Why CSR with ECF?

The Eye Care Foundation has been invited to share our experiences by collaborating with companies as their CSR partner. We are an international NGO with a field office in HCMC. Eighty percent of all vision impairments and blindness can be prevented or treated and our aim is to make sure this can be achieved in the Mekong Delta.

About the term CSR

The term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been used and misused for many types of activities. Many definitions can be found. To us it means that a company is aware of its role in society and strives to make a positive contribution towards the continued and healthy development of a society. And in doing so, the company itself can also grow and be ensured of sustainable business. Actions can be stand alone (e.g., to pay for 10 cataract operations) and short term effect, or focused on structural, long-term development. (e.g., training school nurses to detect eye problems at an early stage).

The main reasons to get involved with CSR

Through our contacts with companies we hear many different motivations for CSR:

  1.        Innovation (e.g. better use of resources, environment)
  2.        Cost saving (e.g. less packaging)
  3.        Brand differentiation
  4.        Customer/community engagement
  5.        (Future) employee engagement (e.g. people are proud to work for the company)
  6.        Giving back to the region
  7.        Personal affinity

With brand differentiation and customer/community engagement you can show consumers and the media that you are looking further than your own short-term profit margins. These days consumers value social responsibility and are often willing to pay more for the products when the CSR is clear to them.

Evidence of a healthy social responsibility policy can impact purchasing decisions of potential  customers. This in turn can lead to higher profits for a business. However, in our case, building a highly regarded and trustworthy reputation is more valuable and people appreciate that social responsibility initiatives take time to establish and manage.

Furthermore, being part of a scheme that helps the disadvantaged can boost employee morale and attract new employees. Often there are also possibilities to work as a volunteer, giving employees the opportunity to develop different skill sets and contributing to good teambuilding in the process. Knowing that a product or service has helped people in need can be greatly appreciated by employees, customers and business owners.

When the importance of social responsibility is recognized as a fundamental part of a business’s philosophy, aid initiatives can have life-changing consequences for beneficiaries, instill pride in employees and contribute to further growth of the business itself. Businesses can grow with or without acting on the awareness of their social responsibility, but doing good for others allows a business to reap rewards in other areas as well.

We have noticed that priorities vary from business to business. Usually there are about three or four main reasons for a business to engage in CSR.

How do these reasons match with our cause?

We set up projects that contribute to the prevention and treatment of impaired vision and blindness in the Mekong Delta. The impact of our activities is considerable and far-reaching. We teach people to detect and treat eye disorders, build eye care infrastructure and make people aware that poor vision can be treated.

Our help has a huge impact on people`s lives. For children, being able to see means they can go to school and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. With cataract surgery, grandparents regain their independence and can take care of their grandchildren, so that their children can go to work. The social and economic impact is big. Education, independence and employment translates to progress for a whole geographical area.

For us, reasons four to seven on our list are the main motivations to collaborate with the Eye Care Foundation. We have designed programmes and activities in which we can include volunteers from other organizations and share stories from beneficiaries about the impact the aid they received has had on their lives.

We have partners that have committed to one-time activities, but also partners with whom we have long-term relationships and repeated annual programmes to provide aid to specific geographical areas.

How do our partners organize CSR?

However they choose to go about it, it is important that a company sets clear goals, whether it wants to take care of the organization itself or outsource it. An executive partner like the Eye Care Foundation can assist in making a plan, taking specific wishes and budget limits into account, has the knowledge of what courses of action are most effective and can arrange volunteer opportunities and communication. Businesses can go for a contractor relationship or work in collaboration as equal partners. Be aware that there are extra costs involved on top of the costs of the actual project, including costs of innovation. Investing in development and innovation helps CSR projects keep up with modern and innovative companies.

We see a lot of different approaches in how our partners organize CSR. When the underlying reasons are more oriented towards innovation and cost-saving it has a stronger impact on the daily business and becomes a part of marketing and strategy. Otherwise it is considered to be an effective marketing, communication and HR tool.

Other question to ask yourself are:

  • Active volunteer involvement or not?
  • Is it important that the activity is tax deducible or not?
  • Organize in-house or outsource?
  • Communication strategy: what kind of communication material do we want? (before, during, after) and the use of company the logo (if so, under what conditions?)

How to get started

It comes down to the following steps: plan, set up, check and implement. In the planning phase, a needs assessment will help you get a good view of the needs and wishes on both sides; your company and the cause. For your business the motivation behind the CSR is important and what you wish to achieve for your organization. For the cause you are collaborating with it is good to see what the actual need is and what you can do to bring a sustainable solution or relief.

To be effective it is good to identify the stakeholders. How can you empower or support those people and organizations who play a role in the area you want to support?

The result of the needs assessment and the stakeholder analyses will need to be laid down in a strategy plan which describes how the goals are linked to the mission and vision. But also how the reasons for CSR become reality. Ideally you have already delineated how you want to monitor result and effects.

Before implementing the strategy it is wise to assess your existing resource base and internal support you can receive for the programme. You may wish to undertake a less formal assessment. At least look at: available time within the organization, budget and staff resources (willingness to volunteer?).

When all is in order you can start implementation. The evaluation phase is often skipped. However, we believe that it is important to improve the impact of the CSR activity and the relations with our donors. Evaluation allows for effective improvements to be made.

Do you feel eager to get started? We would love to explore the possibilities with you! For further questions please contact the Eye Care Foundation via mdaggers.ecf.vn@gmail.com or read more about our projects in Vietnam.  

 Source: CCI France Vietnam