Varner is a brand, that like KNO global shares a Nordic Spirit with Global Impact. Varner is the Top Norwegian retail group, with more than 1,000 stores located across the Nordics. KNO Global was started by British-Finnish female founder Marianne.
Marianne, Founder and CEO of Kno Global, sat down with Kenneth Hui, regional CSR manager of Varner to discuss their collaboration to date and what inspires them.
Kenneth, how do you feel about working in the CSR field after so long and what does it take? "The CSR field has been my domain for 10+ years and I believe it takes a certain type of person. It started for me, when similar to Marianne, I saw things in the factory I wanted to change. I became more aware and wanted to see progress, I became very passionate and that’s what keeps me going today".
Kenneth continues with some advice for budding CSR professionals as this career path emerges as a more popular one by the day… “I think to work in this field you must have the passion first. You can’t just purely be motivated by fulfilling requirements and ticking the box. This would not lead to any real impacts for the workers”.
Marianne responded “I couldn’t agree more, and feel it takes a real perseverance to continue working in this field, I have seen so many who have felt defeated. It’s not easy and that’s why we want to partner with those who are equally as passionate about creating change”.
Related to your experience working with KNO in your factories, what do you feel has been the most surprising or core learning from the platform? “I have been impressed by KNO’s commitment to discover the truth. They were not satisfied with just launching the solution and coming back with whatever report or data. We had challenges in one site where managers where coaching workers, which resulted in the KNO China team calling up the site and asking managers about the real benefits that could be gained if they used the platform truthfully. Next week the report came back very different. Not alot of service providers might do it this way, and be willing to give us real results not just what we want to see to tick the box”.
Linked to this, what helps you have courage to face the fear of discovering bad issues or areas for improvement in the factories, which you weren’t previously aware of? Isn’t it just safer to stay in the dark about issues in the supply chain. “I recommend brands prepare themselves for all outcomes. I have learnt that progress is better than not knowing. It’s better to know what’s really happening on the ground, than to not open the communication channels. I have to constantly think about how to present the results back into the right way to all of my stakeholders, and the industry is still learning how to do that. I would love to see more forums where we can discuss these challenges as the supply chain managers of brands”.
What would you recommend other CSR managers in the field do, in order to level up both personally and professionally? “It’s a challenging time for our role, and you have to be able to adapt your mindset. Especially as transparency becomes something real for all of us. This means you have to face the truth. What helps is that I remind myself to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and have empathy. Even if the results come back negative, it’s best to dig into why”.
What is 1 thing you would like to see achieved 1 year from now, in the supply chain field? “I would like to build up communication circles between the brands. I know this has been attempted for years, but I still feel we are missing that in Hong Kong compared to my peers in other geographies. There would also be value in allowing suppliers who are a similar journey to meet each other versus feeling alone”.
Thanks Kenneth for your time, and we look forward to working with you again. We find you a truly inspirational figure in the CSR world!
KNO Global is pleased to share that thanks to our work with Varner across China, we have been mentioned and credited for our work towards supplier transparency goals in their annual report which you can access here: https://varner.com/globalassets/sustainability/policies-and-statements/varner-sustainability-report-2021-orig-low-res.pdf