CSR Conference Focuses on Business Sustainability Strategies

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More than 150 experts and practitioners gathered at the Shanghai Peninsula Hotel to participate in AmCham Shanghai’s 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Conference and Fair on June 22. This year’s conference focused on “Business Sustainability Strategies for Today’s China,” which comes at a particular important time as both foreign and domestic companies adjust to a slowing Chinese economy and what President Xi Jinping has dubbed “the new normal” in China.

The conference began with a keynote speech from Mr. Yin Gefei, the Vice President of the China WTO Tribune. This year’s conference included panels on: 'The Role of Business in China’s Sustainability Priorities', 'Opportunities for Business Driven Sustainability', 'Less for More: New Models for Inclusive Growth' and 'The Way Forward: CSR Strategies to Achieve Sustainability'. Alongside the panel discussions, this year’s event included a design fair where companies were able to showcase their innovative products and designs. The fair exhibitors included: Dow, eco&more, HandOn Shanghai, H&M, Kohler, KPMG, Mary Kay, naked, Nanjing Tech University, protiviti, Shanghai Puki Deafs Coordination Agency, Shanghai Young Bakers, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Soochow University, The Peninsula Shanghai, and the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

This year’s panels spanned a number of topics including the importance and role that a company’s supply chain plays in its CSR activities, how companies are adapting their CSR programs to the economic slowdown in China and globally, and how companies are looking to create inclusive businesses and development. Panelists engaged in lively debates on the definition of inclusive business and whether it included environmental and social media projects. Companies, many of the practitioners noted, are focusing not only on charity, but how their CSR programs can help facilitate and grow their businesses. Companies such as Thermo Fisher, given their focus on pollution reduction, feel that sustainability and CSR fit into their business portfolios naturally.

Additionally, firms such as Mattel, H&M and others focused on how they are looking at sustainable materials and engaging the suppliers along their supply chain. These firms focus not only on frequent audits to ensure their standards are meeting their requirements but also by engaging third party evaluators and treating their suppliers as part of the broader company. Panelists also discussed the growing role that China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are playing in CSR. Several panelists noted that their CSR capacity had grown significantly over the past few years, in some cases meeting or even exceeding foreign MNCs.

This year’s conference also included interactive sessions in which audience members answered questions through a live polling exercise. Questions touched on a number of topics including the nature of an inclusive business, how companies view their CSR programs, and the importance of sustainability to consumers. The conference was streamed live by the Shanghai Media Group reaching hundreds of online audience members.

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