Research Update: Product social metrics “status quo” in China  产品社会指标评估在中国的现状分析

China shares nearly 1/4 of the global manufacturing output by value and makes almost half the world’s goods. It plays a crucial role in the global supply chain. This research is aimed to understand the status-quo of product social impact assessment in China. First the relevant policies were scanned, similar metrics were analyzed, and some related stakeholders were contacted.

Eighteen policies (laws or governmental plans) are examined, including the most recent Five-Years Plan. The company social responsibility related topics are widely mentioned in these regulations and policies. The analysis result (in Table 1) shows that the articles related to stakeholder group “workers” are plentiful and are mostly overlapping with the topics in the Roundtable Social Metrics. However, are only a few items have been found that deliberately relate to the stakeholder groups “consumers” and “local community”.

Table 1 Policy Landscape

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The relevant policies and national guidance demonstrate a high-level momentum that the government is trying to push companies to drive socially responsible practices, and the general society also starts paying an increasing amount of attention on these topics. However, the challenge is how the high-level guideline can be embedded into the company operations. Nowadays, on the CSR topics, Chinese companies put primary focus on the environmental impacts, while putting relatively less emphasis on the product-related social impacts.

The government and companies seem eager to learn from external organizations and each other, by organizing forums and collaborating projects. The Sino-Dutch CSR projects were carried out by MVO Nederland, which consists of a number of activities, including desk research, workshops, visits, government dialogue, and CSR tool development. And there was also the Sino-Swedish CSR project and other collaboration projects, aiming to share best practices. These showed the intention of the Chinese companies to learn from the front-running countries.

At the end of 2015, Chinese National Standard (GB / T 36002-2015) Guidance on Classifying Social Responsibility Performance (《社会责任绩效分类指引》) was published by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, the Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China, and the Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China. This national standard covers a broad range of topics, including Human rights, Labor practices, Fair operation practice, Consumer problem, Community participation and development, Organizational Governance, and Environment topics (see Table 2). This national guidance is officially valid from the 1st January 2016, and it is considered of great significance as the national standard will help to unify various organizations with a shared understanding of social responsibility. The guidance is expected to provide a systematic and comprehensive guidance to companies, which plays an important role in enhancing the Chinese domestic company social responsibility practices.

Table 2 Topics list of GB / T 36002-2015 Guidance on Classifying Social Responsibility Performance

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