By Glen Gilmore
As the world’s largest telecommunications company, Huawei, ranked 79th on Forbes’ list of the Most Valuable Brands for 2018, is a global leader in Digital Transformation. When it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the global giant looks to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its guide.
“Our corporate mission is to bring digital to ‘every person, home and organization for a fully-connected, intelligent world’, through Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), explained Walter Jennings, a spokesperson for Huawei’s CSR program. As a Huawei Key Opinion Leader and partner, I recently had the chance to meet with Jennings during a visit to New York City. He was eager to share insights into Huawei’s CSR philosophies and programs.
“As an ICT leader, Huawei has a unique ability to help accelerate and scale the UN’s SDG goalsof sustainable development by providing the skills, products and services that expand connectivity and connect people to important technologies and opportunities,” said Jennings. “Our perspective of CSR is that it must be part of what we do on a daily basis, a part of the core of our business,” he said.
7 Hallmarks of a Great CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Program
Asked to outline the hallmarks of a great CSR program, Walters cited several examples of how the company works to help people and communities globally by leveraging the company’s unique skills and resources.
“Huawei operates in 170 countries, touching countless communities worldwide”, Jennings offered. “We look for ways to make a positive difference in each.”
Summarizing Jennings’ outline of Huawei’s philosophy and initiatives provided seven salient hallmarks of an exceptional CSR program:
- Consider social good in prioritizing business development. Huawei, for example, said Jennings, “looks at enormous needs in developing countries and prioritizes outreach that can have the greatest positive impact.”
- Be active and part of the communities in which you operate. This means having a strategic and day-to-day perspective that aims to improve communities, explained Jennings.
- Leverage what you do best. Help communities with programs that go beyond business and offer new skills and opportunities. See, Seeds for the Future (below).
- Create win-win opportunities, especially for young people.
- Promote inclusion. For example, create opportunities for women to participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
- Assist in times of crisis. For a company like Huawei, said Jennings, that means helping to restore communications following a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a tsunami . “This is more than simply just doing our business — it’s about moving faster and father to help people in need,” explained Jennings.
- Institutionalize CSR. “‘Tech for good’ is how you go about your business”, explained Jennings. “By institutionalizing social good, Huawei ensures it becomes part of the fabric of the company.” See Huawei’s Supplier Social Responsibility Code of Conduct (below).
“In Kenya, Huawei worked with the government, UN and other partners to bring mobile healthcare to underserved rural populations”
“Too many communities throughout the world don’t have ready access to healthcare,” Jennings said. “Huawei does its best to target developing areas for collaborative efforts that connect populations to healthcare.”
“In Kenya, our connected healthcare initiatives use telemedicine to connect local clinics to the best diagnosis and treatment. With telemedicine, fewer patients need to travel long distances to see a specialist and more follow up with their doctors,” explained Jennings.
An Unhealthy Digital Divide: Huawei Seeks to Bridge
Huawei warns that digital divides are getting deeper. In a report on digital enablement, Huawei cautioned that, “Powerful new technologies have the potential to create unprecedented digital divides almost overnight creating even greater separation between those with and without access or the skills to exploit them.” This is especially so in digital health where access to new technologies can literally mean the difference between life and death. Huawei understands this. With a corporate motto of “Building a Better Connected World”, Huawei has set a bold goal of bringing rural mobile coverage to 100 million people— connecting them to better healthcare, each other, and the world.
Understanding “Connected Healthcare”
“Connected healthcare”, according to Deloitte, is “technology-enabled integrated care delivery that allows for remote communication, diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring.”
In a 2105 report on“connected healthcare” (cHealth), Deloitte observed that, “Across the spectrum of care, cHealth strategies may help to reduce costs and improve health outcomes, patient satisfaction, and long-term consumer engagement.” The report notes that a key goal of improved digital connectivity between providers and patients is “to allow individuals to access the care they need, anytime and anywhere.”
Adam Lane, Huawei’s Director of Sustainability Programs and Senior Director of Public Affairs for Southern Africa, confirms the “high correlation between ICT and health”, namely, improving telecommunications improves access to healthcare, especially in developing nations, improving health. This is particularly so, explains Lane, when improvements to infrastructure come with collaborative initiatives aimed at advancing mobile healthcare. Lane explained that Huawei’s collaboration in Kenya includes improving the “training of healthcare workers and the quality and availability of medicines.”
Lane emphasized that Huawei’s connected healthcare-related work in Kenya “is a CSR project, and it is strategic in that it leverages our technology and business relationships.” He explained that a goal of the initiative is “to demonstrate how and why governments can better use tech to improve public healthcare.” Lane noted that public health initiatives in developing areas are especially important as “help the poorest, and to build systemic capacity.”
As a CSR program, Huawei “donated the equipment and also funded a local partner to provide, install and customize the software” in it Kenya program, said Lane. “The total value is above half a million dollars including more than 50 tablets, a video-conference system in several facilities, and connectivity through fiber and mobile broadband routers (actual connectivity has been provided for free by Safaricom, the main telco partner in the project).”
Lane offered some important CSR success lessons from Huawei’s Kenya connected-health case study:
- “Understand the macro and political environment and how that affects public-sector systems, staffing and capacity.”
- Be ready “to implement change management and institutionalize new (tech-driven) processes into a clinical setting.”
- “Build the tech capacity and support that can be provided hyper-locally by the government to ensure the solution is sustainable (if even a simple tech problem which may be caused by the user themselves is not solved really quickly, users quickly disengage from the project).”
- “Treat the CSR project like a commercial project with clear contracts and benchmarks, as well as a financial contribution from the ‘customer’ or partner to ensure both sides meet their obligations and are committed to make the project successful.”
Win-Win Development: “Seeds for the Future”
“‘Seed for the Future’ is an immersive program Huawei offers that invites a diverse group of students who are interested in technology to China, at our expense, to enjoy an experience in culture, language and technology. We invite students from across the globe, from the UK, Uzbekistan, to Senegal to come and learn about the latest trends in technology. Inclusiveness is central to this CSR program,” said Jennings.
Assisting in Times of Crisis
For a telecommunications company, like Huawei, responding in times of crisis comes naturally,” said Jennings. “Huawei understands that when a disaster strikes, restoring stable telecommunications means providing access to lifesaving resources. This means that when others leave a disaster area, Huawei employees among the first to reenter and help restoring critical communications that other other first responders need disaster recover.”
Jennings noted that Huawei’s CSR includes the contribution of skilled workers and equipment in times of crisis. “Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are just some of the places Huawei has gone into following a disaster, facing uncertainty and dangers so that we could do what others can’t — restore communications.”
“Tech for Good”
“Technology is an enabler…’Tech for good’ is not just about the end product, it’s about how you go about the business — are you working with the community in which you operate,” Jennings offered, summing up Huawei’s CSR philosophy.
Institutionalizing Social Responsibility
“Huawei works to institutionalize corporate social responsibility within our company,” said Jennings. He cited Huawei’s Supplier Social Responsibility Code of Conduct as an example of how the company institutionalizes social responsibility.
“We’ve codified best practices for corporate social responsibility in our supply chain and encourage suppliers to draw on internationally-recognized standards to improve their standards as well”, said Jennings.
Jennings noted that Huawei’s Supply Chain CSR Code of Conduct addresses specific conduct. “Huawei is leading in corporate social responsibility by proactively and specifically addressing issues such as a prohibition on the use of child labor or pollution prevention or insistence on responsible sourcing. By announcing a code of conduct we’re also being transparent in our CRS,” said Jennings.