Guest Blog: Growing Pro Bono Work Around the World

We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects with the hope that they inspire you, too.

By Erica Wang, General Counsel, 3M China and Hong Kong

3M Company’s** General Counsel Ivan Fong likes to quote Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, to describe our legal team’s approach to pro bono work: “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”

Perhaps that’s why pro bono legal work, which has long been a growing focus at our company’s Minnesota headquarters, is spreading to our attorneys around the world – even some parts of the world where it’s still a developing concept. In China, we recently organized our first pro bono workshop with international law firm Hogan Lovells*† at the 3M Shanghai Innovation Center.

Social enterprises are booming in China, along with increasing attention and care to the underprivileged population and China’s societal sustainability, but they often lack legal and other professional support. At our workshop, 3M and Hogan Lovells attorneys advised five charitable organizations on their business operations. The five organizations that participated in the workshop are:

  1. Shanghai Ju Shan Zhu Can Public Welfare Development Center. Its Chinese name, Ju Shan Zhu Can, means “collection of kindness to support the disabled.” The Center created China’s first online charity store five years ago, which takes in unused clothing and household items or business inventory, and then sells them online. The organization provides employment opportunities to people with disabilities and also uses the revenue to run charitable programs.
  2. Netspring Social Enterprise. It collects used computers from companies to distribute to rural schools, which not only supports the education of children living in poverty, but also reduces e-waste by continuing the usefulness of the computers.
  3. Shanghai Laogang Town Beilan Environmental Protection Service Center. The name “Beilan” in Chinese refers to ensuring a blue sky for younger generations. It focuses on environmental protection by way of recycling used clothes.
  4. GeiLi Giving. The name “Geili” in Chinese means giving power. It collects donations, sells goods for charity and conducts other charitable activities via a public service web platform.
  5. Shanghai Yi Tu Wu Zhang Ai Art Studio. The name “Yi Tu Wu Zhang Hai” means no barrier to becoming artists. This studio was set up in 2010 to help children with autism experience the arts and develop their skills.

Each enterprise was paired with a small group of attorneys. We learned about their initiatives, missions, and challenges, and, based on that, we provided specific solutions from legal and risk control perspectives. Each enterprise received more than an hour of dedicated consulting in a private meeting room.

The participants were very pleased about the interaction with legal professionals, and we were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to their important work. We aim to contribute more and are about to organize our second pro bono activity in the second half of this year. All of us felt what is to be gained by giving.

Thank you, 3M Company, for contributing to The PBEye.

† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory