Six years ago, 17 female students from disadvantaged ethnic families received fully-funded scholarships from HSBC through VCF’s Brighter Path program. In addition, the HSBC personal female mentors in the early years at university also brought changes to our scholars’ lives. Recently, the last four of them have graduated to stand in Vietnam’s doctor workforce, to support and take care of the country and our people’s health. On this occasion, let’s talk with Mr. Rad Kivette, CEO of VinaCapital Foundation, about our meaningful programs and sustainable development in Vietnam.

1/ Having been in Vietnam for 21 years, how do you see the evolvement of the country, looking from a community work perspective?

The implementation of CSR in Vietnam has made so much progress, moving from basically a family charity orientation many years ago to a much more scientific and businesslike approach today. And the international attitude toward CSR has developed alongside Vietnam’s progress.

I’ve been here for 21 years and local CSR has developed from nearly nothing in 2000 to a very active and vibrant “sector focused” improvement effort. Years ago, there were international corporations “giving back” involved in CSR, but from a Vietnamese standpoint, it was very much family-focused. Today, most Vietnamese enterprises of all sizes are very aware of the importance of CSR’s role in sustainable development and no longer think charity is something to practice at home only.

As more enterprises pay attention to CSR supported sustainable development, the time has come to improve the quality of CSR alongside the obvious quantitative increases. Improving the quantity means increasing the amount of money and resources devoted to addressing social problems, which is well accepted and encouraged. However, improving the quality of programs funded will be more effective.

As the quality improves, the effectiveness, outcomes and ROI will improve. So when you see farsighted business people looking at the “triple bottomline” and the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and planning their social investment, it’s a good sign that funders are looking for social programs to support that meet real needs in a cost-effective way.

At the VinaCapital Foundation, we ensure that children are healthy as the key to socio-economic progress. If we can ensure children have access to quality healthcare and treat their illnesses, their mothers are then empowered to get out of the home to get a job, education, or whatever they can do to help improve their families. Women are always the caregivers and often are capable of being the breadwinners for their families. So, CSR has evolved from an individual family model to an effort that is scientific – recognizing that development is a continuum that starts with individual assistance but ends in a broad based benefit for large groups.

2/ What is VCF specializing in? What impacts have you seen from your work in Vietnam’s society?

VinaCapital Foundation (VCF) is a USA-registered 501-c3 public charitable organization, registered as a foreign non-governmental organization in Vietnam. Founded in 2006, VCF supports the economic growth of Vietnam through healthcare and education programs for those who are disadvantaged and underserved. The work of VCF touches the lives of thousands of Vietnamese in 63 provinces every year.

VCF’s grassroots medical programs include Heartbeat Vietnam which funds children’s heart surgeries, including pre-and post-operative care, as well as, Rural Outreach Clinics to screen children in remote areas and cancer programs for children. VCF initiatives also include prevention and treatment for poor children with Retinopathy of Prematurity.

Medical capacity building programs include Critical Response – advanced emergency training courses for healthcare workers along with emergency equipment; Clean Water systems for healthcare centers and schools; Survive to Thrive – neonatal care training and equipment. VCF’s nationwide education initiative, Brighter Path, is an empowerment building 7-year scholarship program including mentoring and soft skills training for disadvantaged but academically talented ethnic minority girls.

VCF’s vision is a Vietnam where everyone shares in the economic benefits. Across every program runs deep commitments to women’s rights, gender equality, improved nutrition, environmental protection, and poverty reduction.

Since 2006, Heartbeat Vietnam has supported 8,426 children with congenital heart defects (CHD) to have their life-saving surgeries. Our Rural Outreach Clinics have screened 238,887 children across 58 provinces, finding 9,834 children with CHD, 8,185 of which required surgery and received immediate support.

Our Capacity Building Programs have served 1,958,333 beneficiaries, trained 1,095 doctors and 406 nurses in 111 health centers and 246 hospitals; donated 186 crash carts to 5 commune health centers and 136 hospitals and donated 381 neonatal care equipment to 58 hospitals in 12 provinces; installed 50 water filtration systems in 23 schools, 15 hospitals in 11 provinces.

After 4 cohorts of Brighter Path ethnic girls since 2010 and one Girls’ Club pilot, the program has provided 1,244 scholars with continuous education and mentoring on life skills. The success rate of school completion is 20 times the ethnic average – 4 of our girls just graduated as doctors from medical school.

In 6 months of the Mr. Sun program, there have been 200 underprivileged pediatric cancer patients supported with full financial support to receive appropriate therapy/treatment. We also organized psychological support events for 1000 beneficiary pediatric patients and their families at 7 partner hospitals in Hanoi and HCMC.

The direct benefits are clear but behind every statistic on impact is a story of a family who escaped poverty, an ethnic girl finishing high school or another who lived through her emergency child’s birth.

3/ What is the role of companies like HSBC in this cause and how do you see this role evolve?

Since 2014, HSBC has been contributing to all programs of the VinaCapital Foundation. The bank has helped save 37 children with congenital heart defects and sponsored Rural Outreach Clinics to screen 10,508 children in rural areas. VCF has also received over $216,000 from HSBC to carry our Critical Response program activities, including implementing clean water systems and Central Vietnam’s disaster relief response to help aid at-risk communities. Thanks to HSBC’s contribution, VCF is able to provide 75 ethnic minority girls with Brighter Path scholarships to stay in school and have those scholars participate in Brighter Path Girls’ Club pilot project in Thai Nguyen. Your donations total over $380,000 and you have changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

HSBC is among the few donors whose support stretches over almost every program of VCF, from supporting heart surgeries to scholarships for disadvantaged ethnic minority girls, to provide necessary medical equipment and filtered water to rural areas. Most recently, HSBC has implemented the COVID-19 response program in collaboration with VCF to install clean water filtration systems for public hospitals in remote communes, benefiting healthcare workers and patients in these areas; as well as contributed to our disaster relief effort in Central Vietnam to aid the devastated rural communities. This diversity proves that HSBC cares about every development aspect of Vietnam, and is committed to saving lives and improving the quality of life for Vietnamese people. At VCF, we cannot make our vision come true without HSBC!

Moreover, HSBC is a role model to inspire others to follow their example. CSR is not only in the overview of distant multi-national companies anymore. Multiple real-life successes of foreign enterprises in Vietnam have led to a new Vietnamese scetor of workshops, conferences and CSR awards that show the Vietnamese public’s interest and appreciation for efforts that contribute to society. Recognizing the importance and benefits of the implementation of social responsibility in the context of globalization and international integration, there are more and more Vietnamese businesses that take social action and incorporate CSR in their activities. The realization is that social programs are not only good for their direct beneficiaries but good for economic reasons that affect millions. Reducing poverty builds the middle class and creates consumers.

Donors like HSBC are pioneers in this field and I am sure you will continue to be a leading example with your generous contributions to worthy causes.

4/ How do you gain the trust of businesses to raise funds and how you spend the money?

For the past 15 years, VinaCapital Foundation has maintained and ensured our transparency by providing tax returnss, audit reports, and annual reports with details of our program achievements and financial status. We are annually audited by international audit firms.

We also have earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency for 3 years in a row (2019 – 2021), the highest level of recognition offered by the nonprofit analyst GuideStar, an organization that assesses and reports on the efficacy and transparency of U.S.-based nonprofit organizations. To maintain the Platinum level, we updated and added extensive information to its GuideStar Nonprofit Profile. By providing this information, VCF has again demonstrated our commitment to best business practices, transparency and giving donors and funders meaningful data to evaluate its performance and impact. At VCF, we also build trust by involving our donors in the program work they support. That way they see first-hand how effectively their donations are being employed. HSBC is great example having sent hundreds of staff out on our Rural Outreach Clinics.

Notably, 100% of donations that VCF receives go straight to the beneficiaries. All overhead costs are sponsored by VinaCapital Group so that all the donations can directly benefit those in need.

5/ How important it is for a company to embed corporate sustainability into its operations?

It is critical today and becoming even more critical. According to Nielsen’s 2014 Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), 55 percent of global online consumers across 60 countries are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental change.

The proven benefits that businesses gain when implementing social responsibility include increasing revenue, increasing brand value, increasing productivity, and more opportunities to access new market. In addition to economic efficiencies, these enterprises also have consolidated their reputation with customers, created loyalty and satisfaction with employees, as the entire supply chain becomes more committed to CSR driven sustainable development that complements other business strategy.

CSR and ESG have become not just an option but something businesses are obligated to do. CSR is the manifestation of businesses’ core values and strengthens managements connection with their staff, the community, and other social organizations. Since CSR activities showcase credibility and ethical values to the public, consumers tend to gain trust, be more loyal and have a more emotional attachment for brands that do social good. Pressure from buyers, industries, and competitors also creates a demand for businesses to follow and become a part of the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) movement. According to CFI Institute, investors are increasingly applying these non-financial factors as part of their analysis process to identify material risks and growth opportunities whilst making investment choices. In “ESG: A view from the top” survey conducted by KPMG China, CLP Holdings Limited, and The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries in 2018, it cannot be underestimated that increasing demand from institutional investors to invest in sustainable businesses, coupled with growing public expectations around corporate responsibility, are placing a greater focus on companies to address ESG issues related to their businesses.

6/ If you have somethings to tell the HSBC staff, what are they?

Congratulations on your achievement as Best International Bank in Vietnam according to FinanceAsia’s Country Awards 2020, I believe that award is earned by all your hard smart work, not only reflecting your superior job professionally but also showing the positive influence you have on society as a whole. You have set the example for everyone over the years for the importance of social responsibility. Please continue to influence the world, especially the corporate world to support work that improves health and education for all, reducing poverty and building a strong middle class.

Thank you for your incredible and continuous support throughout the years, you are the force that has enabled VinaCapital Foundation to make a gigantic difference in Vietnam. Please keep up the good work and continue to spread the word about supporting VCF to your clients, partners, customers, and other people who are doing business with you. Together, we can save lives and transform communities for everyone.

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