The youth stole the spotlight at the 2021 edition of the EuroCham CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) awards, where three students were recognized for their forward-thinking efforts to transform the future of Cambodia.
The three “modern-day musketeers of global change and social transformation”, as the event’s MC Lyze Bentoto described them, were 25-year-old Chenda Lai, 18-year old Sopheara Leang, and 17-year old Pichmonireach Somnang.
EU Ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno said the newly created youth engagement category was representative of the need to shift priorities in the business sector.
“This should serve as a reflection on the demands that the new generation is putting on the public and private sector to change our approach to growth, trade, and investment to ensure that their rights to a clean environment and an adequate standard of living are secured in the future,” she said.
Lai is working towards her PhD in sustainable agriculture and said she will focus her career on research and lecturing to pass on her lessons to future generations.
Leang said he’d like to pursue a career as a water engineer to improve access to clean water in Cambodia.
“When the youth are empowered by practical skills and knowledge, we can mobilize ourselves and the people around us to be the driving force that makes considerable changes within our own respective communities,” he said.
Somnang said he’d like to work as a software engineer to ensure that education is widely accessible throughout Cambodia.
Minister Attached to the Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the CDC Sok Chenda Sophea said: “When I heard those three young people speaking, it was so refreshing. There is a lot of hope for the future of Cambodia.”
EuroCham CSR corporate winners
Heineken took home the CSR Environmental award in recognition of its efforts to reduce waste, its use of Biogas as renewable energy, and its dedication to treating 100 percent of its wastewater. The company has also halved its CO2 emissions since 2013.
Anne Ollivier, the corporate affairs director for Heineken Cambodia, said CSR values are becoming increasingly critical to the success of any business.
Consumers care where and how their products are made, sustainable energy is needed to power businesses and save the environment, and employees want to work in a fair and equitable workplace, she added.
Khmer Organic Cooperative, an agricultural company that connects farmers to marketplaces, won the CSR Production award for its work in championing women in agriculture and supporting smallholder farmers. The company currently works with over 1,000 farmers and 60 farming cooperatives in Cambodia.
The CSR Project award went to Pernod Ricard Camodge for its efforts in combatting alcohol abuse with its work on educating youth on alcohol safety. The company has trained over 1,000 students on road safety and 170 traffic officers on drunk driving enforcement.
Socfin, a rubber plantation company based in Mondulkiri, took home the CSR Business award for EuroCham members. The company’s initiatives include protecting the land of indigenous Bunong communities, investing in the infrastructure of Bousra Commune, and providing capacity building and career development services for its employees.
Socfin also provides free housing to over 1,200 people and provides over 7,000 free medical consultations per year.
Chip Mong Group took home the CSR Business award for non-EuroCham members.
Over the past year, Chip Mong organized disaster relief programs, donated $3 million to remodel Calmette Hospital and $8.6 million to the government to assist in its battle against Covid-19. The company also installed a 2.8 MW floating solar power plant inside its cement plant in Kampot and a $4 million waste management facility, also located in Kampot.
Five SMEs were recognized at the award ceremony for the CSR efforts as well: Farm to Table, Imprint Cambodia Co Ltd, MG Pacific, PestLab Exterminator, and Phare Social Enterprise.
CSR and the future of global business for Cambodia
As Cambodia and the world rebound from Covid-19, the leaders gathered at the awards ceremony agreed that prioritizing EuroCham CSR values, especially in the private sector, was paramount to sustained growth.
Denis St Marie, the executive director of EuroCham said: “It is an integral way the private sector can give back to the community itself. I say with great excitement that CSR globally is becoming more than just words, but a part of business operations. This is a global and important trend and one that I am extremely proud that we can promote in Cambodia.”
Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak said the government has been working to contribute to CSR-minded goals as well by implementing policies and laws to level the playing field for all businesses.
“In principle, these laws will create an open, responsive, and transparent legal framework for businesses and consumers as well as enhance the productivity through incentives, enhance Cambodia’s competitiveness and above all, diversify the economy and provide protections of legitimate rights and interest to all business in Cambodia,” he said.
Sophea said he wanted Cambodia to represent a country with strong profit potential backed by equally strong ethical values. “I really want to contribute to the branding of Cambodia, and it starts with this, company by company. And then Cambodia will be known as a place where you can make money, but also, a place where you have values.”
He added that he helped implement incentives in the Investment Law to encourage companies to spend on the welfare of their employees.
Ambassador Moreno said The EU will soon be implementing mandatory due diligence procedures as well to uphold CSR values and international standards across value chains for European companies.
The new regulations will require companies to prevent labor and human rights abuses as well as actions detrimental to the environment, including forced labor, human trafficking, and deforestation.
Tassilo Brinzer, the Chairman of EuroCham, added that the ASEAN–EU business council would also be providing incentives in 2022 for businesses in Cambodia to implement CSR policies.
He said that adhering to CSR meant creating environmentally-friendly corporate policies, creating fair and equitable workplaces that ensured the health and wellbeing of employees and providing only positive contributions to society.
Bentoto said the CSR successes of the 2021 nominees proved that companies can thrive while prioritizing social issues as well as revenue.
“The individuals present tonight are proof that it is possible to go beyond generating profits or merely meeting the letter of the law. They are proof that it is possible to influence the future for the better.”
EuroCham Cambodia was created in 2011 by the existing French, German and British business associations to act as the official chamber of the European business community in the Kingdom.
Since then, it has grown to over 330+ members and 6 national chapters, comprising 11 European countries.
EuroCham Cambodia’s core activities are to promote, support, and represent its members and European business interests in dialogue with the Royal Government of Cambodia, with the aim of developing a more efficient and fertile business and investment environment.