CreditEase’s “YiNongDai” Project and Finding the Right CSR Partner

CDB's 2015 report on "Effective Communication and Cooperation between Chinese NGOs and Businesses"

中文 English

This article is part of CDB’s Special Focus on ‘Effective Communication and Cooperation between NGOs and Business’. It originally formed the sixth case study in CDB’s latest research report which we released in July 2015 (you can view the original here).  Over the next few weeks we will be publishing translations of the ten case studies contained in that report. The case studies detail partnerships between Chinese NGOs, foundations, and businesses.

Editor’s Note: The first half of this article discusses NGO-CSR relations. The CreditEase case study can be found halfway down.



Businesses often interpret “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) differently. Businesses also require of their NGO partners a multitude of goals. What type of business can develop to become an important partner for NGOs?

Finding the right CSR partner

There are various ways of categorizing businesses. For example, in terms of the size, businesses can be categorized as large, medium-sized companies, and small businesses. In terms of the ownership structure, there are domestic private ownership, state ownership, foreign ownership, diversified ownership and so on. Furthermore, different sectors and industries, for instance, manufacturing, energy, IT and financial industry, will have different focus areas for CSR. Other factors, such as local culture and beliefs, objectively contribute to the formation of businesses’ cultural gene as well. NGOs have to identify and determine their potential partners. They also need to understand and answer the following questions: what are the characteristics of corporate-NGO partnerships and requirements demanded by different sectors and types of businesses at different stages of development? At what levels can public interest NGOs and corporations reach a consensus and seek cooperation? How can these two pool efforts to promote corporate-NGO partnerships beyond the limitation imposed by the concept of “resources input/output”, in order to become effective contributors in society together?

A diagram prepared by CSR expert Fu Lin (originally published in China Development Brief 2013 Summer Volume) analyzes CSR requirements and performances of businesses at different stages of development. Fu divides businesses’ stages of development into 1) start-up/growth stage aiming at existence and survival, 2) maturity stage at which the business has become more comprehensive and systematic and finally 3) transition stage. This can help public interest NGOs to better analyze businesses. All businesses will go through the inception, start-up, growth, and mature stages as they develop. They will create greater values, become more rational, and improve their performance. As mentioned before, businesses at different stages of development will often have different approaches to CSR.

It is important for public interest NGOs to pay attention to a business’ stage of development. Multinational corporations are usually at the mature stage while most of the domestic Chinese businesses are at the growth stage. Concerning CSR investment, businesses at the mature stage tend to make more substantial investments in CSR, due to the maturity and stability of their markets. International companies usually give their preference to crucial global issues, often associated with goals such as the UN’s MDG’s (Millennium Development Goals), international human rights standards, and climate change agreements. Obviously, obtaining the Chinese government’s approval and recognition is still the biggest task for them in China. Thus, they are concerned with integration into the community and their employee volunteer program.

When survival is no longer a struggle for the business, greater emphasis will be placed on its long-term development. International companies at the mature stage have their own unique strategies. Business have different strategies to meet the localization requirements for the Chinese market. For some companies, the headquarters designate the CSR issues or areas vertically to their subsidiaries or branch offices, but they will not lay down specific requirements on which NGO partners to choose. For others, the CSR Departments are relatively more independent due to the large scale of the Chinese market. Chinese subsidiaries can freely decide and choose which CSR issues to tackle. Some topics on local issues in China will also be considered. How businesses choose their NGO partners highly depends on their annual strategies. For instance, the company might focus on environmental issues in one quarter but emphasize educational issues in the next quarter. Yet, this does not mean that the company’s CSR projects do not follow a pattern. Once the company chooses the CSR area that it will focus on, the life cycle of its CSR focus area is not calculated or determined on the quarterly basis. Instead, in general businesses need a degree of continuity. When doing annual strategic planning, businesses only make some slight changes for those mature projects at the implementation level and seldom reshuffle them. Otherwise, this would increase the operating costs and cause inefficiency to both the owners and employees.

The culture, competitiveness and product positioning of the business will also affect the choice of its CSR focus area. Take Intel as an example. When it decides on its CSR projects, it might select those related to its core competencies, such as education, innovation or high-technology. If a cosmetics company in China targets women, it might take on the mission of enhancing the well-being of women. For this company the All China Women’s Federation might be the preferred partner if they have little knowledge of grassroots women’s organizations. Businesses in different industries might also be concerned about gender or children’s issues. For example, an investment company might be concerned with women entrepreneurs, or a nutritional company might work on child health issues. Moreover, the CSR department of some businesses might be responsible for cause marketing, like promoting a product within a specific period of time for public welfare. The sales income then might be used for executing public interest projects by selecting and collaborating with selected local partners.

When NGOs try to match themselves with big international companies and look for shared core values, experts suggest that they can check UN’s Millennium Development Goals Report and other important global issues, which big international companies should be concerned about. Moreover, each company will provide information on areas related to CSR strategy and CSR investment on their own website. For Chinese companies, there might be a close linkage between their CSR activities and brand promotion because they are still at an early stage of growth. For most businesses, they usually have top-down decision-making styles for their internal processes. When NGOs need some financial support, the success rate of cooperation with the business is higher if the business’s top management lay emphasis on CSR. Businesses from different countries have different CSR preferences as well. For example, businesses in the UK and Italy value contributions to the community, while France has stricter environmental requirements.

Recently, changes have taken place in the CSR philosophy and practices of Chinese domestic enterprises. In 2007, the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) issued a report “A Comparative Study of the Donating Behavior of Multinational Corporations and Chinese Businesses”, comparing the difference between multinational corporations and Chinese domestic enterprises in terms of donation (as shown in the chart below). The differences concerning basic presumption and donation philosophy are as follows:

QQ截图20150918142555

At the CRO Forum in January 2015, Chen Feng, Head of Research Section 1 of Research Bureau of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) shared the impacts of the government’s efforts in promoting the development of CSR, plus the future directions. In terms of the purpose of corporate donations and relationship between businesses and environment/society, it is noteworthy that Mr. Chen mentioned that the situation now is very different from that in 2007, especially for leading Chinese state-owned enterprises, and large private enterprises such as Huawei. According to the 2007 research report mentioned above, most Chinese companies in 2007 had only a poor understanding of the concept of “social responsibility”. They held the view that economic responsibility was the main responsibility of businesses – including generating profits, paying taxes and providing jobs – and that government should undertake “social responsibility”. Many businesses were still stuck at the most basic level of the CSR Pyramid, perceiving CSR as an economic responsibility only.

However, today, CSR in China covers a wider range of issues, such as anti-discrimination, environmental responsibility, community investment and supply chain management. Some companies have sorted out and modified the terms of their internal systems which are inconsistent with their CSR policies one by one. For instance, the original recruitment system would be modified if it is found to have involved ethnic discrimination, gender discrimination or “hukou-based” discrimination, so as to reduce the company’s operational risks. In the past, local government approval was the only factor considered by big Chinese chemical companies when choosing a site to build their chemical plants. However, these chemical plants are now concerned about the growing number of NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) movements, often against PX projects or the construction of waste incinerators. As a consequence, these chemical plants now have to consider the factors of both financial returns and the reactions of local people in the process of site selection.

Many businesses have either passively or actively integrated the ideas of social responsibility and sustainable development into their strategic decisions. State-owned enterprises also now assume an active role regarding some significant social issues. Some businesses go even further to be members of international CSR networks, with their CSR projects recognized as best CSR practices by some international organizations like the United Nations Global Compact. Huawei’s CSR Department for example is equipped with great power. When Huawei wants to develop or modify a system, it should include its Sustainable Development Department in the decision-making process so that the department can help eliminate the risks found in the system or documents from the perspective of sustainable development and CSR. Concerning the supply chain management, Huawei extended the CSR requirements to all members of the supply chain. Huawei established a “Supplier CSR Committee” chaired by the chief procurement officer, with procurement supervisors and CSR experts being other committee members.

Although state-owned enterprises now place greater emphasis on CSR development, it seems that Chinese NGOs still do not get more opportunities for cooperation with them. As shown by a survey in 2011, NGOs were more likely to partner with large multinational corporations and private enterprises but there was only very limited cooperation between Chinese NGOs and state-owned enterprises. Despite few examples of successful co-operation, there are some Chinese NGOs that have tried to explore opportunities for co-operation with state-owned enterprises. Practitioners think that whether state-owned enterprises choose to cooperate with NGOs depends on two key factors. The first one is to see whether the person-in-charge of the business takes CSR seriously. Another one is whether the doubts and misunderstanding towards NGOs – which have existed for a long time – can be eliminated. State-owned enterprises have doubts about the position, purpose, abilities and strength of NGOs. In general, large state-owned enterprises tend to assign the jobs to government-backed organizations or research institutes, as they think that they are all within the same system and government-backed organizations usually have greater financial strength and good reputation. Of course, multinational corporations are also more willing to form partnerships with government-backed organizations, with the hope of building good business-government relations.

Large state-owned enterprises have taken a leading role in the field of domestic CSR. However, the majority of Chinese business participants of the UN Global Compact are still private enterprises, and there are only 15 state-owned enterprises. Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, thinks that this is likely due to the global value chain. Private enterprises are in the value chain of multinational corporations, with the incentive and records of solving the environmental and social problems. However, there are only around 300 private enterprise participants, which comprise a very small proportion of private enterprises in China. In terms of investment, taxation, employment and GDP contribution, private enterprises possess an advantage. Despite that, most private enterprises still rely on the government’s mobilization work heavily to do charitable activities like make donations. This is reflected by the fact that nearly all government departments approach businesses for money in the name of “public welfare” or “philanthropy”. The main problem faced by most Chinese private entrepreneurs now is that they cannot distinguish the concepts of “public welfare” and “philanthropy”. They also do not know which aspect they should focus on.

Private enterprises in China are at different stages of CSR. The leading ones have already begun combining their core businesses with CSR. In the case study below, we look at the Beijing-based CreditEase as an example1. Compared to many other companies, the scale of its CSR Department is much larger. Its CSR Department can help to facilitate the development of the company’s core businesses internally as well. Not only does this prevent CreditEase’s CSR Department from becoming marginalized and even closed-down during economic downturns, but it can also help to turn the department into the company’s new business “incubator”. CreditEase believes that it is meaningless to do the work if it fails to create real impacts on business development. It applies the same logic to CSR: a CSR project is not worthwhile if it cannot lead to direct strategic changes. There are several benefits of doing this. First, through helping the company to develop its own edge and the staff to develop their own expertise, it can help the company to achieve good social performance with positive effects of CSR projects. Second, it can foster the business growth and development of the company. CreditEase’s CSR Department then provides specific social responsibility projects according to the needs of different customer segments. For example, it offers investor education programmes to inculcate investors with the knowledge of wealth management or even life planning. CreditEase’s corporate volunteer team have local community or school visits to give fraud prevention advice to elderly people as well as teaching kids to manage their Yasuiqian (traditional New Year gift of money to children). For microentrepreneurs, CreditEase provides capacity-building projects. By using a variety of methods such as training programmes offered by high-end business schools, online education courses, professional expertise support, CreditEase can help these microentrepreneurs to strengthen their managerial capacities. Regarding poor rural women, in 2009 CreditEase officially launched its non-profit microfinance project YiNongDai to help them get rid of poverty and become better off. YiNongDai is CreditEase’s first CSR project and first product serving rural markets. Two years later, CreditEase introduced agricultural related services one after another, such as Inclusive Finance Wholesale Fund I, NongShangDai and agricultural machinery leasing service. Additionally, it set up Agricultural Credit Service Department, which has already built a nationwide service network covering over 60 locations and employed more than 1000 staff.

Case study: CreditEase’s YiNongDai CSR project

CreditEase, founded in 2006, is a P2P microcredit platform. By building a credit platform between debtors and creditors, funds are circulated in a targeted manner. Since the inception stage of the business, CreditEase has had a strong public welfare culture. Its founder visited Bangladesh and learned the micro-finance model of the Grameen Bank initiated by Muhammad Yunus. He witnessed firsthand how micro-finance can play a major role in helping farmers shed themselves of poverty. Muhammad Yunus’s core belief that “the poor are creditworthy and credits have value” has become a fundamental pillar of CreditEase’s strategy. Given such a background, CreditEase has had a very clear CSR positioning from the outset, always focusing on “strategic CSR”, meaning that it should be relevant to the strategic development of the company, instead of just focusing on simple short-term expenditure such as monetary donations.

CreditEase’s microfinance business has developed rapidly in urban areas since its establishment, and successfully helped a group of micro entrepreneurs, urban white-collar workers and university students solve their financial problems. In just a few years CreditEase has grown to be the leader of the Chinese P2P industry. At the same time, however, CreditEase found that its business could not benefit the low-income groups in rural areas, while helping this group of people is the main objective of many international micro-finance institutions and the inherent requirement for CreditEase’s corporate culture. Subsequently, this area is now being given attention by CreditEase’s CSR Department. CreditEase discovered that international organizations and national research institutions have already introduced and practiced microfinance in China for many years. Meanwhile, many non-profit Microfinance Institutions also already operate in rural areas. These microfinance institutions offer unsecured microfinance loans to low-income groups in rural areas, hoping to provide opportunities of self-employment and self-development for them through financial services, and foster their self-reliance and development. Nonetheless, these organizations face a developmental problem. Due to a lack of financial strength, these organizations has operated under a “low cost, low interest” model. But still their funds have been inadequate to meet the demand of poor farmers and fundraising has become the biggest problem that Microfinance Institutions need to deal with. CreditEase thus can use its accumulated experience in the P2P field to facilitate social charity funds to flow towards rural areas where there are only limited financial services available. This allows more farmers to gain their desired loans and helps non-profit Microfinance Institutions to acquire more funds.

In 2009, CreditEase established a non-profit online micro-finance service platform called YiNongDai. Its aim is to offer financial services to rural women in impoverished areas. YiNongDai has developed a new set of lending rules. CreditEase first establishes partnerships with non-profit Microfinance Institutions (MFI) in financially challenged areas. These MFIs select farmers who meet YiNongDai’s objectives from their loan applicants. Their village loan officers then conduct credit reviews for these applicants. Once the applicant passes the credit review, the MFIs will give her loan information to YiNongDai platform. Due to the cyclical nature of agricultural production projects like breeding and cultivation on which farmers will spend most of their loans, and the fact that YiNongDai platform’s fundraising takes time, the MFIs will lend money to the eligible farmers with good credit first. Later YiNongDai will put the debtor’s information online, so that supporters can access the information of rural women borrowers on the website, such as their photos, borrowing purpose, desired loan amount, desired loan amount not given, family’s financial situation, etc. The supporters thus can lend their money to these rural women through buying the debts of MFIs which the borrowers belong to. Rural women will repay the loan on time to the MFIs first, and the MFIs will then repay both the principal plus estimated 2% annualized income as thanksgiving to the benevolent lenders via YiNongDai platform. By the above means, YiNongDai conveys the farmers’ information to the society and urban lenders can change their spare funds into charity loans. This can enhance the lending capacity of MFIs to help more poor women.

YiNongDai targets farmers without any collateral. Taking such a huge risk in a CSR project was the most serious challenge that CreditEase’s CSR Department has ever encountered. If the risks cannot be effectively controlled, this would lead to the failure of this CSR project as well as threatening the future development of the company. Hence, CreditEase’s CSR Department has drawn some lessons from the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, using its “Group Lending Model” to control risks. And this approach requires CreditEase to build strong partnerships with non-profit MFIs across the country.

Most of the non-profit MFIs, which work in partnership with CreditEase, are operating as private non-enterprise units or societies like women’s development association, and women support association. The loan officers hired by these organizations usually live in the same community or even same village with the borrowers. Therefore, they are very familiar with the situation of farmers. It can help to ensure the effectiveness of credit reviews by collecting farmers’ information through these loan officers. With the liaising efforts of the loan officers, the borrowers form a co-guarantee group of three to five who are jointly liable for all loans taken out. This helps to ensure YiNongDai platform’s loan security.

At the same time, YiNongDai makes payment and settlement with MFIs each month, so as to determine the debtor-creditor relationship between the borrower and the lender. If the farmer fails to pay on time, these MFIs themselves have to repay the loan according to the agreements. For MFIs, only by safeguarding the lender’s financial security can they get constant support from YiNongDai platform. With the endeavor of the MFIs, YiNongDai platform has maintained a very high repayment rate of 100%, which has basically eliminated the worries of supporters.

XiXiang Women’s Development Association (Shaanxi Province) is one of YiNongDai’s first batch of partners. In 2005, the Association received a donation from Plan International to provide micro-finance services to local towns. However, without new funding sources, it became very difficult for the Association to increase its own funds.  Since the Association cooperated with YiNongDai in 2009, the accumulated funds obtained from the YiNongDai platform have already exceeded the amount of financial assistance received from Plan International.

Aside from providing fund for non-profit MFIs, YiNongDai also help them achieve sustainable development. Starting in 2014, YiNongDai began to encourage these institutions to help improve the infrastructure of local villages. In 2014, YiNongDai cooperated with the Grameen Foundation and the Beijing YouChange Foundation to launch the “China Poverty Scorecard Pilot Training Scheme”. The scheme is to provide instructions to YiNongDai’s partner organizations on how to use the poverty scorecard, help non-profit MFIs to measure and confirm targeted beneficiaries’ level of poverty, and monitor their progress against poverty. YiNongDai encourages these organizations to facilitate the rural community construction, such as providing training in agricultural technology, reinforcing the capacity-building of rural women, improving rural infrastructure and so on. Furthermore, YiNongDai requires these organizations to satisfy the requirement of “Public Interest Value Labels”, including “Women’s Empowerment”, “Education Support”, “Community Services”, “Business Support” and “Environment Improvement”. After being assessed, these labels will show the extent to which MFIs carry out public interest activities in the local community on the website, They can also reflect the impacts and contribution of MFIs on the local community more directly. As of May 2015, YiNongDai platform has loaned out 120 million RMB to more than 14,000 rural women. Without the help of these non-profit MFIs, YiNongDai would not have been able to perform and finish its work in such a short period of time. CSR Manager Guo Xiaorui of CreditEase describes this relationship as: “we are like two people on the two sides of the same river, who are now swimming towards the middle of the river and will meet together one day”

YiNongDai is CreditEase’s first online financial product targeting rural villages and has achieved incredible success. However, due to the limited number of non-profit MFIs in China, CreditEase soon introduced a new business project called NongShangDai, in order to allow more farmers benefit from Inclusive Finance. Through establishing its own service network in rural villages, NongShangDai is able to provide its services to more extensive rural markets. One difference between YiNongDai and NongShangDai is that the latter offers higher credit limits with wider coverage of service areas. Its target customers include urban entrepreneurs and people engaged in new rural construction. NongShangDai even explores business opportunities in new rural financial services such as supply chain finance and land circulation, and adopts the risk-based pricing rule, so as to satisfy the developmental needs of economically active farmers. Since 2011, NongShangDai has provided over 800 million RMB of credit loans and become a self-financing business unit of CreditEase. Although NongShangDai is one of the commercial products of CreditEase, it has a real impact on farmers’ lives. It lifts the idea of “peasant enrichment” to new heights on the basis of poverty eradication, and embodies the double bottom line of both business and social value that CreditEase is pursuing and advocating.

YiNongDai still maintains its non-profit nature and is written into CreditEase’s long-term strategic plans as a sustainable development project of the company. Unlike many other businesses which marginalize their own CSR departments, YiNongDai has become one of the core departments of the company. A substantial amount of internal resources in relation to capital and office space has been devoted to it. YiNongDai also gets its own independent project accounting and audit. With the efforts of nearly 30 team members, it will continue to provide assistance to poor rural communities.

CreditEase’s CSR practice gives us an insight into the trend that companies can actually combine their business models and core businesses with CSR, making full use of their competitive resources and the power of professional NGOs and NPOs, and eventually achieve balance between social and business impact.

 

 

 


  1. http://english.creditease.cn/about/Overview.html 

不同企业,相同或不同的社会责任——企业社会责任项目成为新业务孵化器

不同的企业对企业社会责任的认知有所不同,企业对合作的公益组织诉求有多个目标和层次,什么样的企业才可以发展成公益组织重要伙伴?公益组织需要区分企业类型。

划分企业类型可以有多重维度。比如企业类型在规模上,可以分为大、中型公司、小微企业。在资本属性上,有民间资本、国有资本、外资、混合所有制等; 此外,不同行业和产业部门,如制造业、能源、IT、金融等,在企业社会责任的关注点上也会有所差异。不同地区的企业群也因当地文化、信仰等因素,客观形成 了企业不同的文化基因。对于公益组织来说,确定自己的潜在伙伴,需要了解不同产业部门、不同成长期的不同类型企业,对公益组织合作的不同诉求和特点在哪 里?在哪些层面上可以有共识和合作?如何形成合力,推动公益组织与企业的合作超越资源输入与输出的认识局限,共同成为社会有效的建设者?

(傅琳制图,原图刊发《中国发展简报》2013年夏季刊)

 

上图为CSR专家傅琳分析在不同发展阶段的企业在企业社会责任上的不同诉求和表现时所制。她将企业发展阶段分为求生存发展的创业成长期到完善、系统 的成熟稳定期,最终成为超越转型期。这个分析为公益组织提供一个观察企业的很好的视角,企业在发展的过程中,都会经历初创期、创业期、成熟稳定期,发展创 造更高价值,具有更理性思维,成为更卓越的企业。企业处在不同发展阶段,在企业社会责任方面也有很大的不同。

公益组织需要关注企业所处发展阶段。跨国企业多处在成熟期,中国本土的企业更多处于成长期。从CSR投资来讲,因为成熟期的企业市场稳固,它在CSR上的 投资会比较可观。国际公司比较喜欢国际范围内的重大议题,这些议可能与联合国千年发展计划相关,或者与国际人权标准、国际妇女儿童权益、气候变化、水危机 等挂钩。当然,它们在中国最大的任务仍然是得到中国政府的认可,也希望与社区融合,此外对员工志愿服务非常关注。

当企业温饱的问题已经远去,它看重的是长期发展的问题。可口可乐公司已经发展到了卓越的阶段。它早已不再研究可乐的配方怎么样,工厂内部的事儿也已经基本 解决。它会研究自然界水的问题,如水的自然流、水的污染等等。,从下面文本框中两个例子可以看到可口可乐的视野和着力点及其高超的表达力。有评论说,可口 可乐已开始从国家层面去思考品牌传播,商业性暂且不说,可口可乐正以一个践行全球社会责任的品牌去传递欢乐,这样的责任感与高度当下真是弥足珍贵。

战略方面,处于成熟期的国际公司都有独特的战略,但战略是否符合中国市场的本土化要求,不同企业也有不同定位。有些企业的CSR议题来自总部的垂直 指定,但不会具体到选择谁做合作伙伴。有的外企在中国的CSR相对独立,这与中国这个庞大的市场相关。中国分公司可以自主的选择议题,一些针对中国本土的 议题会被考虑。企业选择公益合作伙伴,与公司的每年的战略有非常大的关系,因为CSR项目要跟着公司大策略走。比如某个季度是环保议题,下个季度是教育议 题,但这并不是说企业的CSR项目捉摸不定,变化无常。公司CSR关注的领域一经确定,就不是以季度为周期来变化的。事实上,企业也需要一些可持续的项 目,每年在做策略规划的时候,对一些成熟的项目只是在执行层面有些变动,但不会经常重新洗牌,因为这对企业意味着运作成本也提升,无论对企业老板还是员 工,都是不经济的行为。企业关注哪些领域,与企业文化、企业的竞争力、企业的产品定位都有关系。例如英特尔公司是一家高科技企业,它在选择CSR项目的时 候,可能会选择与企业自己核心竞争力相关的项目,之前比较多的跟教育有关的,可能也跟创新、跟高科技项目有关;如果是一家针对女性的化妆品公司,会将提升 女性人生的幸福作为使命。在尚不了解其他民间性别公益组织的时候, 妇联也许就是首选的合作伙伴。此外,性别议题、儿童议题可以是不同产业的企业所关注的,投资公司有对女性企业家的关注,化妆品公司可能关注妇女小额贷款, 女童春蕾计划,医药、营养品公司可能关注儿童健康,学生餐桌、社区健康问题。还有的企业CSR部门会负责公益营销,比如某个产品拿出来在规定的时间里面做 一轮公益销售,销售所得可能返回到当地,选择一些好的合作伙伴再去进行一些公益项目。

公益组织寻找与企业的契合点时,对于国际大公司,专家建议可以查一查联合国千年发展报告,国际上有哪些重要大事,这些切入点应该是国际大公司非常关注的; 另外每个公司网站都有CSR战略和投资相关领域。国内公司可能要偏重于它成长期,要跟宣传品牌工作相关。此外,从企业内部流程看,很多企业有一个共通的 点,即基本上从上至下决策。当公益组织需要一些资金方面的一些支持,如果有来自高层、管理层对CSR重视,与公益组织达成合作的成功率会高。此外,不同国 家的企业在企业社会责任方面也有不同偏好。据有关研究显示,英国企业注重CSR可增加公司价值;美国企业则偏重捐助等慈善行为;英国、意大利企业注重对社 区的贡献;法国则对环境要求的强制性较大。但有些是国际通行的规则,比如劳工权益和环境友好 。

近年国内企业的CSR理念和实践也发生了变化。在2007年中国社会科学院社会政策研究中心的一项《跨国公司与中国企业捐赠行为的比较研究》 中,对比了跨国企业与国内企业在捐赠方面的差异(如下图),基本假设和捐赠理念的差异是:  在2015年1月的首席责任官论坛上,国资委研究局陈锋处长分享了政府推动CSR发展的效果及未来走向。值得关注的是,他提到的走在CSR前沿的中国国有 企业,还有华为这样的大型民企,在捐赠理念、企业与环境、社会关系方面,已经和2007年的研究结果有了不小的差异。2007年这份研究显示,在社会责任 方面, 多数国内企业对社会责任概念还不太清楚, 认为企业的责任主要是经济责任, 就是创造利润, 照章纳税和提供就业, 社会责任主要应该是政府的责任,许多企业社会责任的理念还停留在经济责任的层面上。

现在,国内企业社会责任方面已经涉及到反歧视、环境责任、社区投资、供应链管理诸多方面。在公司内部制度中,有的公司将与企业社会责任相悖的条款逐一进行 梳理修改,比如原来招聘制度中,可能涉及民族歧视、性别歧视、户口歧视都要修改出来,以免给公司带来运营风险。大的化工企业选址,过去考虑的利益相关方可 能只是地方政府,现在社区的声音也不能忽视。近年来以反垃圾焚烧、反PX项目为主要特征的以城市中产为参与主体的邻避运动,让这些化工厂在选择一个工厂做 PX项目,不仅仅要考虑财务回报,要兼顾当地民众的反应。很多企业在这方面已经被动的或者主动的要把社会责任、可持续发展的理念融入战略决策。在一些重大 社会问题上,央企也有主动的担当。一些企业进入国际网络,已经成为联合国全球契约等组织的一些非常领先的案例获得者。华为的CSR部门有非常大的权力,公 司制定、修改一项制度的时候,可持续发展部门要参与进来,它要从可持续发展的角度、从CSR的角度消除制度文件里面存在的风险,供应链管理方面,华为还将 CSR 要求延伸到整个供应链成员。公司成立采购 CSR 委员会,由首席采购官担任主席,成员为主要采购主管和CSR 专家 。

然而,公益组织似乎并未因国企在企业社会责任方面的发展而增加合作机会。在2011年的一份调查 显示,公益组织更容易跟大型跨国企业合作,与民营企业的合作比例也很高,但是跟央企、国有企业的合作比例并不高。项目执行方分析这个调查结果可能和样本选 取有关,但从企业发展阶段和对企业社会责任认知上分析,中小型草根组织和央企、国企的合作状态与这个报告调研结果相符。尽管目前成功合作的样本少,但依然 有中国本土公益组织在与国企、央企合作方面做了多年的探索。能否达成合作,实践者认为主要取决于两个因素:一个是企业相关负责人是否注重企业社会责任,第 二,长期以来对公益组织的不解和疑虑能否消除。国企对公益组织的立场、目的有怀疑,对公益组织的能力和实力也有怀疑。一般来说,大型国企更愿意把这样的工 作交给具有政府背景的机构或者研究机构,认为彼此都在体制内,并且一般有政府背景的组织实力强,名声大。当然,跨国企业出于政府公关角度,也更愿意与有政 府背景的组织合作。

专家认为,以成长期不同的视角来看国内企业与跨国企业与对公益组织的投资偏好,大多数中国企业,甚至一些耳熟能详的国内知名企业还在成长期,重要的任务还 是发展、扩大生产。尤其是民营的企业,投资公益领域的目的主要是希望树立品牌形象、做宣传,著名的如农夫山泉,把“环保捐一分钱”项目印到了水瓶上。此 外,企业也希望在做公益的过程中发现商业机会,如果与公益组织合作调研,发现某些市场需求,而这些目标群体光靠企业自身难以接触到的。

大型国有企业在国内企业社会责任方面,扮演了领先者的角色。但在参与全球契约组织的中国企业中,约有15家国企,占绝大多数的仍然是民营企业。该组织总干 事科尔认为,这与全球价值链有很大关系,民营企业一般直接处于跨国公司的价值链中,他们有动机改进在环境和社会问题上的记录 。但这近300家企业在中国整个民营企业中所占比例太过微小,总体上说,民营企业在投资、税收、就业、GDP贡献已占了绝对优势,但在企业社会责任方面, 大部分民企还靠政府动员做捐助等类型的公益慈善活动,体现在各个部门都可以以慈善公益的名义向企业要钱。大多数中国民营企业家现在面临首要的问题是还分不 清楚公益和慈善,也不知道在哪里着力。据悉,有关单位正在推动在北京的民营企业成立企业社会责任部,提升履行社会责任的专业性,减少各种摊派捐款。

民营企业处在企业社会责任的不同时期,走在前面的已经开始将企业社会责任和公司的核心业务结合到一起。宜信的企业社会责任部门规模比很多公司的都大,并在 企业内部起到促进公司核心业务发展的作用,使得CSR部门不但摆脱了一到经济危机首当其冲被裁掉的边缘状态,而且还可以具有公司新业务孵化器的功能。宜信 认为,不能带来真正业务发展的工作都是没有意义的,不能直接带来战略变化的CSR项目也都如此。因此,是否跟公司业务相关是衡量CSR项目好坏的惟一标 准。这样做的好处,一方面能发挥公司优势、员工特长取得良好的项目效果(社会绩效);另一方面,也能促进公司业务的成长。因此宜信CSR部门根据不同客户 群体的需求,提供有针对性的社会责任项目。宜信针对投资者提供投资者教育项目,培养培育他们在财富管理甚至人生规划方面的知识。宜信员工志愿者进入社区、 学校,教老年银发族防诈骗,教小朋友管理压岁钱。针对小微企业主,宜信提供能力建设项目,通过高端商学院培训、在线教育课程、专业能力支持等多种方式,帮 助小微企业主提升经营管理能力。针对农村贫困妇女,宜信于2009年正式启动宜农贷公益小额信贷项目,帮助农村贫困妇女脱贫致富。宜农贷既是宜信最早的 CSR项目,也是宜信最早服务于农村市场的产品。这个项目运作2年后,基于对于农村市场的探索,宜信公司陆续推出普惠一号批发基金、农商贷、农机租赁等涉 农服务,并成立了农贷事业部。目前这个部门,已经开设了60多个服务网点,员工超过1000人。最近,宜信发布了第二个农村5年计划——谷雨战略,宜信也 成为第一家在农村互联网金融耕耘了超过5年的企业。

案例    企业社会责任项目成为新业务孵化器

宜信公司于2006年成立,是一家提供P2P小额信用借款服务的平台,通过在借款人和出借人之间搭建信用平台来帮助资金有针对性地流转。从创业初期,宜信 就有着浓厚的“公益情怀”。其创始人在美求学时曾前往孟加拉国,向尤努斯学习格莱珉银行的小额信贷模式,亲身感受了小微金融对农民摆脱贫困的重要作用。尤 努斯的“穷人有信用、信用有价值”也成为了宜信公司的基本理念。在这样的背景下,宜信公司从一开始就有着非常明确的CSR定位——战略CSR,即企业社会 责任应该有自己的内涵,并和公司发展战略相关,而不能只热衷于捐款,捐物等简单的物质支出。

宜信成立后,其城市小额信贷业务开展得风生水起,成功帮助一批小微企业主、都市白领、大学生解决了资金难题,在短短几年内就成为国内P2P行业的领军企 业。但此时,宜信发现公司的业务还没能惠及到农村低收入群体,而帮助农村低收入群体正是国际小额信贷的初衷,也是宜信企业文化的内在要求。随后,宜信 CSR部门将目光投向了这一领域。宜信发现,在中国小额信贷已被国际组织和国内科研机构引进、实践多年,同时在农村也存在着大量以扶贫为目的的公益性小额 信贷机构。这些小额信贷机构为农村低收入人群提供无需抵押担保的小额度信用贷款,希望通过金融服务为低收入农户提供自我就业和自我发展的机会,促进其走向 自立和发展,但这些机构普遍面临着发展困境。由于缺乏一定的资金实力,一直在“低成本、低利息”的情况下运作,机构的资金始终无法满足贫困农户的需求,于 是筹款成了这些小额信贷机构的第一难题。而宜信恰好可以通过在P2P领域积累的经验来促进社会上的爱心资金有针对性地流向金融服务稀缺的农村,让公益性小 额信贷机构获得更为充足的资金,让更多农户获得其所需的借款。于是,宜信将目标放到了中国留守农妇这个群体上。她们大多生活贫困,因为家庭的束缚无法出门 打工,但在有好的农业项目需要资金时,又难以满足银行“抵押贷款”条件。宜信想为这些信用好、但又没办法拿到银行贷款的农妇提供资金,帮扶其摆脱贫困。

2009年,宜信在CSR的战略规划下创立了公益性互联网信贷助农平台——“宜农贷”,为信用度高的农村妇女提供方便快捷的金融服务。宜农贷开发了一套新 型借贷规则,首先宜信与贫困地区的公益性小额贷款机构(MFI)建立合作关系,由这些机构从申请借款的农户中,选择符合宜农贷帮扶目标的农户,并由机构的 村级信贷员对其进行信用审查。审查通过后机构会将农户的贷款信息提供给宜农贷平台。由于农户借款大多会投入到养殖、种植等农业生产项目,有很强的周期性, 而宜农贷平台的爱心筹款又需要一定时间,于是对于符合条件且信用良好的借款农户,小额信贷机构会将借款先行提供给农户,与其形成借贷关系。之后宜农贷会将 借款人的信息放到网上,爱心人士在网站上可以清晰地看到借款农妇的照片、借款用途、期望借款金额、尚未满足的借款金额以及家庭经济情况等信息,并通过向借 款人所在的机构购买债权的方式将资金出借给农户。农妇按期将借款资金还给小额信贷机构,通过宜农贷平台,小额信贷机构会再将本金和预期2%的年化感恩收益 一起还给爱心出借人。通过此种方式,宜农贷将农户的信息直接推送给社会,城市出借人可以将富裕资金转化为爱心借款,从而提高机构的借贷能力,帮助更多贫困 妇女。

宜农贷面向的都是没有任何抵押的农户,而在一个CSR项目中引入如此大的风险是宜信CSR部门遇到的最严峻的挑战。如果不能对风险进行有效控制,这个 CSR项目不仅会失败,还可能威胁到公司的未来发展。因此,宜信CSR部门借鉴孟加拉“乡村银行”的“小组联保”方式控制风险。而这一方式,就要求宜信跟 各地的公益性小额信贷机构建立牢固的合作关系。

与宜信合作的公益性小额信贷机构大多以妇女发展协会、妇女互助会等或民非或社团的方式存在着。这些机构聘请的信贷员往往就是本乡甚至本村人,对于区域内借 款农户的情况非常了解,通过他们来收集农户信息就充分保证了信用审核的有效性。在信贷员的联系下,三到五户有借款需求的农户结成一个联保小组,互相承担连 带责任。利用这种扎根于农村的稳固的邻里关系,小组联保模式可以天然地将信用不好的人排除在外。比如,借款人有赌博、欠款不还等不良记录,就无法找到其他 村民一起联保,从而保证了宜农贷平台的借款安全。

另外,从一开始,只借钱给妇女就是宜农贷的一大特点。小额信贷多年的实践和研究证明,妇女普遍有着较好的信用,并且对家庭和儿女更有责任感,她们赚来的钱大多都用于改善家庭的贫困状况,并且妇女的流动性比男性小很多。这些都是降低借款风险的有利因素。

与此同时,宜农贷会在每月和这些小额信贷机构进行借贷结算,明确借贷双方的债务关系。若农户不能按时还款,这些小额信贷机构需要按照协议代为偿还。对于小 额信贷机构而言,只有全力维护出借人的资金安全,才能够从宜农贷平台获得稳定的支持。在小额信贷机构的努力下,宜农贷平台还款率一直保持着百分之百的极高 水平,基本上消除了爱心人士的后顾之忧。

陕西西乡县妇女发展协会是宜农贷第一批的合作伙伴。协会从2005年得到了国际计划捐赠的小额信贷本金164.4万元后就开始在当地乡镇开展小额信贷服 务。但是由于没有新的资金来源,自有资金增加量非常有限。2009与宜农贷合作后,短短几年,协会从宜农贷平台累计获得的资金量就已远远超过国际计划的资 助。而在为公益性小额信贷机构提供资金支持之外,宜农贷也帮助其实现社会绩效的可持续发展。2014年宜农贷联合格莱珉基金会及北京友成普融信息咨询有限 公司开展中国贫困计分卡试点培训,为宜农贷合作机构讲解贫困计分卡的使用方法,帮助小额信贷机构确定其帮扶人群的贫困水平,监测他们脱贫的进度,宜农贷鼓 励这些机构完善农村社区建设,诸如开展农业技术培训、加强农村妇女能力建设、改善农村基础设施等等,并设置了通过公益价值标签的要求,包括“妇女赋权”、 “兴教助学”、“社区服务”、“创业支持”、“环境改善”等,这些标签经过评估以后,会在网站展示出小额信贷机构在当地社区开展公益性活动的程度,更加直 观地反映小额信贷机构对当地社区的影响和贡献。截至2015年5月,宜农贷平台出借金额已达到1.2亿元,帮助了14000余名农妇。没有这些小额信贷机 构的帮助,宜农贷不可能在这么短的时间完成这么高效的工作。“我们就像一条河边的两个人,现在都在往中间游,一定会在河中间碰面”,宜信CSR经理郭肖蕊 这样比喻这些小额信贷类NGO与企业的关系。

宜农贷作为宜信第一款面向农村的互联网金融产品,取得了成功。但由于国内公益性小额信贷机构的数量有限,为了能让更多农户得到普惠金融的服务,宜信很快推 出了一个新的商业项目——农商贷,通过建立宜信自身在农村的网点,服务更加广泛的农村市场。与宜农贷不同的是,农商贷所提供的贷款额度更高,服务地域也更 加广泛,服务人群则覆盖了城镇创业者、新农村建设者。农商贷甚至还探索供应链金融,土地流传等新型农村金融服务,采用风险定价原则,以此满足经济活跃农户 的发展需求。从2011年以来,农商贷已累计放款8亿多元,成为自负盈亏的公司业务部门。从CSR中孵化出商业项目,是宜信在种种争议下迈出的大胆的一 步。但如果反观宜信的CSR理念,可以发现这其实一点都不违背公司的价值观——农商贷虽然是公司的商业产品,但能给农民带来真正的帮助,并且可以在脱贫的 基础上将农民致富带到一个新的高度,充分体现了宜信提倡的商业价值与社会价值并重的双底线追求。

现在,宜农贷依旧保持着非盈利的性质,并且作为公司的可持续发展项目被写进了公司的长期战略报告。与很多企业把CSR部门边缘化不同,宜农贷成为了公司核 心部门之一,在资金、办公场地上得到许多内部资源的倾斜。“宜农贷”也拥有了独立的项目核算和审计,并在近30位团队成员的努力下不断地为贫困农村社区提 供帮助。

从宜信的CSR实践中我们或许可以看到一种趋势——把 CSR 与企业的商业模式、核心业务相结合,运用企业的优势资源,有针对性地履行企业社会责任,并充分利用专业NGO、NPO的力量,最终帮助企业达到社会价值和商业价值的平衡。

Translated by Renata

Edited by Yuanhui Li

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