Corporate social responsibility programs have now become an important barometer of a firm’s sustainability, beyond simply making profits.
For Han Sung Motor, the largest official dealer of Mercedes-Benz in South Korea, CSR projects have been a crucial part of its business strategy nearly for a decade. And what keeps the company going in its commitment toward the society is the changes it has brought so far, such as watching teenagers from underprivileged families grow their confidence and happiness, its CEO said.
“Through social interaction, they have become more confident and stronger individuals. Even though the program changes every year, reflecting the students’ feedback, our core DNA which provides the best possible art education for them remains the same,” said Han Sung Motor CEO Ulf Ausprung in an interview with The Korea Herald.
Han Sung Motor CEO Ulf Ausprung (center) poses with Dream Gream scholarship recipients and Padosikmul, a creative duo, who collaborated with students for abstract installation artworks titled “Interview” last week at KIAF held at Coex in Samseong-dong, Seoul, on Friday. (Han Sung Motor)
Ausprung was referring to its CSR art project Dream Gream and its participation in the 18th Korea International Art Fair last week. The annual scholarship program is designed to nurture young artistic talents. The project in its eighth year, has been taking part in KIAF, one of Asia’s biggest art markets and art shows, to broaden the horizons of young artists. Han Sung Motor was also an official sponsor for KIAF.
The teenagers of Dream Gream project, have worked in collaboration with Padosikmul, a group of two Korean artists, this year, for an abstract installation art titled “Interview,” he said, calling it “an interesting turn.”
“(Last year) it was artistic with real craftwork, dealing with both imaginary situations and real-life situations. However, this year’s work is abstract installation art. We wanted to bring across more messages which triggers thinking such as ‘what if plants could talk to us?’ and ‘do plants have a soul or personality?’” he said.
“This year, we were going beyond because since Dream Gream program is entering its ninth year, I think they’ve been exposed to many different art genres of art.”
Initiated by the dealer in 2012, the project aims to offer young artists a chance to participate in the list of art shows.
Han Sung Motor CEO Ulf Ausprung (Han Sung Motor)
The Dream Gream scholarship recipients have been illustrating their dreams with the help of mentors, former recipients of the program, art professors and Dream Gream ambassadors who will take part in the programs.
With a mission to support young artists from low-income families until they graduate high school, the Dream Gream art scholarship project offers diverse educational programs, including mentoring sessions with undergraduates studying art at university, meetups and opportunities for collaboration with famous artists, intensive summer art camps and financial support.
The program kicked off in 2012 with 20 mentees and doubled the number by 2015. For students, Han Sung has been also cooperating with various art foundations such as Design Fair and Seoul Foundation of Art and Culture over the years.
Ausprung, an art collector himself, said it’s not the star artists he wants to see a result of the program, but a mature human being seeking dream.
“We encourage them to realize their dream. We gave them enough fuel, which brings momentum, confidence that they like what they do,” he said.
Learning the way of managing interaction between the public and artists is also important.
“Getting feedback from the public and dealing with it, is important to realize (because) art is debatable, and people may or may not like it. It is all part of growing up.”
It is not just an opportunity to participate in a major art fair. The Dream Gream scholarship recipients are invited to a series of events throughout the year including an intensive summer art camp and regular meetings with the CEO, who have been taking the lead in Han Sung’s various CSR projects.
And what motivates him to carry on this annual project is the satisfaction of students.
“It is part of being in a litmus test for every year-end. We have a closing ceremony where students go out, and the students come in. And I could see students’ happiness and it is really rewarding to see students thank me and the program.”
Beside its own CSR projects, Han Sung Motor is a part of Mercedes-Benz’s social contribution committee, participating a large set of projects being carried out in collaboration with municipalities, welfare institutions and individuals.
When asked of his view on harsh scrutiny over luxury brands’ CSR projects, Ausprung suggested a need to take a closer look into all the CSR programs ran by the three Daimler AG subsidiaries and its 11 dealers. From kimchi making event to a series of large-scale fundraising event such as Give N’ Run and Give N’ Race, the committee has raised around 18.1 billion won in the last five year to help local communities achieve sustainable growth.
“I think it is not a fair assessment to make if we look at what we do, the effect to the society, how we engage, and how often we engage.”
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org