Mr Nguyen Quang Vinh worked at the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) for 26 years, rising from officer to General Secretary. This equals the 26 year development of the VCCI – British Council partnership, commencing when the British Council was preparing to open an office in Hanoi. Both sides have long supported Vietnam’s development, helping to deliver meaningful outcomes for the business climate and individual stakeholders.
Mr Nguyen Quang Vinh started to work at the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) in 1992 as an officer of the International Relations Division for the UK and the USA. This was also the time that the British Council was preparing for its official presence in Vietnam. Vinh can still recall directly assisting with the installation of the British Council Hanoi office.
The two parties first cooperated on the English classes. From Vinh’s perspective, Vietnam had only just begun to open its doors to the region and the world and needed workers who could speak English well:
“Not many people could speak English in those days. That was where the British Council came in with its English classes delivered to the key personnel of the VCCI, companies or ministerial officials. These proved invaluable.”
In addition to that, the British Council was also active in supporting key personnel of the VCCI to gain access to the Chevening scholarship offered by the British Foreign Affairs Ministry. Vinh and quite a few VCCI leaders in their various terms of office received the Chevening scholarship, which gave them long-lasting values from studying in the UK. Mr Vinh completed his Master in Business Administration, majoring in International Business and Export Governance, at Cass Business School, one of the top business administration colleges in the United Kingdom. Most important to Vinh, more so than the information gained from the lessons, was the new and scientific approach to knowledge. There were also other useful skills, for example time management, teamwork, proactive thinking and communication in a multi-cultural environment. These skills helped him become more successful and balanced in work and life.
Another salient contribution the British Council made to the VCCI and the local business climate, highly credited by General Secretary Nguyen Quang Vinh, was taking the lead in assisting relevant agencies to introduce the social enterprise (SE) concept into Vietnamese Enterprise Law.
Vinh explained: “Social enterprises are created to solve social and environmental issues. If they are set up well, it is not only very good economically but also contributes to social security. In order to grown, they need to be prioritised by various authorities at different levels. Because social enterprise was a new concept known to Vietnam no longer than 5–6 years, it had no legal platform. The British Council, in partnership with the VCCI, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, and the Central Institute for Economic Management, helped embed the social enterprise concept in Enterprise Law. Social enterprises, previously unaccepted, now began to develop. The British Council was active in providing counsel, sending local senior officials on study visits to the UK, and bringing experts from the UK to attend forums on sustainable development. This helped businesses provide more sources of reference for Vietnam before embracing the concept in its law.”
Mr Vinh said that SE was one of the core pillars of business sustainable development and social responsibility. The VCCI and the Business Council for Sustainable development – a VCCI initiative – were promoting these in Vietnam to help the economy achieve its Sustainable Development Goals from the UN agenda for 2030. Thus, social enterprise was always an important agenda item at National Meetings on Sustainable Development (the first held in 2014). The British Council actively supported these by sending experts from the UK to speak at the forum, which helped enhance the awareness of local businesses in creating values consistent with Sustainable Development Goals.
A multilateral networking initiative that Vinh wants to highlight was the British Council’s collaboration with the VCCI to create the UKAV (the Association of Former Vietnamese Students in the UK). He felt that the UKAV was working very well, engaging thousands of its members through such activities as sports, inter-cultural exchanges, and trade promotion. “It was one of the efforts where I gave great credit to BC and the British Embassy in their cooperation with Vietnamese agencies,” Vinh said.
Through his long-term vision, Mr Vinh was committed to his role of promoting sustainable values for businesses and moving toward achievement of Social Development Goals. One can be sure that the British Council shares the same goals and path and will keep working “for a long time, persistently and actively” with the VCCI.
“The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a long history of cooperation with the British Council. Both sides have helped create a great deal of added value through exchange of education, trade promotion and culture between the two countries.”