The baseline research for the Project “Win-win for Vietnam” by Management and Sustainable Development Institute (MSD) was implemented under the supervision and technical support of RED Communication and Pro NGO!
This baseline report has been prepared for the Project: “Win-Win For Vietnam – A Cooperation Mechanism Between Business Sector and Civil Society Organisations for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development Goals” (in short, the “Win-win for Vietnam” project) with the financial assistance of the Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam. The “Win-win for Vietnam” project is implemented by the Research Institute for Development Communication (RED Communication) and Pro NGO! e.V. This study was conducted from February to May – 2021 with the quality participation of 108 businesses, 65 CSOs, and experts in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)/Creating Shared Value (CSV) and Sustainable Development Goals. (SDGs)
1. 64% of business respondents perceived themselves to have a good understanding of CSR/CSV with the actual practice of CSR/CSV projects; 61% of the businesses perceived themselves to have clear ideas about SDGs and implemented SDGs-related initiatives. 60% of CSO respondents perceived themselves with a high level of awareness about SDGs. 40% of enterprises and 30% of CSOs perceived themselves to have a high level of awareness about the Nation Action Plan for SDGs toward Agenda 2030.
2. Both businesses and CSOs considered SDG8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDGs 3 (Good health and well-being), SDG 4 (Quality education), SDG 13 (Climate action), and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals) as their current priorities; however, CSOs also focused on SDGs 1 (No poverty), SDG 5 (Gender equality), SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities), SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities). Likewise with the SDG focus envisioned in the next five years, priorities to SDG 3, SDG 4, SDG 8, and SDG13 were perceived as priorities by most businesses and CSOs, yet CSOs also added SDG 5, and SDG 10 as their focus while business considered more to environmental goals of SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation) and Goal 7 (Affordable and clean energy).
3. 84% of surveyed companies believe that each region in Vietnam has specific social issues to be addressed. Though the top three urgent needs throughout the country include Disaster Relief, Infrastructure, and Clean Water and Sanitation, the order of priorities is different by region.
The prioritized provinces to implement their CSR/CSV programs of business are rural or mountainous areas – almost in the list of poor provinces in the 30A Programme of the Government of Vietnam. The more focused areas are Tay Nguyen, the Mekong Delta, Northern inland, and Northern Centre of Vietnam.
4. From the business’s perspective, nearly 90% of business respondents considered brand values as the strongest driving force for their CSR/CSV projects toward SDGs, however, some external driving forces including demands from clients and suppliers have become increasingly important. The most significant values that CSR/CSV practices contribute to the business include (1) Increasing the connection with the community and social organizations; (2) Increasing the brand value, and (3) Improving loyalty and employee satisfaction.
5. There has been a shift from CSR engagement and management to SDGs engagement. Every 7 in 10 companies have mainstreamed sustainability and social and environmental impacts into the business development strategy. In addition, the CSR/CSV is becoming more professional and of responsibilities of the high-level leadership of the business. In this sense, it would be better- managed and more associated with the whole corporate strategy for more responsible operation. However, the surveyed companies found difficulties in evaluating the value and social impacts of their CSR/CSV work and many have not been ready for doing the Sustainability or ESG (environment, social and corporate governance) reports.
6. 72% of surveyed companies had the budget for CSR/CSV activities or were willing to allocate the budget and intend to prepare a budget for CSR/CSV activities. Companies with an understanding of CSR/CSV have the possibility to have an available budget 5.25 times higher in comparison with companies without a clear understanding of CSR/CSV. In the plan for the period 2021 – 2025, more than 50% of companies have increased their CSR/CSV budget and a majority of surveyed companies respond that COVID-19 turmoil has no effects or even triggers an increase in the CSR/CSV activities.
7. A majority of surveyed companies acknowledged the role of CSOs in achieving SDGs besides government and private sector and similarly, almost all CSO respondents highly appreciated the critical role of the business in addressing SDGs-related issues. 84% of surveyed companies had the intention and willingness to cooperate with civil society organizations (CSOs) in CSR/CSV activities, in which half of them have had a certain level of experience working with CSOs. 97% of CSOs expressed their strong willingness for and interest in partnership with businesses in realizing SDGs. SDG 4, SDG 3, SDG 1, SDG 8, SDG 5, and SDG 13 were prioritized by most of CSOs in seeking partnership with businesses while the top 5 SDGs, prioritized by businesses in seeking partnership with CSO, include, SDG 4, SDG 3, SDG 14 (Life below water), SDG 8, SDG 6.
More than half of both business (55%) and CSOs (65%) respondents expressed their interest in joining the “Win-win for Vietnam” project in the period of 2021 – 2024.
8. From both the perspective of CSOs and businesses, the advantages have much outweighed the challenges among most of the factors related to the SDGs-related activities implementation. The main advantages are enhanced communication performance, improved transparency and accountability, improved awareness and participation of the employees in CSR activities, government recognition, network expansion, etc. The main challenging factors are Administrative; Performance and cost, Sustainability and Tax exemption – refund.
When businesses and CSOs join together, in businesses’ experience, “Transparency and Accountability” become the first determinant to maintain the relationship, then the high rate of KPIs performance and professionalism and the communication capacity. They are also the reasons the business reduces partnerships with CSOs. It reflects that though “Brand Value” is the top driving force of companies to do CSR/CSV, they would like to find and maintain the relationship with CSOs in CSR/CSV activities not as communication agencies but be trust partners for social impacts.
9. Key barriers inhibiting the CSO-business partnership: from the business’s perspective, the barriers include (1) the lack of transparency and accountability, (2) weak/insufficient capacity, including communication capacity, and (3) businesses unable to access qualified CSOs; while those perceived by CSO include (1) incompatible approach; (2) the lack of business awareness on SDG and/or non-profit sector; (3) business “over-focus” on communication/marketing purpose.
10. Over 70% of both business and CSO respondents believe that networking-related activities (i.e., networking events, sharing workshops, etc.) are of critical importance to strengthen the partnership between the two sectors.
In addition, to enhance the CSR/CSV/SDG practices, over 70% of the business respondents claim the critical importance of communication activities to help businesses with awareness raising about this area; over 60% of businesses highly recommend capacity-building activities for enterprises (i.e., training, consultations, information sharing events, audit and certification, etc.), and CSR/CSV/SDG network building.
For a better partnership with the business sector, nearly 75% of the CSOs expect to improve their corporate partnership development; about 60% of the respondents express their need for improving their capacity for fundraising from the business sector, strategic communications, and organizational development strategies; approximately 40% need further capacity building on SDGs, and project management.