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BMW vows to deepen CSR efforts in China in wake of pandemic outbreak

By Li Fusheng | China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-18 09:07
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The China Education Development Foundation-BMW Warm Heart Fund is launched on Tuesday in Beijing. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

Making money usually sits atop the to-do list for companies. But that's not the case for BMW, said Johann Wieland, president and CEO of the German premium carmaker's Chinese joint venture BMW Brilliance.

"BMW has used the stakeholder approach for a long, long time. We don't just focus on profit and shareholder value maximization," Wieland said at a forum on Tuesday.

He cited the carmaker's production resumption during the coronavirus pandemic as an example, which he has gone through with his team in China.

COVID-19 halted BMW Brilliance's production for only two weeks in February.

"You need all stakeholders supporting you: employees, suppliers, and society," he said. "Without suppliers, you cannot produce any cars. Without local communities, you cannot bring people to work."

Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China, said the pandemic has proven BMW correct for its long-time concern for those stakeholders and the value of giving back to society as a corporate citizen.

He said if people are united and care for each other, they can overcome crises like the virus.

"Both China and BMW will get stronger after the crisis," he said.

BMW Brilliance and BMW China helped during the months-long outbreak in the country assisting in recovery efforts.

They donated 35 million yuan ($5.16 million) to purchase protective gear for medical staff and hospitals in hard-hit regions in Hubei province, and also organized a team of psychologists so people who needed help could get it.

The pandemic has given the carmaker a deeper understanding of its role in being socially responsible as a corporation, and motivated the company to help more people in need.

BMW Brilliance and BMW China announced they will donate 10 million yuan this year to the China Education Development Foundation to join forces and establish the China Education Development Foundation-BMW Warm Heart Fund.

Wang Jianguang, the foundation's deputy secretary-general, said it will make the most of its expertise in education and partner with BMW to help pinpoint problems while also exploring practical solutions.

Simply donating money is not typical for the premium German brand in terms of its long-term corporate social responsibility efforts.

"We've always used the 'teach how to fish and not give a fish' (method)," Wieland said.

He said being a good corporate citizen means more than giving out money. It is more about how to do the right thing that brings about the effective and long-term changes needed.

One example is BMW China Culture Journey, an annual program initiated 13 years ago that is dedicated to preserving traditional cultural and poverty alleviation.

Each year, the carmaker organizes experts to visit inheritors of intangible cultural heritage in one province and learn about the challenges they face.

The panel of experts offer advice and the carmaker funds some of the inheritors to learn, at a training center set up with China's prestigious Tsinghua University, ways of improving their livelihood while protecting the heritage items.

The carmaker is not carrying out its corporate social responsibility alone. It's also getting its stakeholders involved.

During the peak of the pandemic in China, a group of local BMW owners in Hubei gave free rides to nurses and doctors to and from their homes and hospitals, as well as handing out masks to street cleaners and others in need.

Goller said he is proud of the fact that more and more BMW owners are getting involved in public welfare and are showing a great sense of responsibility.

Its dealers, employees and car owners are all frequent participants in programs, including one that teaches children how to avoid road risks, and an initiative called JOY Home, which focuses on helping left-behind and migrant children.

More than 100 million children have benefitted from the programs, according to BMW.

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