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CSR S Stories C Can’t Be C Created From Th Air hin
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CSR a Lanx at xess
German Chemical group, Lanx n xess, recent spun off from its tly f Bayer heritage in 2 2004 in Sing gapore. The group’s co e ore busines comprise of the dev ss es velopment a and sale of plastics, rubber, specialty chemicals an intermed nd diates. Stron ngly believin in sustain ng nable development, the group also conside environm ers mental compatibility an social nd respons sibility to be of equal importance. e Lanxess Vice-President & Hea Corporat Communications, s’ ad te Kaye Lim who rece m, ently spoke about anal e lyzing curre Trends ent in susta ainability an CSR at th CSR Glob Summit 2009 in nd he bal Singapo ore, talks ab bout sustain nable invest tment and develop pment at Lanxess with the CSR Dig gest.


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Lanxess' Vice President & He Corpora Communications ead ate How do you get away f u from the sit tuation whe people ere CSRD: H see CSR as a PR ini R itiative? KL: May ybe we could look at La anxess’ thre main pill ee lars of the corpora social re ate esponsibility First of al we talked about y. ll, d education, education and emp powerment of youth. So we looked at areas on how we are involved. I think glob e bally, we are very active in term of spon y nsoring, for example, the r t Chemistry Olympia because we do believe in groo ad, e oming the youth so that when they graduate, there is an overall n sustaina able workfo orce in that area. So tha at’s educati ion.

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Then we have another pillar which supports the intercultural exchange, for example, the Young Euro Classicperformance which is a social exchange bringing together young musicians from the People’s Republic of China and Germany to perform together as an orchestra. We supported this in 2007 and 2008. So in many areas, I agree that corporate communications takes a lead because CSR has a major function under corporate communications. But if you look at Lanxess’ last pillar, which is environmental sustainability, no amount of PR is able to give you the concrete results about CO2 emissions, or how you protect the environment. These are not things that corporate communications can take the driver’s seat. I think what we can do, from the perspective of PR, is we look at the communication story that people understand, that people embrace and know, what the company is doing for the environment, for example, Lanxess’ efforts in reducing laughing gas (Lanxess has two laughing gas reduction units - LARA in short). In the chemistry or semiconductor or IT industry, there is a lot of jargon. So what corporate communications can do is to look at the technicalities and make people understand, but we do not create the stories from thin air. But I think what we are seeing now is really a shift towards engaging corporate sustainability beyond CSR. It is the time for us to continue to look at innovation as a means to create value to sustainability. So the case examples of LARA and Co Gen (Lanxess is building a cogeneration plant on its Brazilian site) are all examples of how we actually embrace CSR as a company. That’s why in a sense I feel it is important to point out that Lanxess is really learning and growing. But it’s not that we started from a non-conformist situation to a sudden turnaround. It was really a gradual evolution for us. CSRD: Do you have a lot of R&D, so that you have innovation in your products and processes? KL: Yes, good question. Innovation now at Lanxess is a group function. What that means is that it becomes independent. Because the way we run our company is that we’re very business group focussed. Having an innovation business group, which is independent, gives it a lot of credibility to look into process innovation and product innovation. Sometimes, it is not that you need to totally need to re-invent the wheel, or create a new invention, but really it just going through the whole value chain. So we’re really excited about what the innovation function will be able to bring forth for all of us in various business groups. CSRD: So just to understand, innovation is a separate business unit but then it covers your whole entire business including IT to HR. But don’t they need to be part of a particular business group to be able to understand how to innovate within that business group? KL: Good question. I think I should also explain that, all the while, innovation is within the company. So each business unit has already its own innovation R&D team, but we know there’s a need to create a special unit so that we are able to look at processes, so that they can be shared between different business units and to see those synergies. CSRD: Do you think CSR is a trend? KL: I don’t think it is a trend. I would say that it is a mega trend that will last. I think CSR is more of a philosophy, which should not go away. CSRD: How can the business avoid the situation where public sees CSR activities as just PR? KL: At the end of the day, I believe it boils down to the deliverables. I think there must be concrete evidence in terms of what that programme has contributed. I still do not believe that any amount of PR can really disguise any lack of concrete evidence. CSRD: Do you think businesses should cut back on what they are doing in term of CSR during an economic downturn?



KL: I think we have to be pragmatic. As a company, employees are of course the most valuable resource. And if the company is not doing well, everything needs to be done to save jobs and the people. I think if you talk about other CSR activities, they need to be reevaluated very closely. Any programmes you run will be secondary to what you need to do at the immediate level. CSRD: How can businesses use the economic downturn to their advantage in term of CSR effort? KL: From how we see things, during a downturn people’s livelihood are affected. So education is an area that we can be engaged in - like paying the tuition fees in India or cultivating talents with chemistry students. I think this should not go away, in fact, it should continue. In term of sustainability, I think, it should continue whether there is a downturn or not. I think there are ways to continue the momentum. Perhaps during the downturn, there might be better opportunities, for example, lower cost of raw materials in a cogeneration plant. CSRD: CSR have different faces in different region? What do you think is the face of CSR in Asia or South East Asia? KL: I think we take a lot of cues from Western World. If we look at other initiative like consumer rights, again Asia Pacific will always look to the West because they are more developed in that area. Similar with CSR. Because the way in which we do business is more global in nature. So I think with this global borderless way of trading, we find these practices will find their way to Asia in a more seamless manner. I think we still need to continue to take cues from the West, but I do believe that in longer term, CSR in Asia will take on its own colour and its own light, because CSR at the end of the day needs to be localised. I do believe Asia will be able to begin to develop its own practices that the West will be able to adopt. Even Confucius teaches us all about doing good and giving back to society, so that it is inherent with Asian cultures in the first place. I don’t think it is something new. It is just how we incorporate that in our practices. These values have always been inherent in Asia Pacific cultures.



Ms. Lim at the CSR Glo obal Summit CSRD: M More and m more charita able bodies o NGOs run their oper n rations like businesses, while more an more bu nd usinesses ha giving o charitable arms. What do you th ave or e hink of this develop pment? KL: For me, in term of how N ms NGOs should be run, or how comp d r panies should be run, first and f foremost, I think corporate go overnance is important because a company m t must be account table, ethica not just economica ally t ally, to your stakeholde r ers. I think, NGOs shou be uld as well, sometimes people ma say even more so, because a lo of public give their fu s ay b ot unds to the organization. If you look a enough S at Singapore ca studies, there’s gro ase owing senti iments that NG GOs must re eally be acco ountable. I’v no deep concern in the structure but I’d like to ve see tran nsparency w whether in a NGO or a company, especially w an whenever th deal wit CSR. hey th CSRD: A advice to students who want to work in CSR or in a social enter Any s C rprise or NG GO? KL: I think any stud dents who w want to mov into this area must understand that CSR is a very ve d s wide fie eld. And eac field is also very spe ch ecialized. To have a core understa o anding is ve ery crucial. The cho oice of work king with an NGO or co n orporate is down to a p d person’s pas ssion becau use, no matter w what, each organizatio has its ow priority. It is important to be v on wn very clear. To me, I went into a corporati ion that holds CSR clos to its hea not just something which se art, g is nice t have or a one-off ini to itiative. I think that kin of work is more fulfilling becau nd use, then, w find that the compan will look at it long-te we ny erm and be valued by i stakehol its lders. It is a very crucial cri y iterion to th hose who wa to ventu into this area.◊ ant ure s


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