We call the Stora Enso and Kemira water stewardship project in Guangxi a shared value project. But what do we mean by that? What exactly is “shared value” and how are we creating it?
Creating Shared Value (CSV) is becoming a serious alternative to traditional forms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSV is about increasing productivity by addressing social and environmental constraints within the local community. It is about businesses rethinking their take on community development, being members of those communities and, as such, benefiting from finding solutions to local challenges. At the same time, it is about engaging with the local population to discover what they need and how the company can contribute to the solution. This business-driven approach makes social responsibility work profitable and motivates businesses to commit to long-term CSV initiatives instead of irregular donations or small-scale CSR programs.
Creating shared value in Guangxi
The Guangxi water stewardship project is bringing shared value to all parties. For Stora Enso, who has a notable presence in Guangxi, it is a grassroots project within a larger attempt to build lasting relationships between the company and Guangxi communities. Having trusting relations with local communities is vital for the smooth continuation of our business operations in Guangxi and thus represents a financial benefit, an integral characteristic of CSV. For Kemira, this project is an opportunity to demonstrate world-class expertise in water management issues together with a business-relevant partner. National and regional authorities in China are promoting their environmental policies among rural communities and benefit from Stora Enso and Kemira’s efforts to educate Guangxi residents in responsible water usage. Our hope is that local authorities will also be able to apply the solution models created more widely in Guangxi.
The most concrete benefits will be visible in the pilot project villages of Nahupo, Shengping, and Baimei. Villagers will receive upgraded water supply and sewage systems that will improve their quality of life. The systems also have the potential to improve the financial status of many residents through enhanced livelihoods and training in various areas, such as tourism development and technical skills. In addition, the initiative highlights women’s rights and their participation in the project. One example of this is the forming of Villager Representative Committees that manage each pilot project in their respective area. The project requirement is that at least one member of this committee is a woman.
Community engagement and empowerment
Being included in the decision making of issues that affect you is empowering and creates added value to any project. This belief is in the core of our water stewardship initiative as free, prior, and informed consent has been its bedrock since day one.
Instead of making “executive decisions” on what should be done, surveys were conducted in 2014 to identify local issues concerning water management. Nearly 1 000 households were visited to record their concerns. Once Stora Enso, Kemira, and the local residents together had identified the most pressing water-related issues, project proposals were drafted for the villagers to approve. The commitment of the villages involved has been the prerequisite for all actions, and it was one of the deciding factors when choosing villages for the pilot projects.
Visits to the villages involved have entailed not only formal surveys but also long conversations with village leaders and residents. These talks are vital. They show that we care about the villagers’ concerns and want to help them in their efforts to find solutions, but they are also an irreplaceable method of discovering what it is that the residents themselves feel needs to be done. Building trust within the community is key, and these conversations help Stora Enso and Kemira do just that. Public announcements with detailed information about project plans and goals have also been made available for all villagers, along with construction designs and financial details. Stora Enso and Kemira want to run a sustainable and transparent project that benefits all participants. We believe that maintaining an atmosphere of open dialogue is the only way to achieve this.