Why CSR (with ECF) ?

The Eye Care Foundation has been invited to share our experiences in collaborating with companies as their CSR partner. We are an international NGO with a field office in HCMC. 80% of all low vision and blindness can be prevented or treated. Our aim is to make sure this can be achieved in the Mekong Delta.

About the term CSR

The term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been used and misused for many types  of activities. Many definitions can be found. To us the bottom line is that a company is aware of its role in society and would like to contribute in a positive way to achieve further development and healthy progress of this society.  This way the company can also grow and be ensured of sustainable business. Actions can be stand alone (e.g. pay for 10 cataract operations) and short term effect, but also more aimed towards the actual development. (e.g. training school nurses to detect eye problem at an early stage).

The main reasons to get involved with CSR

In our contact with companies we hear many different motivations for CSR:

1.       Innovation:  e.g. better use of resources, environment,

2.       Cost saving: e.g. less packaging,

3.       Brand differentiation,

4.       Customer/community engagement,

5.       (Future) employer engagement: e.g. people are proud to work for the company,

6.       Giving back to the region,

7.       Personal affinity.

With brand differentiation and customer /community engagement you can demonstrate to consumers and the media that you look beyond your own profit margins on short term. These days consumers value social responsibility and are often willing to pay more for the products if CSR has been explained well.

For this reason, evidence of a healthy social responsibility policy can impact buying decisions of potential  customers. This, in turn, can lead to greater profits for a business. However, building a highly regarded and trustworthy reputation is more valuable in this instance, and observers appreciate that social responsibility initiatives take time to establish and manage.

Furthermore, being part of a scheme that helps disadvantaged people or those otherwise in need can help boost morale for employees within the responsible company and attract future employees.  Often there are also volunteer possibilities that give employees the opportunity to develop their different skills set and to build the team. Knowledge that a product and service has a great influence on social causes can be greatly appreciated by employees, customers and business owners.

When the importance of social responsibility is recognized as part of a business's foundation, the impact of initiatives can have life-changing consequences for beneficiaries, make (future) employees feel proud and work toward its growth. A business can grow with or without social responsibility, but doing good for others allows a business harvest success in other areas as well.

We notice it differs per company how much one reason weighs versus the other. Most of the time there are 3 to 4 main reasons to engage in CSR.


How do these reasons match with our cause?

In our case we set up projects related to the prevention and treatment of low vision and blindness in the Mekong Delta. The impact of our actions is big. We educate people to detect and treat eye defects, built infrastructure and make people aware that something can be done about bad eye sight.

Imagine the difference it makes if a child does not have to drop out of school or can reach it’s potential. Or the grandparents that can take care of their grand children after a cataract operation, so their children can go to work. The social economical impact is big. It is the empowerment of progression for a whole geographical area.

We see reason no. 4-7 as main reasons to collaborate with the Eye Care Foundation. We have designed programs and activities in which we can include volunteers of organizations and share stories from the beneficiaries about the impact of the support given.

We have partners that commit to 1 activity, but also those with whom we have a long term relation and  multiple year programs to support a specific geographical area.

How do our partners organize CSR?

No matter how you organize it, it is good that a company  knows what it wants to achieve, whether to organize it yourself or if you want to ‘outsource’ it. An execution partner like the Eye Care Foundation can assist in making a plan in line with budget and wishes, has the knowledge of what are effective interventions and can arrange volunteer opportunities and communication. 

This could be done in a “contractor” relation, but also in a much more collaborative setting. Beware that apart from the actual activities there will be a handling fee for the organization to arrange part of the activities, develop items themselves and do innovation. This way the CSR project can be up to date to match the modern and innovative companies.

We see a lot of variation in the way our partners organize CSR. If the reasons are more based on innovation and cost saving it affects the daily business more and becomes a part of marketing and strategy. Otherwise it is considered to be effective as a marketing, communication and HR tool.

Other question to ask yourself are:

Ø  Active volunteer involvement or not?

Ø   Tax deductable? (important or not?)

Ø   Impact on internal organization: out source all to unburden organisation?

Ø   Communication strategy: What kind of communication material do I want? (before, during, after) and use of company logo (if yes under what conditions?)

How to start?

This is basically your plan, do, check and act cycle. In the plan phase a needs assessment will help you to get a good view of the needs on both sides: your company and the cause. For the organization it is important what the reason is for CSR and what you  wish to achieve for your organization. For the cause it is good to see what the actual need is and what you can do to bring a sustainable solution or relief.

To be effective it is good to identify what stakeholders there are. How can you empower or support those people and organizations who play a role in the area you want to support?

The result of the needs assessment and the stakeholder analyses will need to be laid down in a strategy plan which describes how the goals are linked to the mission and vision. But also how the reasons for CSR become reality.  Ideally you already describe how you want to monitor result and effects.

Before implementing the strategy it is good to assess your existing resource base and internal support you can receive for the program. You may wish to undertake a less formal assessment. At least look at: available time within the organization, budget and staff resources (willingness to volunteer?).

When all is ok you can start implementation. A lot of times evaluation is skipped. We believe it is important to improve the effect of the CSR activity and the relation with our donors. This way improvements can be made.


Do you feel eager to get started? We would love to explore the possibilities with you! For further questions please contact the Eye Care Foundation via mdaggers.ecf.vn(@)gmail.com or check 

Article by Mark Daggers - Senior Project officer at Eye care Foundation



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