SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITYSOCIAL PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT
“With you, for you” is the slogan Amret has used for more than 25 years to show solidarity with clients and commitment to Cambodia’s socioeconomic development. Amret is recognized as the leading institution that was first to foster social performance management towards fulfilling its vision and mission. The Social Performance Management System (SPMS) provides the framework for target setting and for managing and reporting on social performance. Amret has actively and passionately pursued its social mission, paying attention to environmental protection, participating in social welfare activities, donating to educational institutions and welfare agencies, and, most important of all, improving the living standards of its clients'.
Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI): Amret uses the PPI to gauge the poverty rate of its clients. This tool is a vital component of Amret’s SPMS in tracking trends in clients' socioeconomic status. It also supports product and service developments that can satisfy clients' demands and needs. Through this tool, clients not only have a chance to discuss their livelihood challenges and opportunities, but can also provide feedback on Amret’s products and services.
Amret conducts a client poverty assessment survey every two years. The 2017 survey found that the poverty rate among Amret's low-income clients has fallen by 2.6 percentage points, from 13.4% in 2015 to 10.8% in 2017.
Customer Satisfaction and Exit Survey: Measuring customer satisfaction and customer loyalty is key to achieving Amret’s business goals. Customer feedback collected through annual customer satisfaction and exit surveys provides important insights into any shortcomings or awkwardness in accessing and using Amret’s services and products. Amret adheres to the motto “A customer complaint is a valuable gift, so we must accept it graciously”. Customer feedback helps Amret to continuously improve its products and services and achieve higher customer satisfaction.
Agricultural training: Amret delivered 75 training courses on Best Practices for Rice Production Management, Fertilizer Application, and Vegetable Gardening to 1,652 clients in eight provinces: Banteay Meanchey, Battambong, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang, Kampot, Pursat and Thbong Khmum. Training content is regularly updated through collaboration with local government experts and NGOs. Skilled trainers work to build the capacity of smallholders and teach them new skills, techniques and methods so they can improve their productivity and put their farms on a sound business footing. A follow-up study found that 80% of participants have applied the new techniques they acquired from training, 92% reported increased yields, and 78% had shared their new knowledge with other villagers.
Mr Moun Rab is a 49-year-old farmer in Sras Chouk Kert village, Phnom Srok commune, Banteay Meanchey province, where he has lived since he and his wife married in 1990. They have three daughters; the eldest married in 2007 and moved to live with her husband in another village and the other two still live in the family home. His main business, which supports seven household members, is cassava farming on a small plot of land.
He took out his first loan from Amret in 2014 as a member of a Solidarity Credit group. The maximum he could borrow at that time was 1,000,000 riels ($250), and he invested it in cassava farming. Every year since, he has taken out a further loan to expand his farming. Despite his hard work, the yields have sometimes barely covered costs. The very low profit created financial distress for his household and made it especially hard for him to meet his loan obligations. However, he did his best to stabilize his family’s finances and managed to make loan payments on time by doing paid work on top of his farming.
His fortunes changed for the better in 2017. “I was invited to join a workshop organized by Amret on cassava growing and fertilizer use, where I learned about new and improved farming methods”, Mr Rab explained. “By using the techniques the trainers told us about, I harvested 40 to 50 percent more cassava than last season, and made a profit of around $375 a hectare. This surprise windfall is what I used to dream about when I first started growing cassava”.
Reflecting on the loan application process, Mr Rab said, “Before giving me a loan, Amret’s staff always carefully explain the loan conditions and repayment methods and often give me useful tips on business planning”. He added, “After receiving my first loan, I was invited to join the Financial Literacy Education program. I especially appreciated the chance to learn about new agricultural methods from knowledgeable trainers.”
These days Mr Rab’s family enjoys a decent standard of living. He has been able to support his middle daughter’s career as a teacher and his youngest daughter’s high school education. And he has never missed a single loan payment.
“The new methods I learned through the training helped me cut costs and increase yields”, he said happily. His enthusiasm has spread to his relatives and other villagers who have learned from his experience and are now using improved farming methods to increase their yields as well.
He was keen for Amret to organize other agricultural workshops in his village, so that he and other villagers can learn even more, saying “When I’ve paid off my current loan, I plan to take out a fifth loan of $2,500 to buy more land and expand my cassava and rice farming”. He said, “I will keep in touch with Amret’s trainers to learn more about good practices in cassava growing and keep up with the latest farming techniques.”
Financial Literacy and Basic Hygiene Education: This program aims to help clients manage their household budget and improve their health and wellbeing. Amret, between January and July, delivered 37 training courses on Debt Management, How to Earn Interest from Saving Money Safely, and Methods of Clean Eating, Drinking and Living to 756 clients in eight provinces: Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang, Kampot, Pursat and Thbong Khmum. End of year monitoring and evaluation found that some 80% of participants used what they had learned in their everyday life, of whom 90% could manage their household budget effectively and knew how to save money and manage debt, and 89% had shared their new knowledge with others.
Customer care: Amret pays close attention to customers’ needs to deliver beyond their expectations. Frontline staff undergo training to ensure all branches provide the best customer service possible. A warm welcome with a smile and efficient service by courteous staff are at the core of Amret’s customer service excellence. All customers are treated with integrity and respect, without discrimination.
To foster a more customer-centric culture and motivate staff to offer high standards of customer service, outstanding branches receive a performance recognition letter and a financial reward.
Amret’s Customer Experience Day was again marked by top and senior managers greeting and serving customers personally across the branch network. The aim is to show customers that Amret cares, as well as to set best examples of good customer service.
Our clients are at the heart of everything we do at Amret. Client protection is integral to responsible finance and, ultimately, ensures Amret’s sustainable growth. Amret is Client Protection Certified by the global Smart Campaign, signifying that Amret takes adequate care to design products and services that do not harm its clients. In so doing,
Amret adheres to these seven Client Protection Principles: Appropriate product design and delivery: Amret takes adequate care to design products and delivery channels in such a way that Amret does not cause its clients harm. Products and delivery channels are designed with client characteristics in mind.
Prevention of over-indebtedness: Amret takes adequate care in all phases of its credit process to determine that clients have the capacity to repay their loans without becoming over-indebted. In addition, Amret implements and monitors internal control systems that support the prevention of over-indebtedness; and fosters efforts to improve market-level credit risk management (such as credit information sharing).
Transparency: Amret communicates clear, sufficient and timely information in a manner and language that clients can understand so that clients can make informed decisions. The need for transparent information on product pricing, terms and conditions is emphasized.
Responsible pricing: Pricing, terms and conditions are set in a way that is affordable to clients while allowing the financial institution to be sustainable. Amret strives to provide positive real returns on deposits.
Fair and respectful treatment of clients: Amret treats its clients fairly and respectfully and without discrimination. Amret ensures adequate safeguards to detect and eliminate corruption as well as aggressive or abusive treatment by staff, particularly during loan and debt collection processes.
Privacy of client data: Amret safeguards and protects client information at all times. Amret does not believe in disclosing client information without their knowledge and consent. Mechanisms for complaint resolution: Amret believes in listening to its clients and ensuring that their concerns and grievances are addressed effectively. Amret is committed to providing formal channels of communication with customers through which they can give feedback on the quality of service.
Communication and motivation: To maintain teamwork and build solidarity among staff and between staff and management, Amret organized several events and social activities including the annual managers seminar, Khmer New Year party, enjoyable tour on Women’s Day, and the CEO Football Cup Tournament. These recreational events give employees the chance to get to know each other better and help create a working environment that fosters clear communication, team spirit, solidarity and collaboration.
Capacity development: The Learning and Development Department (L&DD) provided training to 2,715 staff at all levels, including coaching for 698. Trainees comprised 520 new recruits, 1,339 branch staff and 568 promotees. The team also delivered a further 42 training courses covering functional, cross-functional, behavioural, and leadership and managerial skills to 264 staff. Digital learning and video conferencing are the main channels used to deliver training at Amret. Through these channels, L&DD can provide customized training for support and network staff while achieving cost and resource efficiencies. At the same time, we can maintain the quality and relevance of training, make it more accessible and improve outcomes. Online training and learning will surely be a great benefit to Amret.
Positive work environment: Clearly defined Corporate Culture, Corporate Values, Code of Conduct, Sexual Harassment Policy and Whistle Blowing Policy are fully embedded into Amret’s operational culture to ensure all staff are treated fairly and to maintain supportive workplace relationships. Amret pays careful attention to staff health, safety and welfare, ensuring offices have adequate space, ventilation, lighting and facilities, including drinking water and a rest room. Amret employs a full-time nurse consultant who is responsible for first aid equipment and treatment, and coordination of staff health insurance claims.
Talent development: All staff members have the opportunity to improve their job skills and knowledge and develop new skills and expertise for future work assignments. In 2017, 60 branch management staff took part in the Front Line Management Program to prepare them for new and greater challenges and responsibilities. A further 40 support staff will join the Young Talent Program in 2018. These programs are designed to upgrade and maintain the skills and motivation of managers and staff, and to build awareness and capability in support of organizational change as Amret transitions to Amret Plus.
Staff representation: Employees can voice their concerns, complaints and grievances, whether individual or collective, relating to wages, working conditions, labour law and general regulations through staff representatives. After receiving requests or complaints from staff, a committee or Amret’s management identify the root cause and determine how to resolve the issue.
Employee ambition: Amret encourages employees to pursue their goals and ambitions by making low-interest loans available to full-time staff, 2,284 of whom benefitted from this support in 2017.
Diversity and inclusiveness: Amret ensures transparency and accountability in human resource management by adhering to non-discriminatory principles. The important factors determining staff selection and internal staff promotion are competencies and work ethics. Employees can be confident that they have equal opportunities for progression and promotion, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, age, gender or political affiliation. Promoting gender equality to address the remaining gender gaps remains a major priority for Amret to strengthen its workforce.
Volunteer and internship program: Amret provided work placements for 160 national and international university students and fresh graduates. The program offers aspiring young people the employment opportunity to work with knowledgeable professionals and gain real-life experience of working in the microfinance sector, and supports undergraduates in their study of Amret’s evolution and the contribution of microfinance to inclusive economic growth as part of their degree program.
Social contribution activities: Amret actively seeks to support local initiatives that enrich the quality of life and improve social welfare. In 2017 Amret engaged in a wide range of social contribution activities, as follows:
Donated funds to the Cambodian Red Cross to support the survivors of traffic accidents, who often suffer life-changing injuries and disabilities, as well as the widows and orphans of road crash victims.
Provided financial support for a girl requiring hospital treatment for a severe nose injury.
Sponsored the National Bank of Cambodia to promote the riel on the 37th Anniversary of the Reintroduction of the Riel.
Sponsored the 67th International Children’s Day, this year on the theme “Children’s Songs”.
Funded the Association of Kratie Students to launch a Social Development Workshop.
Provided financial support to ICO Cambodia for the project “The Rescue of Children Living in Difficult Situations in the Community”.
Contributed materials to Prek Leap Agriculture University’s sports tournament, including parasols, T-shirts, flyers, calendars and eco-bags.
Provided benches and parasols in Kampong Chhnang, Svay Rieng, Kampot and Banteay Meanchey provinces.
Funded “TVET Day 2017”, which was organized by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Education to give students career guidance so they have a clearer idea of their skills and preferences, and to enable them to meet and explore new opportunities with employers and companies.
Organized a voluntary blood donation event at Amret’s head office during which 35 employees donated blood, and donated money to the National Blood Transfusion Center.
Organized Green Exercise Day in Kampong Cham to encourage and improve community health and wellness by raising awareness about the benefits of regular physical activity and keeping public spaces clean. Amret provided the Department of Environment with garbage bins, and Amret staff handed out T-shirts and took part in a community litter pick to clean up the city.
Provided T-shirts, eco-bags, pens and financial support for an Education Forum, which is run by an expert agency with the approval of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
Incorporating environmental protection and environmental education into business practices to minimize the environmental impact of Amret’s operations and its clients’ business activities is the main environmental performance objective. To that end, Amret’s Social and Environmental Policy sets out the guidelines and standards employees are expected to apply in their daily work. Clients who want to borrow KHR40,000,000 (USD10,000) or more for business or commercial purposes are screened and evaluated to identify associated environmental and social risks. Those whose business activities, if left unchecked, could harm the environment and society are required to sign an environmental and social contract and have a risk mitigation plan.
Amret’s exclusion list: This list is used to screen applicants and reject those whose activities have adverse impacts on the environment and society. The list excludes prohibited activities or businesses in accordance with international conventions, national legislation and regulations pertaining to exploitative forms of forced or child labour, trade in weapons and munitions, gambling, sex trafficking, trade in wildlife or wildlife products as regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife and Flora (CITES), production, trade, storage or transport of radioactive materials or significant volumes of hazardous chemicals, illegal fishing, illegal commercial logging, tobacco-related business, and other illegal activities.
Clean energy: Amret continues to encourage rural clients to take advantage of the Biodigester Loan and install a household biodigester, as doing so can help reduce energy costs, enhance living standards and improve indoor air quality. This loan not only helps low-income households increase their economic welfare but also contributes to environmental conservation by reducing deforestation, protecting natural resources and lowering methane emissions. Credit Officers actively promote this loan product in all Amret’s operational areas.
Ecological literacy: Amret focuses on ecological education by delivering training courses developed to urge employees and clients to protect the environment through their everyday choices, as well as to use scarce, nonrenewable resources and materials (water, electricity, woodfuel, paper, plastic bags) effectively.
Environmental activities: In 2017, Amret participated in the following conservation activities:
Provided garbage bins, banners and other materials to promote environmental education in Siem Reap, Thbong Khmom, Kampng Chhnang, Svay Rieng, Kampot and Banteay Meanchey provinces.
Provided financial support for a study tour for university students and Amret staff in Stung Treng province on the topic “Understanding Environmental Issues”.
Supported a charity fundraising campaign for a recycling program to promote environmental protection.
Provided study materials to 200 students and financial support for a tree planting program in Kampong Leng district, Kampong Chhnang province.