Promoting SROI in China – Sharing Successful Cases, Demonstrating SROI Methodology

Sustainable Return on Investment (SROI) featured in two Shanghai events this September, the GIZ-Syntao Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Salon on the 13th and the inaugural Sustainable Business Awards of the European Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC) on the 12th.

SROI builds on standard return on investment calculations by incorporating social and environmental considerations to assess the “true value” of corporate sustainability investments. The Shanghai events marked a milestone for the SROI initiative, which was launched by the Emerging Market Multinationals (EMM) Network for Sustainability (part of the Emerging Market Sustainability Dialogues – EMSD) in Brazil in 2014 and later expanded to Mexico and China.

Jointly organized by EMM and Syntao, a Chinese sustainability and CSR consultancy, the CSR Salon created a forum for sharing successful Chinese SROI cases, i.e., those in which businesses profited from the SROI methodology in terms of sales, risk management, reputation, etc. The event was the product of a partnership between EMM and Syntao that began in 2016. In total, successful SROI cases were presented to a group 30 CSR managers, following introductory presentations by Dr. Cinderella von Dungern, China Coordinator for EMSD, and Mr. Peng Jilai, partner at Syntao. Representatives from RGE Group, UPM and Credit Ease shared the respective cases, while expert comments were provided by Dr. Cao Xuanwei from Xi’An Jiaotong Liverpool University and Ms. Qi Tiantian, Senior Business Manager at the Shanghai Chapter of the European Chamber of Commerce.

SROI methodology, adapted to a Chinese context by EMM in collaboration with Syntao, was also incorporated into the inaugural EUCCC Sustainable Business Awards. The awards were established to reward excellence in sustainable and CSR initiatives and raise awareness about sustainable business practices. During the awards, SROI calculations were used to provide judges with quantitative data on the social and environmental contributions of applicant entries.

Speaking at the ceremony as the representative of GIZ-EMSD, the Technical Partner of the awards, Dr. von Dungern provided the audience and contestants with an introduction to SROI methodology. The three award categories, namely, Innovation Leadership, Best Responsible Business Model and Outstanding Sustainable Performance, were won by SAP, L’Oreal and Tetra Pak, respectively.

Through sharing successful SROI cases and demonstrating SROI methodologies among both CSR practitioners and the wider business community, EMM helps companies and investors recognize the rewards of sustainability projects. This creates incentives for further sustainability investments at a time when private sector contributions to sustainable development are urgently needed.