This semester I joined the executive board of Yale's chapter of Global China Connection. Global China Connection (GCC) is the world's largest student organization dedicated to providing the future leaders of China and the international community with a platform to engage each other. A non-profit, non-partisan organization, GCC is represented in over 50 chapters at top universities around the world. We work directly with top Chinese universities as well as a number of corporate and organizational partners on a variety of projects to provide opportunities for our members to gain international experience and develop an international network.
Specifically, we organize speaker events to educate the Yale campus about different issues. We also plan to host a student delegation from Peking University in the spring. Our first speaker of the year was Bill Valentino, the VP of Corporate Social Responsibility for Bayer in China.
Mr. Valentino also is a professor at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. He has lived in China for 23 years and can speak fluent Mandarin. Last Friday, Mr. Valentino visited Yale to speak about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and what that really means for the company, its consumers, and the people that it affects. Here are some of the most interesting points he made:
- Every company has a direct impact on the environment, social fabric, and development of an area. It's important to be conscious of this ability and whether it has positive or negative consequences.
- Creating value: most companies only look to the short-term and care about creating economic value. However, there is also the potential to create social value and ecological value in a community.
- The world's richest 20% consume over 76% of the resources. The world's poorest 20% consume about 1.5% of resources. In the future, companies that look to develop new markets will be targeting the lower segments of society.
- Companies are sensitive to consumer opinion and consumers care about the ethics and values of the company. Therefore, it is in the interest of the corporation to be socially responsible.
- China in general has to balance the desire for economic growth with the health of its people and its environment. In the past few decades of rapid development, the latter two have been mostly ignored. For example, 90% of rivers in China are polluted, and the income gap between rural and urban areas has increased greatly.
- When we think of sustainability, many times the environment comes to mind. However, there are many other facets of sustainability such as public health, education, food security, poverty, gender, labor, etc.
- China is becoming aware of the need for CSR. From the blogosphere to Hu Jintao himself, a recognition is forming that balance is necessary in the corporate world.
I am really glad that foreign corporations are now becoming aware of the effects they have on the surrounding area and are now dedicating entire departments to CSR. Bayer is an extremely prominent international pharmaceutical company and is leading a great example. Let's hope other businesses, both foreign and domestic, soon follow in their footsteps (Foxcomm anyone?).
Thanks so much to Mr. Valentino for coming to Yale!