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Wang Jianlin: Making philanthropy part of company culture

Aug 22,2014

Wang Jianlin: Making philanthropy part of company culture

Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin delivered a speech entitled “Making Philanthropy Part of Company Culture” at the first China Charity Forum (CCF) held in Beijing on August 16, 2014. During the speech, Wang elaborated on Wanda Volunteers' mission as China's largest corporate non-profit organization in terms of its structure, size, uniqueness and innovative volunteer activities.

Wang Jianlin stressed that the company was striving to develop even further in the future, enabling it to help more people in need. It was his hope that all Wanda employees would adopt a philanthropic spirit, making charity a common pursuit across the organization.

With “The Beginning of a Philanthropic Era” as the theme, the first CCF was well attended by nearly 500 distinguished guests from around the world. Revolving around the topic of “Creating Shared Value”, the guests took part in discussions on current global trends in philanthropy and the advancement of philanthropy in China within the context of sweeping reforms.

>> Speech transcription (translation)
Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning! As an entrepreneur, I'm honored to have this opportunity to report on our humble charitable endeavors as an enterprise. Today I will be talking about “Making Philanthropy Part of Company Culture”.

Founded in 1988, the Wanda Group has been in operation for over 26 years. Statistics show that as of June 30, we have donated more than 3.7 billion yuan in cash, making us the largest corporate donor in China. In addition, we've been the recipients of seven out of eight China Charity Awards – which is the first among Chinese enterprises. However, these achievements pale in comparison with what we most pride ourselves on – Our non-profit organization, Wanda Volunteers.

Firstly, Wanda Volunteers is the first corporate non-profit organization established in China.

We set up our first volunteer organization as early as 1994, which was quite a struggle because the China Charity Federation (CCF) was still non-existent in many parts of the country back then. As Wanda began to establish its presence across China starting in the 1990s, our charitable organizations sprung up on a nationwide scale. At present we have a total of 917 branches with over 100,000 members, making us the largest corporate volunteer organization in China. Needless to say, there are other companies outnumbering us in terms of employees, but at Wanda, volunteer work is required by all staff members. During the first half of 2014 alone, 52,715 Wanda employees took part in 697 volunteer activities held by our various volunteer organizations.

Secondly, everyone at Wanda is a volunteer.

It is our rule that every new employee willing to join the company must promise to participate in volunteer work. Otherwise, he or she will be rejected on these grounds. The same rule applies each time an employee renews his/her contract. All employees are obliged to participate in volunteer work at least once per year – which is not a demanding requirement by any means. Of course, there's no limit as to the maximum number of volunteer activities an employee can attend. This way, every single employee becomes a volunteer. I believe, as Wanda grows over time as a company, so will the number of our volunteers.

This rule was supported by the majority of our staff members, but there were a few rare cases where some young employees argued that Wanda is a place to work, not for volunteering. A member of one of our branches in Southern China even lodged an official complaint against this rule, and he was later dismissed after deliberation.

We ask all employees to be involved in volunteer activities, but we don't advocate excessive donations from staff members. Instead, donations are mostly made by the company. We have a fund operating on an annual budget, and it has donated 4 billion yuan for the last three consecutive years. Therefore, what we expect from our staff is to actively participate in volunteer work, at least once a year. Keeping doing so helps our employees acquire a better understanding of volunteer work and philanthropy.

Thirdly, innovative volunteer activities.

The way in which a volunteer organization conducts its activities matters a lot. There are various ways of organizing volunteer events. In the beginning, our volunteers participated in activities such cleaning rubbish, which we found to be too random to instil any meaningful awareness in the staff members. It was then decided that volunteer efforts should be focused on “offering aid to selected localities”. In other words, every company (real estate, retail, cultural businesses or otherwise) in a given location is assigned a target place to provide volunteer assistance to. This way, our volunteer efforts produce visible results on the part of the aid recipients over time. Before we relocated our headquarters to Beijing, we assisted a county in Pulandian (Dalian). As a result of our continued help, it became one of the richest counties in Dalian on a per capita basis.

For another example – volunteers in our Nanning branch have been helping a Hope Primary School for many years. This branch was designated as a “model volunteer organization” in Guangxi Province in recognition of its excellent volunteer work. We also organized the innovative charitable initiative “Tour of the Heart”, where, for almost ten years, staff from every company visited a local poor village each year. Why? All our businesses are operated in relatively large cities, and our employees enjoy at least above-average wages. Their goals in life thus change over time, and higher income, promotions, buying a bigger house, etc. become their only pursuits. By visiting a poor village once a year, they get to experience the dramatic difference between large cities and poor areas. One of our employees once wrote that extreme poverty is still a reality in some villages in Fangshan County, only 100km away from Beijing's CBD. However, many people living in major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Chengdu are not aware of the remarkable regional differences in China, and that many places are genuinely in need of assistance. This is why we need to organize charitable activities on a regular basis.

In addition, we run a nationwide joint volunteer program once a year, conducting unified joint efforts in over 100 cities. For example, assistance has been provided to schools for children of migrant workers for three consecutive years. The reason we started this nationwide initiative has to do with our core business, property development, where 95% construction workers come from rural areas. I don't know how much you know about the difficulties faced by the children of migrant workers. They have to change schools every one or two years, and nobody provides funding for the schools. They're not entitled to take exams at the place of residence, and their schools are poorly equipped. Seeing this, we require our branches to do their best to provide aid to designated schools for migrant workers' children. After three years operating this national charitable program, our efforts are starting to yield very encouraging results.

Fourthly, making philanthropy part of our corporate culture.

Why do we attach such importance to volunteer activities? Because we realized that when a successful company becomes involved in philanthropic activities, without a well-communicated culture of philanthropy, charity becomes merely the personal interest of the business owner and therefore isn't understood or supp

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