Raising Consumer Trust in Vietnamese Products and Services

10:19:09 PM | 9/29/2014

“How to make more and more Vietnamese select and trust local products? How can enterprises survive in a harshly competitive retail market? How to build a domestic market where consumers trust producers and retailers?” were the main contents discussed at the Corporate Social Responsibility Calendar Forum on Consumer Issues held in Hanoi on September 17, 2014.
Enhancing CSR
Currently, consumer trust in Vietnamese goods is extremely low because scandals on food hygiene and safety are seen on media every day. Dinh Thi My Loan, Chairwoman of the Association of Vietnam Retailers (AVR), said consumer consulting and supporting offices affiliated to the Vietnam Standards and Consumer Association (VINASTAS) received 1,036 cases and successfully resolved 779 cases in 2013, accounting for 75 percent of total cases. However, actual occurrences might be many times higher. Remarkably, complaints about goods quality took the lead, followed by food safety and hygiene, cosmetics and environment.
Vietnamese enterprises are facing huge challenges of competitiveness. Vietnam has recently witnessed big names such as Lotte (South Korea), AEON (Japan) entering distribution and retail market or planning their participation in the near future like E-Mart (South Korea), Takashimaya (Japan) and Auchan (France). Hence, it is necessary for Vietnamese businesses to improve their strategies if they want to compete in the domestic market in the context of widely open integration. To do so, businesses must maintain prestige and put consumers’ interests on top, she said. Manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and retailers must exercise their corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Mr Nguyen Quang Vinh, Director of the Office for Business Sustainable Development (SDforB) under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), said that since 2007, Vietnam has become a local network of UN Global Compact aiming at supporting its members to effectively implement CSR in the country. Members of Global Compact Network in Vietnam (GCNV) have opportunities to participate in meetings and discussions, and to connect with national and international organisations regarding CSR issues in Vietnam and in the world. The CSR Calendar Forum is a good chance for enterprises to take part in the badly needed multi-stakeholder dialogues to better understand six core CSR subjects based on principal documents such as ISO26000 and UN Global Compact.
 
Mr Florian Beranek, Chief Technical Advisor of the project “Promotion of CSR among Vietnamese Business Community for Sustainable Consumption and Production”, said that improved social performance is expected to enhance competitiveness and trade performance of enterprises, while reducing their environmental impact and resource consumption and improving their relations with stakeholders, including workers, communities, consumers and business partners.
 
Towards sustainable consumption and production
Sustainable consumption and production is an important element of sustainable development. Ms Le Hoang Lan, an official from the Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE), said sustainable consumption and production provides the key enabling communities and individuals to develop without necessarily sacrificing quality of life and compromising the needs of future generations.
 
The CSR Calendar Forum on Consumer Trust Issues, part of the “Promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility among Vietnamese Business Community for Sustainable Consumption and Production” Project, is a joint initiative of the Office for Business Sustainable Development (SDforB) under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and is funded by the UN One Plan Fund (OPF).
The project also aims for synergies with the EU funded Switch Asia policy module on the development of a national sustainable consumption and production action plan, led by UNEP as well as with the UN Global Compact Vietnam Network under VCCI-SDforB.
She said promoting sustainable production and consumption is a global concern. Specifically, sustainable production refers to the more economical and efficient extraction of natural resources, reduced waste and environmental protection. Sustainable consumption denotes effective consumption of products and services whilst minimising negative impacts on the environment, society and economy.
 
Green labelling criteria have been built, promulgated and disseminated. The green label has started to catch the attention of consumers. Besides, Vietnam announced its sustainable development and green growth strategies deployed from central to local levels and started to disseminate green consumption and shopping. These are advantages and motivations towards green sustainable consumption and production in Vietnam.
 
However, attendants to the forum also pointed out difficulties against sustainable production and consumption in Vietnam. The country lacks instructions on green consumption and green public procurement, and has yet to issue guidelines and lists of goods designated for green procurement with given quality standards. Besides, a majority of consumers seek personal satisfaction before taking into consideration the needs of the planet they are living on. And, consumption habits are governed by customary practices, economic viability and perception.
 
Mr Vu Vinh Phu, Chairman of the Hanoi Supermarkets Association
It is impossible to create a safe product when soil, air and water environments are polluted. Surely, consumers will not choose unsafe, disqualified products. Besides, production and distribution stages in Vietnam are now confusing and fragmented, thus failing to form a united chain. Retailers as well as manufacturers must improve quality, lower product costs, and enhance consumer confidence in domestic products.
Consumers must have the right to know product origins. For example, in foreign countries, when a person takes a look at a milk package, he/she will know the manufacturer, even the cow that gives that milk. The Government and businesses must proactively protect consumers like this in order to provide a living ground for manufactures and retailers in the homeland.
 
Thu Ha