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Corporate Social Responsibility trends in Taiwan

On 17 March the ECCT's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) committee hosted a lunch with guest speaker Gennie Yen, Co-founder & President of Veda International Corporation. The speaker offered some insights on CSR trends in Taiwan based on the 2014 Taiwan Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report Survey issued in late January 2015 by CSROne, the largest sustainability report platform in Taiwan.

The report is based on CSR reports made available by 151 companies operating in Taiwan (mostly Taiwanese firms but including nine foreign-owned firms). While the total number may not seem high given the thousands of Taiwanese SMEs, the activities of the companies account for over 80% of Taiwan's GDP, according to Yen.

Yen noted that there were very few companies represented from the retail and chemical industries in the survey. She speculated that this was possibly on account of the explosions in Kaohsiung and the number of food-related scandals in 2014, which may have made companies in these sectors unwilling to disclose details of their operations. 50% of the reports were verified by third parties such as professional testing and certification firms or one of the four large accounting firms.

According to the report's findings operational (economic) performance" remains the top issue in Taiwan while "climate change" has been ranked as a top risk issue by most businesses. 32% of companies in the survey include sustainability in their business models while 38% of companies disclose compensation ratios (based on gender, the ratio between the highest and lowest and compensation compared to the minimum wage in Taiwan). 58% of companies in the survey have remedies for climate change. 82% have greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories and 75% have environmental management systems in place. However, most of the companies (over 90%) do not have long-term plans (beyond five years) for either environmental or social goals. This is very low by international standards.

The most popular CSR programmes being implemented by the companies in the survey are related to knowledge or education.

While the majority of companies have high human and labour rights standards and practices, very few workers are unionized, raising questions about employer/employee relations and the consequent lack of bargaining power of employees.

Yen concluded by saying that CSR reporting should not be seen as just a public relations exercise. It is a useful tool for businesses to identify and evaluate risks and put plans in place to deal with the consequences should risks materialize into real problems.