Three ways business is giving back in emerging markets

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is changing. Gone are the days where an annual gala dinner or charitable donation to a worthy cause featured as the only CSR event on a successful businesses corporate calendar.

Forward-thinking businesses are finding innovative ways to give back to the communities in which they operate. This is particularly the case in developing markets. 

" Forward-thinking businesses are finding innovative ways to give back to the communities in which they operate."
Anna Green, CEO, ANZ Laos

There is no question an organised CSR agenda makes good business sense. As Travis Engen, Rio Tinto Alcan CEO says, it is in a business’ best interests to contribute to the sustainability of the communities in which they operate.

"We know profitable growth depends on the economic, environmental and social sustainability of our communities across the world,” he says.  

There is significant data to support this. A recent McKinsey Global Survey showed around 43 per cent of CEOs now say their companies seek to align sustainability with their overall business goals, missions, or values – up from 21 per cent in 2010.

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This shift in perception has been driven by a recognition social responsibility builds trust with consumers, partners, governments and, most importantly, employees.

According to Net Impact’s What Workers Want report, 45 per cent of employees would take a 15 per cent pay cut for a job which makes a social or environmental impact. Another 51 per cent of workers say helping “make a better world” and making a “contribution to society” are essential for their ideal job. Engaged employees perform better than their peers and are likely to stay with the company longer.

Governments tend to be more supportive of businesses engaged with CSR-related issues and staff who work in these businesses report higher engagement across the board in their workplace.

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Employee engagement – all other things being equal, nearly half the respondents on a survey said they would take a 15 per cent paycut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact. Source: NET IMPACT

Businesses operating in developing markets provide a unique and particular opportunity in the CSR space to do more than simply contribute to these economies on a financial level.

In many instances successful CSR activity can lead to tangible changes to the operating environments in these geographies.

Below are three examples of how companies are crafting a CSR agenda which contributes meaningful uplift in developing markets.


A key challenge for many developing market businesses is the lack of skilled labour on the ground. Technical expertise in key industries is often in short supply in the local employment market.

Many successful developing market businesses partner with education facilities in these markets to run technical training for local staff.

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A recent PWC study in Asia-Pacific asked employers with a presence in the regions for their thoughts around the employment gap. Over 60 per cent said either the skills or the applicants simply don’t exist in the local markets. Source: PWC

Recognising the gaps in the market with respect to engineering expertise, a large mining company in the Mekong region has set up programmes with local technical colleges to train local staff in skill sets relating to mining and engineering.

This has the twofold advantage of assisting in the upskilling of local talent so they are in a position to find work in the relevant industry post their qualification whilst also assisting the business itself to manage for the risk of not being able to find skilled resources in the local market.


In many developing markets, businesses can provide real value add by assisting in the uplift of the regulatory environment in the geographies in which they operate.

By partnering with International Organisations like the UN and World Vision and working with likeminded representatives in the government and aid sector, business can provide education and context to interested parties around what international standards and best practice look like in their home markets.

This type of initiative can assist governments who might be keen to work towards implementing similar standards in their own markets.


In the last year, ANZ Laos has been an active speaker and coach to SME entrepreneurs throughout ASEAN on the challenges of doing business in ASEAN and how to navigate bank lending.

The United Nation’s Capital Development Fund, in association with ANZ discussed the importance of electronic payments and banking for the success of SME’s and countries in the Greater Mekong Region.

Over the last two years, ANZ Laos has held a host of MoneyMinded workshops for our customers, local schools and women entrepreneurs in the Lao business sector. The focus of these workshops is to teach participants practical skills required to achieve their financial goals and to take control of their future.

With over 200 participants in attendance at each event, and increasingly positive feedback, the MoneyMinded team is able to continue to trigger a shift in the attitude, mind-set and behaviour towards money management in the local communities in which ANZ operates.


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Source: Gallup Management Journal

Events which allow staff to engage with the local community to provide hands on assistance are also consistently found to increase staff engagement.

This type of activity also facilitates dialogue with local governments which can be of great assistance to businesses operating in developing markets which may not naturally have connectivity in this space.

There are many ways in which business can facilitate CSR activities, from organising a clean-up of a local park to hosting a blood bank for a local hospital in the car park of the business’ premises.

Business leaders who think creatively about what the community really needs can drive meaningful uplift of their local operating environments which benefits not just the community, but staff and customers as well.

Anna Green is CEO, ANZ Laos 

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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