Money Moves

CSR a new business mantra

by Charles Mak

Lau Ka-shi
Managing Director & CEO
Bank Consortium Trust Company Ltd
Photo: Edde Ngan

High-profile corporate citizen promotes community well-being through corporate governance

With heightened awareness of a torrent of social issues in recent years, people in Hong Kong are more concerned about the role the business sector plays in society. "The business community must step forward and do its part," urges Lau Ka-shi, Managing Director & CEO, Bank Consortium Trust Company Ltd (BCT). "Companies should be socially conscious and work towards sustainability by leveraging their business advantages. We need to be there."

Since the 2002 inception of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service "Caring Company" scheme, an increasing number of Hong Kong companies have come to realise the importance of building corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a core component of sound corporate governance.

Last year witnessed BCT receiving the Caring Company logo for the seventh year running. The recognition forms part of a bigger picture of tighter collaboration between Hong Kong's NGO community and the private sector. "Companies have the business savvy and resources to offer while NGOs have a wide community network and a finger on the pulse of society. By joining forces, they can best meet societal needs," Ms Lau says.

True value

According to Ms Lau, CSR is part and parcel of corporate governance and should not be perceived as a task but an avenue to sustainability at corporate and community levels. BCT colleagues play an important role towards achieving the company's CSR objectives. "We're talking not only about volunteering, but also about project coordination with NGOs and day-to-day operation," she says. "These values should cascade from the top and permeate through the company."

For this reason, BCT's CSR committee, which comprises colleagues from different departments, is given the ownership for the work they wish to achieve. "I do not chair the committee," Ms Lau concedes. "The BCT management team and I give full support and resources for colleagues in running the committee."

Ms Lau says that positive CSR results deserve recognition and quickens to add: "CSR is not a means to marketing ends".

All businesses thrive on the sustainability of society and the very concept of CSR encompasses economic, environmental and social aspects. "As a responsible corporate citizen, we look to expand our partnership network and collaborate with more NGOs to serve various community needs," Ms Lau says.

Making the difference

Riding on four taskforces dedicated to five specific areas, namely, youth, elderly, employee friendly matters, environmental protection and giving/donation, the BCT CSR committee has drawn up a "Go Go Green" theme for all the company's CSR activities this year to raise awareness of environmental issues.

On the company's corporate community investment (CCI), Ms Lau says, "Aside from making donations in cash and in-kind, we motivate our colleagues to volunteer at various NGO events. Such spirit of volunteerism will have a ripple effect—many BCT colleagues have now become regular contributors at NGO centres in their neighbourhood."

Ms Lau observes that CSR yields more intangible benefits than people might imagine. "If a company makes a point to remain active in community service, it will help to enhance staff loyalty, boost staff retention and build emotional bonds between the company and its staff members," she says.

An acclaimed leader, Ms Lau was named "Responsible Business Leader 2009" by non-governmental organisation Enterprise Asia, and "Professional of the Year" in the Women of Influence Awards 2010 for promoting and adopting responsible business practices as well as her contribution to the community. She was recently appointed non-official member of the Minimum Wage Commission, and is determined to use her business influence for a good cause. "In my role as CEO of the company, I aim to foster a healthy corporate culture by asserting positive social values and public service ethos, hoping also to demonstrate that all companies, whether home-grown or multinational, can contribute to society through CSR," she says.

Taken from Career Times 18 February 2011, A10

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