The three virtues of a Chinese CSR Manager

Now that I have been living more than three years in China, I want to write down three virtues I have discovered in successful CSR minded managers in China. These virtues are not what I have invented, but what I have seen working successfully in China. None if these ideas are my own, they come from the synergy of events of people who are working hard in China to make a more sustainable future..What does a virtuous, a successful Chinese CSR minded Manager look like?

1.  The Chinese CSR Manager is more keen on Balance than ultimate solutions.

To explain this, I have to dig a little deeper in the philosophy of the West and the East, and forgive me if I take an academic shortcut, I write for business people, not scientists.  The Western perception of a problem or challenge and its solutions, is based on a linear timeline of events: there is a sort problem at point A in Time, we start fixing it in point B in Time, and we hope to arrive at a solution in point C in time. Prof Bill Valentino has been working in CSR in Asia for more than 20 years, and has seen that this Western vision does not work well with the vision on problem solving in a time frame that is more a time –continuum space: an acrobat holding different plates up high at the same time, will have to balance the different interests to keep the whole event working. And CSR Managers of an Asian background have confirmed this to me: they are more much more aware than their Western Counterparts that those sustainability problems and challenges are here to stay. We should balance out more in the direction of a green solution, but none the less we will never end in Utopia.

2.The Chinese CSR Manager is keener on things that work right than what is right.

I love to look around in Beijing and I love the little practical solutions people make to fix bikes, cars, houses, pipes streets etc. The inventiveness is endless en sometimes funny to see, but here it doesn’t seem to matter what it looks like, as long as it works. One example is a woman who I saw in the hot summer wearing her child’s spare pants on top on her head as a sunshield: this would be unthinkable strange in a Western Country and here it’s so normal. The same goes for CSR minded managers here in China; if it works, its good: a ping pong table or providing a washing machine may seem a ridiculous or out-of –the-box measure as a way of preventing high turnover in the West, here it works; so it is good. Directors can work with this idea when trying to implement CSR in China: show casing how CSR works (gives a profit, lower turnover, less risk) would do more good than a moral stance

3.The Chinese CSR Manager is the boss and needs to listen more carefully.

In the Confucian Society all people need to obey those who are posted above them: the younger to the older brother, the wife to her husband, the laymen to the landlord, etc. Obeying is the one side of the story, the other is that Confucius and other Chinese scholars paid a great deal of attention on Leadership skills for the Leaders: they have to be wise, patient, Balanced, and listen to the people below them. This could be a great way to start thinking in stakeholder engagement in a Chinese Style: how to facilitate this listening? How can a boss get the best information? A Management team in China can discuss this together, and improve the CSR process in a company for the better.

 Next year: the four virtues of the Chinese CSR Manager…