Corporations: time to step up your Corporate Social Responsibility commitment!

Corporate Social Responsibility OR Commitment to Sustainability and Respect?

Picture this: a construction company wins a big project in a foreign market.

When CSR is just a facade

To execute it, brings along its employee, its know-how, and even its screw-drivers. Completes the project to success, cashes in the big cheque, and leaves, priding itself of having accomplished a major project.What about the transfer of know-how? What about stimulating the local community and society by engaging it in the project? By creating jobs?  Ultimately, what was their impact?

In whatever way we engage with a society, I believe there should always be a consideration that goes beyond simple operational efficiency.

Why your business should already be investing in “Corporate Social Responsibility”?

As a “Weber Shandwick Social Impact” survey conducted in 2010 reveals, the main drive behind Corporations investing in CSR is to have an impact on critical issues and seeing their values in action.

The time when businesses lived and operated in vacuum is well behind us.

Clearly, globalization impacted our social interaction. There is now a common consciousness, a general sense of belonging:  to our workplace, our community, our society.  We can no longer be oblivious to the fact that demographic change, natural resources scarcity, technology acceleration and health challenges are now trendsetters businesses have to obey by.

We look out to our future yet dig into our past. We strive to become global citizens yet fight to preserve our national identity, our immediate environment.

Corporations can no longer pump resources, be them human or natural, for the sake of a positive bottom line. Simply put, businesses need to create value that contributes to economic, societal and environmental progress.

By definition, CSR should reflect a balanced equation, a win-win outcome: companies make profits and society benefits.

Rio+20 aftermath

Rio+20 generated a lot of controversy. No matter what the outcome was, there was a clear message that “civil society actors play an essential role in the change the world wants to see”.

Businesses are the detonators of future progress. Their engagement will push and prepare the ground for political decisions and thus their implementations. The way we do business today should transform our economy and lifestyle into sustainable ones.

As Paul Polman – CEO of Unilever – points out at the closure of Rio+20, governments have demonstrated an unfortunate coldness in tackling major issues. This is where the corporate world can and should step in.

We are entering a very interesting period of history where the responsible business world is running ahead of the politicians. The political climate is very difficult and to some extent paralysed.”

Whether it is about “green-washing” their conscious or truly wanting to live their values, companies are starting to feel the constant and underlying pressure of improving their presence and impact on their employees, bottom lines, environment and society.

PR stunt OR act of altruism?

Many argue that CSR enhances a “feel good” factor for the company embracing it. Yet, if you look at Vodafone’s example, it simply excells in its CSR practice.

Vodafone fosters positive relationships with the communities it serves by proactively addressing concerns and implementing standardized practices among its operating companies.

By making its products more accessible through introducing low cost, easy-to-use phones, Vodafone demonstrates its commitment to society. Through their supply chain management ethics, they serve to eliminate forced and child labor as well discriminatory practices. Good wages and hours for employees at every level of the supply chain completes the programme. At last, they run a phone recycling program by re-using and recycling old phones. All proceeds from this campaign are donated to the YMCA.

On a regional scale, Vodafone understood that one of the main barriers of immigrants is speaking the language of

Social integration through education

their host countries, thus allowing them to carve themselves a new life in a new environment. Under the umbrella of their “World of Difference program” Vodafone offered free basic English literacy courses for migrant workers in Qatar. Around 100 learners of 6 nationalities (Sri Lankan, Nepali, Filipino, Indian, Bangladeshi, Egyptian) successfully completed the program in 2011. The initiative is in its second year. As mentioned in my previous blog, what is CSR,  Vodafone’s program demonstrates a company’s clear understanding of its environment, society and implications.

No doubt that these practices enhanced the company’s image by directly contributing to positive public relations. Nevertheless, the outcome on the market was positive. It is a clear example of the win-win situation aforementioned.

Why your society needs your Corporate Social Responsibility commitment?

Basically, asides from sounding good and making a company “look good” , corporations should adopt CSR because they have the economical and social power to shape the future. RIO+20 proved that the governments aren’t there yet while businesses have demonstrated a greater commitment, for they realise it is vital to their sustainability. Furthermore, they have in hand the power and tools to drive change simply by adapting their business practices to the needs of the society they operate it.

Think about it this way: what greater achievement than topping your financial success with employee satisfaction, environment preservation and social enhancement?


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