Firms investing abroad urged to pay attention to corporate social responsibility

Vietnamese firms should focus on environmental protection and corporate social responsibility when investing abroad to develop sustainably and promote the socio-economic development of their host countries, experts have urged.

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A rubber project run by Hoang Anh Gia Lai in Laos. (Source: nld.com.vn)

The existing legal system does not clearly state the corporate responsibility of overseas projects operated by Vietnamese firms. However, firms cannot ignore corporate responsibility if they want their projects to develop and bring long-term economic benefits.

According to Pham Quang Tu from Oxfam Vietnam, when investing abroad, Vietnamese firms must clearly understand the legal system about social and environmental protection, respect the cultural heritages of the host country and consult those who could be affected by their projects before implementation.

In addition, social and environmental impact reports must be conducted together, ensuring compliance with the host countries’ regulations, he said.

Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hoang Quang Phong said that due to a lack of awareness of international laws, host countries’ laws, the cultures and customs of local people and agreements signed between governments, a number of overseas projects had not achieved their goals.

Vietnamese firms must change their investment methods towards sustainable development and promote corporate social responsibility to avoid problems which might negatively affect their own benefits, the socio-economic development of the host country and the image of Vietnam in overseas markets, Phong said.

He stressed that the Vietnam’s policies for investing abroad should be raised towards approaching the international practice to create favourable conditions for firms to improve themselves and contribute to promoting international cooperation.

Global Witness, a non-Government organisation, urged the Vietnamese Government to strengthen the provision of instructions to Vietnamese firms on environmental and social risk management in overseas markets.

The biggest difficulty for firms investing abroad was insufficient awareness of the legal system of the host country and regulations under international conventions, said Nguyen Thi Hai, deputy director of the Dak Lak Rubber Joint Stock Company. In addition, firms had not yet fully assessed the risks related to the culture and customs of the local people, which existed a significant barrier, she said.

According to Dinh Trong Thang from the Central Institute for Economic Management, it was necessary to have an agency to provide instructions in investing abroad, stressing the role of business associations.

Statistics from the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment showed that Vietnamese firms invested 432.2 million USD in 38 countries and territories in 2018. Laos was the largest destination for Vietnamese investment with 81.5 million USD, followed by Australia with 55.5 million USD and the US with 53 million USD.

VNA