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CSR 'Giant': Atunas

Cool about Mountain Conservation


Cool about Mountain Conservation


One of Taiwan's CSR 'small giants' has stood out for combining a commitment to low-carbon practices in its core business with a passion for mountains that has made the world take note of Taiwan.



Cool about Mountain Conservation

By Kuo-chen Lu
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 579 )

A small- to medium-sized Taiwanese company with an annual turnover of around NT$1 billion, which is not publicly listed or traded, can make a significant contribution to society. Atunas Co. Ltd., number five in the "Small Giants" category of the 2015 CommonWealth Magazine CSR Awards, takes an unusual approach in doing CSR.

Atunas has sponsored Taiwanese mountain climbers on quests to ascend the world's tallest peak, scale the highest mountain on each continent, and has led the way in local corporate sponsorship of mountain climbing. The company also rallied 40,000 people to summit simultaneously, not only establishing a Guinness World Record, but further helping spread awareness of mountain area conservation. Additionally, it has promoted a CO2 footprint certification standard for waterproof apparel, whilst marketing its own brand has led the way in promoting green production among Taiwanese industries in line with international practice.

Atunas chairman Kun Cheng's (程鯤) office is dominated by a large image of Mount Everest, signed by Taiwanese climbers who have successfully ascended the world's tallest peak. It hangs as a symbol of Atunas' support being the key factor in the ROC flag flying high over Everest.

Huang Wen-po (黃文伯), secretary-general of the ROC Mountain Rescue Association, states, "Atunas is the first business to support Taiwanese climbers via sponsorship arrangements, spending over NT$30 million in support of Everest expeditions alone. Atunas led the wave of corporate sponsorship."

Atunas seeks not just to promote mountaineering, but also mountain habitat conservation. Since 2008, the company has pushed the Leave No Trace campaign, calling on climbers, hikers, and campers to reduce damage to ground flora and avert ecological disaster.

Atunas has conceived and designed an interactive learning program for families, informing people of the seven steps of good climbing etiquette, including proper preparation, keeping to proper trails, leaving no rubbish, not picking flowers or plants, not making fires, respecting wildlife, and keeping trails clear.

After nearly two years of planning, in 2011, Atunas mobilized 1,500 volunteers and over 100 mountaineering clubs for an event that aimed to simultaneously put 40,000 people on different summits.

Cheng recalls, "We used a really cool, healthy way to celebrate the country's centenary, while promoting the Leave No Trace philosophy at the same time."

Cheng relates that 70 percent of Taiwan is covered by mountain forests, its rivers are young and flow vigorously, and it is surrounded on all sides by the sea. Yet there is a fear of young people taking risks and seeking adventure, which is a shame, as he believes Taiwanese should be more adventuresome.

Spurring Industry Growth

The second major reason Atunas ranked in CommonWealth's list of Taiwan's top corporate citizens is the company's advancement of carbon footprint certification, placing Taiwanese functional apparel in line with international standards.

In 2014, Atunas' water-repellent, breathable apparel line was the first to receive a "carbon" rating label from the EPA. The point, however, is less that Atunas was the first, but that the approach has now been shared across industries to promote overall growth.

Cheng relates: "Promotion of the CO2 footprint survey begins with upstream textile thread, dyes, fabric, and apparel, and on through the processing of peripheral items like zippers and buttons, as well as transport to warehouses and stores. Eventually it involves calculating in advance consumers giving it 100 water washes or wearing it out to take the carbon output over its lifecycle into full consideration."

As Atunas could not have accomplished all of this on its own, it first spent two years trying to convince upstream suppliers to go along with the scheme. Establishing carbon dioxide calculation methods and standards are now helping Taiwan's textiles industry progress towards green production.

"Establishing this set of measures isn't about setting Atunas' competitive threshold, but rather hoping that the industry follows, so that Taiwan's textile products can be in line with established methods for attention to carbon footprints in Europe and Japan," stresses Cheng.

Even Atunas' internal management approach is different. Sherry Chen (陳淑姿), senior officer at the GM's office, relates that when she first came to Atunas from the communications industry and referred to colleagues as "colleagues," she was corrected a few times that the preferred term was "partner."

The company employs only Taiwanese individuals, and does not employ foreign laborers even at its Changhua production facility. Meanwhile, it has long offered employee options, and today one-third of the company board membership consists of company staff. This enables company employees to take part in company operations and share in company growth and profits.

Huang says that in Atunas he sees the vibrancy of Taiwanese small- and medium-sized companies, as well as proof that CSR can be something unique.

Translated from the Chinese by David Toman