SAN JOSE, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Sinohydro Group Ltd, a top global hydropower construction firm, said its growth in Costa Rica underscored the virtue of social responsibility in a company's overseas expansion.
"The Costa Ricans know little about China and its companies, and that's why a good first impression is so important," said Fu Xing, a Sinohydro manager working on the 50MW Chucas hydroelectric plant, China's first ever project in Costa Rica.
Located along the Tarcoles river, 40 km south of the Costa Rican capital San Jose, the 92.3-million-U.S.-dollar project is small by corporate standards, but significant as it could generate future contracts in the South American country for Sinohydro and other Chinese firms, he said.
Sinohydro set goals to surpass expectations and make it easier "for the company and other Chinese companies that seek to enter the Latin American market," Fu said.
Fulfilling the project overseas was not easy for many reasons. Firstly, there are many rigorous norms and regulations for protecting the environment as well as employee welfare and security.
However, the company impressed officials from Costa Rica's public health and labor ministries during their surprise visits to the project site to check on the application of labor and safety laws, said Fu.
Limits in infrastructure also hampered the company's operation in the local community.
However, in the end, the limits turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both the local community and the company, as Sinohydro's Chinese employees and construction workers turned the problems into opportunities.
Before the company arrived at the site, "there was only a narrow trail that linked two sides of the river, subject to mudslides caused by rainy season downpours," recalled Fu. "This was also the only access for the local mountaintop community."
The company decided to build the trail into a paved cement roadway twice as wide as the original one to facilitate the transport of construction material and equipment.
The move also benefited the local residents and people became friendly to the Chinese. "When locals passed the workers, they greeted them by saying hello in Chinese, 'Nihao.' " Fu said.
Costa Rica's University of Science and Technology, located 3 km from the plant, provided another win-win situation for the company and the community.
Realizing the university's abandoned and crumbling 5,000-square-meter dormitory complex, if fixed up, could offer ideal temporary accommodations for the Chinese workers, Fu approached the university's board of directors with a proposal to rebuild the dorms for its workers and return them back to the university once the project was finished.
Now, the once dilapidated university dorms are air-conditioned and the sanitary conditions have improved.
"The directors were delighted, praising the Chinese engineers for the way they fulfilled their promise," Fu said.
As Chinese companies enter new and unknown markets, they can generate good will and ensure projects progress smoothly by empathizing with the local residents and authorities and exercising good corporate citizenship, said Fu.
To that end, Sinohydro's employees and workers try to take into account the needs of local communities as much as possible when working on projects abroad.
Sinohydro workers once lobbied local authorities to build a clean-water well for local residents and met with the local Red Cross to solicit medical care for locals. Ambulances bought to transport the sick or injured to clinics and hospitals were also later donated to the Red Cross after the project was finished.
"These small gestures that cost relatively little can play a big role in elevating a company's standing in the community," said Fu.