CSI Indicators Flexible to Embrace All
Adopting the sustainable development model will leave no businesses behind, even amid economic risks, said Mr. Nguyen Quang Vinh, General Secretary of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and Executive Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), in an exclusive interview granted to our reporter. Huong Ly reports.
Businesses always bear the brunt of risks such as pandemics and natural disasters. In your opinion, what are the measures for them to increase their resilience against these risks?
The fourth resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the Vietnamese business community to face unprecedented challenges. However, actual operations of the Vietnamese business community amid COVID-19 pandemic outbreak are showing that businesses that have already built their own sustainable governance models will be more resilient, with some even finding new ways and opportunities for stronger development, let alone enduring through the pandemic.
In my opinion, this is the time for businesses to change their mindset and ways of doing business. Sustainability is not only applied by big corporations but also by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
How have sustainable development criteria been applied in the Vietnamese business community in the past?
Sustainable development is a shared global effort with 17 goals, including 169 specific targets. Vietnam already has a national action plan that integrates 17 SDGs and Vietnamese-specific goals to be included in Party documents, laws, economic development resolutions of the Party, the National Assembly and the Government. Vietnam has already achieved some sustainable development indicators of the United Nations and achieved a relatively high rank in the region (just behind Thailand). However, in order to achieve the goals set out in the next 10 years, there are still many tough challenges to overcome. Despite many advances, the expansion of sustainable development in our country is still not high. We currently have about 800,000 enterprises but only about 2,000 of them (accounting for more than 2%) are members of the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD) and only about 100,000 (nearly 15%) have access to information on sustainable development.
Would you introduce the Action Program for Sustainable Development that VBCSD is implementing in 2021?
In the 6th year of implementing directions of the Government, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), with the lead agency being the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), continues to work with the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor to organize the Program on Benchmarking and Announcing Sustainable Companies in Vietnam (CSI Program). The business community is no longer strange to sustainability criteria. However, this year, the selection criteria are revamped. Accordingly, candidates will declare information according to the CSI Index 2021 with 119 indicators grouped into four areas: Sustainable Performance Index, Governance Index; Environmental Index; and Labor-Social Index.
Besides the above contents, VBCSD has been focusing a lot of resources to inspire enterprises to apply and scale up the circular economy, because this is not only an advanced model being pursued by the international business community but also an important approach already included in the Government's economic development policies. We will also work to expand awards for circular economy within the framework of the CSI Program in the coming years.
How has CSI been modified to engage all companies regardless of their scale and scope of operation?
The most important feature of CSI 2021 is in the decentralization of indicators into three levels for different sizes of businesses. 53 M indicators are universal to all and applicable to small and micro-enterprises. 28 C indicators are for medium and large enterprises. 38 A indicators (advanced index) are designed for those which not only comply with the law but also build a healthy business ecosystem that ensures sustainable business benefits for partners and other stakeholders. Thus, to join the program, small and micro-enterprises must implement all M indicators, and perhaps declare more C and A indicators, depending on their capabilities, to get more bonus points from the organizers. Similarly, medium and large enterprises need to make sure to declare all M and C indicators and can declare A indicators as well.
By decentralizing CSI indicators in 2021 for different business sizes, we want to reemphasize and convey the message "sustainable development is not a distant, oversized thing designed only for large enterprises, but it is very practical and visualizable through good legal practices. Sustainable development can be done at all levels of enterprises. This is especially useful for the domestic business community where SMEs account for more than 95%.
Now, instead of spending a lot of effort exploring the "matrix" of information, businesses can envision an action roadmap for sustainable development for different scales of business given it matches their business strategy, plan, capabilities and future orientations. This helps them save a lot of time and resources in corporate governance towards sustainable development. By doing so, the spirit and culture of sustainable development has been spread more strongly, even to businesses that used to feel left out of development support.
Could you tell us more about new features of the CSI Program 2021?
The new features of the CSI Program 2021 also include two sub-category awards for "Gender equality in the workplace" and "Children's rights in business". These contents are of interest to the world business community, illustrating the vision of "leaving no one behind" in a sustainable business corporate culture because businesses can help improve children's lives with their responsible business policies and practices and support sustainable development. Respecting children's rights as part of a business's sustainability program will help build stronger communities, an essential factor to creating an effective, inclusive and stable business environment.
As for gender equality (GE) in the workplace, this is a significant contributor to economic growth, labor productivity, and talent attraction and retention, key factors for sustainable business development. The award is an opportunity for Vietnamese businesses to get closer to international standards on gender equality and aims to build an equal, diverse and sustainable working environment.
CSI is not a fixed goal. Changes will continue after six years of adaptation because the vision of “leaving no one behind” will bring other important changes in the strategic thinking of the business community.
Thank you very much!
By: Vietnam Business Forum
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