The Hong Kong Council of Social Service
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Businesses: From CSR to Social Investment

CSR – HKCSS Channel      2015/02/18

The number of social enterprises operated by non-charitable organisations has increased in recent years. In 2014, there were 190 private companies involved in social enterprises. Many companies are also dropping short-term corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects in favour of long-term social investments to create sustainable social benefits.

In 2013, Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association and NWS Holdings set up Y Care Centres for the Elderly to provide elderly day care services. Financial resources as well as staff volunteers are provided to support operational management and marketing. Ms Yvonne Yeung of HKYWCA Chief Executive said “In the past, CSR concentrated on short-term projects, focusing mainly on corporate image building or volunteerism. However, I can see that companies are beginning to ask more questions about sustainability. Take NWS for example. It has moved from CSR to longer-term social investment by developing a project that lasts three years or even longer.”

Since 2013, Hong Kong Broadband Network has mobilised its huge knowledge-based volunteer team to share their business experience with 12 social enterprises. Ms Ivy Lau of HKBN HR Director said “social enterprises had a chat with our knowledge-based volunteer team about setting up performance indicators over a six-to-nine-month horizon, probably covering the frequency of activities, Facebook numbers, profitability targets, etc. Both of us are responsible for the results.”

Apart from coming up with ideas for social enterprises, the participating knowledge-based volunteers also learn how to operate a business in the process, and become more entrepreneurial. Supporting social enterprises can also be in the form of sub-contracting work. For example, HKBN sub-contracts some of its 1083 hotline enquiry service and canteen operations to social enterprises. Ivy said “Sub-contracting has taken some of the heat off our human resources and reduce the workload of the management. For example, by sub-contracting the work to others social enterprises, our staff can perform other value-added tasks.

Using a more effective CSR model, corporate involvement in or support for social enterprises will generate benefits for society as well as employees. By creating more value together, businesses and social enterprises can benefit from win-win synergistic effects.