family-oriented,” he remarks.

But now, a host of major corporations in Vietnam are very active, very effective and very impactful in the CSR work, the head of the Foundation says in an encounter with The Saigon Times.

At issue now is how CSR should evolve in the next stage.

Do Thai Vuong, vice chairman for sustainable business and communications at Unilever Vietnam, argues that besides the kind heart towards the community development in general and underprivilleged people in particular, CSR activities should be cannoned towards sustainable development, which is an enveloping approach that benefits all stakeholders as well as the environment.

When the global economy develops further, the humankind will increasingly encounter a host of problems, from depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution and climate change to health issues among others, Vuong says.

Do Thai Vuong, vice chairman of Unilever Vietnam – PHOTO: COURTESY OF UNILEVER

Vuong confides all its product brands are moving towards this sustainable development goal, with Sunlight products using 100% of recycle plastic, while shampoo Love Beauty and Planet has all its bottles made from ocean plastic waste.

“The economic development also lays bare inequality and other social issues,” stresses Vuong, adding CSR therefore needs to address those problems, which will be made possible when enterprises embrace sustainable development.

Vuong relates how the approach is taken at Unilever Vietnam, saying for more than a decade, the company has aligned sustainable development with the company’s business development strategy.

Unilever Vietnam has taken action, on its own and to encourage partners and others to join forces to create a launch pad for the sustainable development goal. Vuong says the company has managed to boost its renewable energy consumption to 48% of the demand and cut its water consumption by 43%, while all wastes are properly treated without any ending up in the landfill.

The CEO of VinaCapital Foundation, Rad Kivette, also echoes the point, suggesting that “Vietnamese enterprises step closer toward sustainable development instead of just thinking that CSR is charity.”

As sustainable development is a far-reaching topic, Kivette gives an example on empowering women for the good of the society.

For the part of VinaCapital Foundation, “what we do is try to make sure children are healthy. If we make children healthy all over Vietnam, their mothers are empowered to get out of home to get a job, education or whatever they can do to help improve their families,” says the CEO.

He explains at in Vietnam, caregivers for sick children are always mothers. Consequently, they interrupt their own development to take care of sick child, “so if we make a child healthy, the women are empowered.” And if women’s equality is enhanced, US$40 billion can be added every year to the GDP of Vietnam, says Kivette, citing data from the World Bank.

Kivette says that as more enterprises pay attention to sustainable development in general and CSR in particular, it is high time to improve the quality of CSR alongside the quantitative approach.

Improving the quantity means increasing the amount of money and resources devoted to addressing social problems that, which would be very well accepted and encouraged, he said. However, improving the quality will be more effective.

“As the quality improves, the effectiveness also improves. So when you see (business) people looking at the environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and looking at the social investment, I think it’s a good sign that people are looking for social problems to support,” he remarks.

The VinaCapital Foundation leader says that in seeking to enhance the quality, the foundation does not have the intention to launch new programs. Instead, it aims to make current programs more effective, and “continue to enhance partnerships with relevant ministries and agencies to bring the best to the local community.”

Unilever Vietnam, meanwhile, has in the past ten years invested strongly in community projects for sustainable development, with the targets of improving hygienic and health conditions for more than 20 million people, and mitigate the impacts on the environment by half.

Unilever Vietnam also considers working with relevant authorities and partners as an effective way towards widespread sustainable development in the country.

Commenting on its long-established program to control plastic waste, Vice Chairman Vuong of the consumer goods company says Unilever Vietnam has cooperated with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for a public-private partnership to develop the circular economy in Vietnam.

With this model, Unilever pledges to halve consumption of virgin plastic use for packaging in Vietnam by 2025, and targets to treat and recycle more wastes than the amount used for its packaging purposes.

For qualitative improvement, sustainable development in general and CSR in particular, according to Vuong, must be more far-fetching, and “shows the harmonious combination between business development on one hand, and minimizing environment impact and enhancing positive values for the society on the other.”




Vietnam gains high trade surplus amid Covid-19 pandemic



An employee is at work at a textile factory. Vietnam’s exports continued their upward spiral between January and November, sending the country’s trade surplus up to a record high of US$20.2 billion amid the Covid-19 pandemic – PHOTO: VNA

HCMC – Vietnam’s exports continued their upward spiral between January and November, sending the country’s trade surplus up to a record high of US$20.2 billion amid the Covid-19 pandemic, double the figure from the same period last year.

Statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Trade indicated that the country’s export revenue amounted to over US$25.1 billion in November, pushing the total export value during the 11-month period up to US$254.9 billion, up 5.5% year-on-year.

The largest export earner was processed and manufactured products, contributing nearly US$216.4 billion to the total export earnings during the 11-month period, up 6.1% year-on-year, VietnamPlus news site reported.

The exports of the agro-forestry-fishery sector made an impressive recovery in November, generating some US$2.2 billion, up 3.2% year-on-year.

Vietnam exported wood and wooden products worth US$10.9 billion during the period, up 14.1% over the same period in 2019.

The U.S. was still the largest buyer of Vietnam during the 11-month period, spending US$69.9 billion on Vietnamese goods, followed by China with US$43 billion.

As for imports, the country’s total import turnover during the January-November period reached US$234.7 billion, inching up by 1.6% against the same period last year.

Over the past 11 months, Vietnam’s import value from computers, electronics and accessories surged by 22% year-on-year, while mobile phones and accessories and plastic products were among the country’s top imports.


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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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