Giving back to society

by Isabella Lee

Diana Tsui, director
corporate social responsibility
Photo: Lewis Wong
Bipartite collaboration fosters sustainable social dialogues

Most global corporations these days have a firm understanding of the importance of corporate citizenship and environmentally sound policies.

Reputable professional services provider KPMG China is one organisation that actively promotes corporate social responsibility (CSR) by effectively allocating resources to worthy causes and engaging in joint efforts with its partner firms.

Recently, the company has picked up an instrumental role in driving a community centre project in Cifeng, Pengzhou, an area devastated by the Sichuan earthquake two years ago. The initiative, undertaken jointly with the China Children and Teenagers' Fund (CCTF), was an effort to help rebuild the stricken region, promote long-term development of the local community and improve overall living standards.

"After a series of meticulous planning and overcoming many obstacles, the KPMG-CCTF Community Centre opened its doors for the first time on 17 May," says Diana Tsui, director, corporate social responsibility, KPMG..

Ms Tsui explains that the firm specifically decided on a community centre to look after villagers' needs as many other organisations had already committed to building schools for children in Sichuan.

Addressing all needs

The ground-breaking, ecologically friendly centre was built with earthquake-resistant technology and locally sourced materials, such as processed bamboo, straw bale and timber. Several companies provided free design, construction and lighting services. The end result is a people-oriented and environmentally sustainable village.

Solar light tubes, LED lamp and bio-gas are used to keep energy consumption down and the design concept has been locally and internationally recognised. The building also won the 2009 National Human Settlement Best Practice Gold Medal and featured as a best practice cases for sustainable living and environmental protection at the recent Shanghai World Expo's ZED pavilion.

"With many open areas, a library and rooms equipped with computers collected from KPMG offices, the 450 square-metre centre can serve the community for various purposes, Ms Tsui points out. "For now, it hosts extracurricular activities for children and vocational training for villagers. It's also suitable as an after-school care venue for kindergarten pupils. As we come up with additional uses, we expect that more people will benefit."

The opening of the centre is not the end of venture, which received manpower, resources and financial support from 30 domestic and international enterprises, research institutions and government agencies. Ms Tsui adds that this demonstrates how corporate sponsorship, public participation and public-private partnerships can advance community growth.

Describing the scheme as a "shining example" of improving educational, cultural and recreational facilities in rural communities, she notes that her team is lining up programmes and activities for KPMG staff to participate in as part of the long-term running of the project. Although employees from all 12 China offices will be involved, the Chengdu firm is located just a 90-minute drive away from the centre and will be the first to contribute.

"We're seeking every opportunity to assist the centre users. But we also want the villagers to take ownership of the project," says Ms Tsui. "It's their responsibility to make proper use of the facility and to keep it in good shape. So, we're providing financial and manpower support to make them more self-reliant over time."

Wider reach

KPMG China has also contributed fundraising, leadership and professional skills to establish sustainable practices in other communities via a diverse range of CSR projects, with the help of full-time delegates, volunteer committees and an army of employees.

For instance, working with Hong Kong-based NGO Sowers Action, KPMG has recently completed the construction of two elementary schools in Gansu, which accommodate more than 500 students. One of the firm's CSR principles is also very much needs-driven so that resources and support are allocated to those areas that are often neglected.

Meanwhile, another education initiative that involved providing financial aid and one-on-one mentorship by KPMG staff has benefited 430 underprivileged university students on the mainland. The aim is to help these graduates build their knowledge and self-esteem, so that they can contribute to their societies and have a chance to develop their potential as leaders of the future.

KPMG's Hong Kong office is also offering help to social enterprises in need of accounting assistance. A taskforce of volunteers has been set up to design useful templates and provide training for the operators to enable them to become more efficient in running their businesses.

"We believe it's crucial to get the maximum out of every programme, because we take our corporate responsibility seriously. It's more than philanthropy—by working with partner contributors and using the skills of our people for a good cause, our efforts will be amplified," Ms Tsui concludes.

Reaching out

  • Professional services provider actively promotes corporate social responsibility
  • Firm has driven joint community-centre project in earthquake-devastated Sichuan
  • Green community centre was built with locally sourced, renewable materials
  • Villagers to take ownership of the project and maintain the building
  • Sponsorship scheme provides funding and mentorship to underprivileged students

Taken from Career Times 4 June 2010, A11

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