As the sky darkens, performers and visitors stop dancing and leave for their accommodations in Waipula village with laughter, calling it an end to the campfire party in the small Yi ethnic village in Yunnan province.

Xia Xuefang, a member of the night’s performance team Huoboruoma, or daughters of the moon, finally can enjoy some relaxation before going to bed by sharing the best moments of the day on social media platforms.

“All of this would be a dream in heaven for me two years back,” said Xia, a mother of three who used to support the family through tobacco farming. “Unlike before, now Yi embroidery, ethnic performances and tourism have all brought us income. The annual income of my family of eight can reach 150,000 yuan ($21,570), which increased by one-third compared to the past.”

Xia’s success was not rare in her village. More than 600 women there are now supporting their families with Yi embroidery, thanks to a targeted training project initiated by Mary Kay China, the United Nations Development Program, the China Women’s Development Foundation and the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. The aim of the alliance is to achieve sustainable development goals in rural areas of China.

Diversified efforts have been made in sectors including tourism, traditional ethnic art shows and cultural exhibitions in the village by Mary Kay China. As a result, it has helped reduce the poverty rate in Yongren county, where the village is located, to 0.77 percent in 2019 from 28 percent in 2017.

“Our moves in the village starts with analysis and planning, of how to improve the livelihoods and help the village in a sustainable way,” said Zhang Jing, vice-president of Mary Kay China, who has been leading teams to Waipula village herself to check on the progress of the project.

“There lies many challenges in making and carrying out such plans, as for a village with weak infrastructure but lots of nice natural views, we always stick to the principles of developing the infrastructure without destroying the traditional remains. And we made it, and came out with a plan of seven years for the village,” Zhang said.

“I had no idea that the old stuff I learnt for fun while I was young, like Yi embroidery or dances and songs, can also be used to earn a living. In the past, my family lived on tobacco farming and the workload was heavy, and I had to work in the fields as well, even during my pregnancy, because all the trivial things related to the family were on my shoulders,” Xia said. “But now, you can see a brand new life for me. I may still need to sweat at work, but I do so with all my heart and joy.”

Mary Kay’s corporate social responsibility moves, which has helped boost the nation’s goal of eliminating absolute poverty by the end of this year, have garnered it many charity awards, including the top CSR prize in the nation-the China Charity Award in 2013, and the 2020 GoldenBee CSR China Honor Roll GoldenBee Enterprise, making the company a role model among its foreign peers conducting CSR in China.

The efforts in Waipula village are just part of the company’s benevolent moves in China.

According to MKC’s 2019 Sustainability Development Report, a report displaying Mary Kay’s achievements in boosting sustainable development in 25 years, released on Aug 6 by the company in Beijing, since the company entered the Chinese market in 1995, the company has set up several funds to support its charity moves and help more than 82,000 female entrepreneurs start their own businesses, 44,000 junior school students get a quality education and 6,700 kids have potable water.

In addition, an outline named “Empower, Inspire, Transform and Preserve”, was made by the company to encourage more social participation, including that of its employees, to conduct CSR moves and achieve better results. So far, a total of 180 million yuan has been invested by the company in the CSR sector in China.

“Shouldering social responsibility is undoubtedly an important strategy for companies in various industries, especially the foreign ones, as it demonstrates and strengthens a company’s resilience,” said Yin Gefei, founder of GoldenBee Consulting, an organization promoting social responsibility and sustainable development in China, during the 15th International CSR Forum in Beijing on Aug 6.

“Apart from Mary Kay’s investment moves directly supporting the poverty alleviation efforts in China, what matters more is that the company always focuses on, also is good at, having female roles under the spotlight in every business, which has offered more solutions for many issues in the society,” Yin added.

Among all the efforts of carrying out sustainable development projects in China, women have always been a major focus for United States-based Mary Kay, and the company has been persistent on this principle while making decisions in global market expansion. The company this year named a female company top official-Julia Simon-as the chief diversity officer, another move to enhance female roles in company regulation affairs.

As digitalization, uncertainties in supply chains, government stimulus policies and changes in consumer behaviors are brewing new business opportunities, the CSR sector has a greater chance of becoming a major business sector in the future, Jan Noterdaeme, co-founder and senior advisor of CSR Europe, said during the forum.

Companies’ CSR efforts are gaining more attention from the governments, investors and other social parties nowadays, especially since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is turning into a trend to involve more participants in China, where the epidemic is under better control, Noterdaeme added.

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