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SK Group supports social enterprises

Oct. 30, 2011 - 16:00 By Korea Herald
U.N. chief Ban praises conglomerate as spearhead of social contribution

Like most Korean conglomerates, SK Group has been placing increasing emphasis on corporate social responsibility programs in recent years.

While most have chosen to do their part through donations, SK Group has focused its efforts on social enterprises under the guidance of chairman Chey Tae-won.

According to SK Group officials, Chey believes that simple donations have limited efficacy in solving social problems and that social enterprises provide a more sustainable answer to such issues.

Chey has expressed such views on the international stage.

At the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit last June, he said that one-off donations from corporations have limitations and stressed the need to expand the application of the social enterprise model, which aims to create value for society in general.

One of the more recent projects conducted by SK Group was a school founded in January 2010 in collaboration with the Seoul city government.

The school employs out-of-work teachers with the aim of helping underprivileged children to study, and to contribute to curbing private education costs in Korea.
Chief of SK Group’s social enterprise project Shin Hun-cheol (second from left) takes part in the opening ceremony of an elementary school for the underprivileged children in Daegu in March. (SK Group)

In August, the company announced plans to convert MRO Korea ― a maintenance, repair and operations company set up in partnership with U.S.-based Grainger International in 2000 ― into a social enterprise, setting a new precedent in resolving issues regarding such operations.

The group’s efforts regarding the issue go back further than most.

The group drew up a roadmap for creating jobs in 2005, and has since launched a number of social enterprises and a diverse range of projects supporting social enterprises.

Last January, SK Group set up a division dedicated to carrying out projects regarding social enterprises within its Happy Nanum Foundation and established a 50 billion won ($45 million) fund for its operations.

The conglomerate also supports fledgling social enterprises to get off to a smooth start.

More than 500 people have received training in the group’s training program for social enterprise operators. The company also operates Se-sang Social Enterprise Contest through which items that require support are selected.

Through the program, conducted four times so far, the company has aided social enterprises in 14 areas including legal and management advice and creating homepages.

Along with programs that provide direct support, SK Group has also been working to build the infrastructure necessary to aid social enterprises’ operations.

Using the website, the conglomerate has been providing a one-stop service where social enterprise operators can find relevant information and helping such businesses communicate.

In addition, SK Group has been supporting academic research into social enterprise-related fields, and sponsoring forums and seminars on related issues as part of its efforts to lay the foundations for social enterprises’ growth.

Such projects conducted by SK Group have gained much attention and praise including from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who described SK Group and its chairman’s efforts regarding the issue as the “spearhead for corporations’ social contribution activities” at a recent meeting in Seoul.

By Choi He-suk  (