Saturday, February 16, 2013

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility in Nepal
By Michael Rosenkrantz[1]

"Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large."
World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Through my work with VSO and Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC) I’ve had the opportunity to explore and hopefully build and encourage further dialogue/implementation of strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Nepal.  I’ve visited numerous corporates in trying to get a handle on people’s understanding regarding their definition of CSR.  What I’ve found is a mixed bag, in which some people’s understanding is  that CSR is about corporate philanthropy, a photo opportunity and some positive publicity about a monetary or in-kind donation, while others are trying to incorporate sustainable CSR into their corporate objectives and making this part of their corporate culture,  as reflected in a vision or mission statement. 
In my initial meeting with corporates I explain that CSR is about building partnerships, in which all parties can mutually benefit.  CSR is about impact, value for money and positive change in society.  It is not a short term activity, but is about strategic investment and has to benefit and be integrated into core business objectives in order to be effective.  CSR is about innovation and taking advantage of opportunities.
Strategically focused businesses have specific core objectives, typically looking to grow to maximize profits for the business and shareholders.  Some businesses in Nepal are starting to realize how partnering with NGOs who are working with specific communities, can help them in furthering their core objectives. This is indicated by the types of CSR activities and investments that are being made.   Corporates are also beginning to realize how much sense a triple bottom line, i.e. people, profits and planet can make for growing their business.  As consumers become better educated, they want to know that businesses treat their employees well and how the manufacturing of specific products and/or services impacts the planet. 

CSR is about investing, which doesn’t have to be about money, but can be conducted through the use of human resources, value chains, infrastructure and other business expertise.  CSR activities do have to be well thought out as shareholders and management will want to ensure a positive Return on Investment.  This means positive impact and outcomes, in which a societal change is made in whatever thematic areas fit in with core business objectives. 

As indicated in the paper: Corporate Social Responsibility in Nepal: A Chance for Peace and Prosperity? Report based upon a Mission to Nepal in November 2006 by Caroline Welzel Butzbacherstr.  CSR is not about how a company spends its income but rather about how it generates that income.  In Nepal CSR can very much be about helping to stabilize the peace process.

Continuing well thought out, strategically focused, CSR activities time has come in Nepal.  It no longer is just about doing a good deed because somebody wants to give to those considered to be “less fortunate”, although this is as good a reason as any.  CSR is about working with those who may be outside of the mainstream and, e.g. developing livelihood opportunities, so that people don’t have to migrate, developing programs that keep children, especially females in school, so that they can obtain, at least a SLC, or providing health facilities in order for women to be protected in reproductive health issues or bringing about an inclusive society and so much more.   Business is the driver, but needs to partner in order to continue to develop new markets and  be sustainable.

[1] Michael Rosenkrantz is a VSO volunteer working at both VSO Nepal and Community Self-Reliance Centre, a land rights and agrarian reform NGO, in the field of corporate social responsibility.  Michael is from Los Angeles, California and plays and coaches basketball in Nepal on a regular basis.  He has an MBA from Northeastern University in Boston, an MA Sociology from Boston College and a BA-Political Science from the University of California, Irvine, with 30 years of work experience in the US, India and Nepal.  

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable Accommodation
By Michael Rosenkrantz[1]
“A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment made in a system to "accommodate" or make fair the same system for an individual based on a proven need. Accommodations can be religious, academic, or employment related and are often mandated by law. Each country has its own system of reasonable accommodations.

From April 2009-February 2012, I worked as a VSO volunteer for the Indian Government at the National Trust (NT), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in the field of developmental disabilities.  NT was established by an Act of Parliament in 1999 and was led by Chairwoman Poonam Natarajan, whose only child had been born with multiple disabilities, and who is a very strong advocate for the rights of Persons with Disability as per the UN Convention.  NT took a holistic approach towards working with Persons with Disability and had a range of schemes and programmes from early intervention and education, to housing, to vocational training, etc. in establishing a more inclusive society.  Given the population of India and the fact that between 6-10%[2] of any country’s population includes  Persons with Disability, even though NT was working only with NGOs in the developmental disability field, the organisation still  had a huge mandate.   As I learned about physical disabilities, a person’s body might be impacted but typically their mind was fine.  Even a person with intellectual disability was able, up to a point and depending on the severity, to perform certain job functions, but there might not have been “reasonable accommodation” enabling gainful employment.
Growing up in the US I was aware of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) through a plethora of curb cuts for wheelchairs, accessible buildings and reasonable accommodation in the workplace.  This was all integrated and part of the culture.  The ADA Title II provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by any such entity.”  The US Department of Justice defines a reasonable accommodation as "any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities."

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability states: “Reasonable accommodation” means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
During December 2012 the first “Career Expo for Persons with Disability” was held in Nepal.  As I noted the many people lining up to provide their CVs, I saw a great interest in finding work.  The overall question though was how many employers in Nepal provide “reasonable accommodation”?

As noted in the sidebar to this article, the National Centre for the Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (, whose Director Javed Abidi, an Ashoka Fellow, is a major advocate in India, there are numerous ways for a company  to become disabled friendly.  It does however take commitment from management to incorporate reasonable accommodation into the culture and to make it a  priority to recruit, hire and train Persons with Disability. 

I do my best to be an optimist. But in no way would I consider myself to be so Polyanna to think that reasonable accommodation will happen quickly in the workplace, especially given the huge issues that Nepal is facing.  I do however feel that given the number of Persons with Disability in Nepal, who most likely are not working up to their potential, that this is wasted human resources.  I was recently reminded of this as I was talking to a 25 year old FB friend who is a Person with Disability, with a BA degree,  who told me that he doesn’t get out of the house much.  This only begs the question, as to why a person with a BA degree is not in the workplace, making things better for the nation.  Most likely this is about “reasonable accommodation”.    

Are you a disability-friendly company] ?
You can become a disabled-friendly company by following these simple rules:
1.     Description: Visual of disability-friendly corporate logo symbolising the synergy between the disability and the corporate sectorInculcating a positive attitude towards people with disabilities and following non-discriminatory employment practices.
2.     Reserving a percentage of jobs at all appropriate levels for disabled persons.
3.     Including disability in the Mission Statement of the company. Different departments (HRD, Finance, R&D, Administration, etc) should have clear cut objectives to support people with disabilities.
4.     Formalising a policy to retain employment without reduction of rank of people who may become disabled.
5.     Being accessible not only to people with mobility problems but also those with visual and hearing impairments, for example barrier-free buildings, ramps, adapted toilets, Braille symbols and auditory signals in lifts, signage, etc.
6.     Providing appropriate aids/technology/attendants to support disabled employees in the workplace.
7.     Extending certain extra benefits like providing transport to work, rights to special leave, additional medical allowance, etc, to people with disabilities/ partners of disabled persons/or parents of disabled children.
8.     Not denying promotion to people with disabilities on grounds of disability.
9.     Creating a safe working environment to prevent health hazards and accidents.
10. Conducting regular orientation programmes for all the staff members/workers to encourage positive relations between disabled and non-disabled employees.
11. Stocking the latest information in the library pertaining to disability.
12. Providing opportunity for training in skill development for disabled persons.
13. Furnishing credit and support to persons with disabilities and promoting self-employment.
14. Being a marketing outlet for the products made by disabled persons/disability NGOs.
15. Sub-contracting/outsourcing activities to people with disabilities.
16. Participating in awareness-raising campaigns to sensitise the public.
17. Acting as a role model to educate and motivate other employers to follow suit.
18. Providing consultancy services to NGOs working in the area of production, management, marketing, entrepreneurial skills, etc.
19. Funding/sponsoring/donating to NGOs which are working for the cause of disability.
20. Supporting the government to establish and maintain support systems for disabled persons.

[1] Michael Rosenkrantz is a VSO volunteer working in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  He also tries to advocate for Persons with Disability by raising awareness through wheelchair sports in Nepal. 
[2] The 2011 India census trained enumerators to capture data on a very detailed question regarding Persons with Disability. 

Kirtipur Cup Basketball Tournament 2069-Nepal Basketball

I’ve had a love affair with basketball for 50 years.  I just can’t get enough of the sport and participate wherever I live.  In Nepal I’ve found basketball through coaching an Army Wheelchair Basketball team, playing in a number of locations and conducting a three hour session for school age children called “Life Lessons from Basketball”.  But I’ve also found the real Nepal Basketball through my friend and coach of the  Men’s National Team,  Dinesh Nakarmi. 
Dinesh is someone who also has a deep love for the game but especially for growing the sport in Nepal.  Given Dinesh’s experience he has the potential for opportunities in other countries but he only wants to make basketball successful in Nepal.  I very much admire that in him, given all of the politics that I’ve found in the sporting world.
Towards growing the game Dinesh is the General Secretary of the National Sports Council program to further develop school basketball.  (The President is Yuvraj Sharma, Chief Executive and Director of Whitehouse College)  This is truly great and will hopefully help to develop young Nepali boys and girls and provide them with a means to stay emotionally and physically healthy throughout their entire lives by playing sports, eating well and continuing their education. 
Recently Dinesh and the Naya Bazar Club (NBC) an NGO Community Based Organization (CBO) dedicated to helping society through mobilization of youth, organised the Kirtipur Cup Basketball Tournament 2069.  Since its inception NBC has been involved in many sports activities, including basketball, football, table tennis and volleyball.  
The purpose of the league, which includes six teams, i.e. Naya Bazar Club, NASA Club, Goldengate Club, Gurukul National Foundation, Whitehouse and Tribhuvan Army Club, is to:       

·         Improve the standard of national basketball;
·         Increase the popularity of this game;
·         Encourage and to provide opportunity for young people to participate in sports;
·         Improve players, coaches and referees;
·         Arouse  the public interest which will generate the necessary investments.

I attended the first series of matches, two games with another  being rained out, on February 16 and was not disappointed.  Some of the players I had seen before as they are on the Men’s National Team, however they were divided among the six teams.  One of the teams didn’t have a coach and I helped them during the second half, although they ultimately lost. 

My feeling is that it is vital for this type of tournament and school basketball programs to occur, if the sport is to become more popular.  But there is much more to it, as basketball  lessons abound for life, including teamwork, commitment, leadership, discipline, opportunities, as well as many others.

 There also is the question of proper infrastructure, which at this point is difficult to find.  Although the court that I saw on February 16 was very well maintained, most of the courts, including those that I play on are sub-par, very slippery, dangerous, without proper baskets.   Additionally the majority of courts are outside, so that when there is inclement weather there is no playing. 
As I found from coaching in India for three years, basketball  can be an equalizer.  It is very important that girls and women are given the same opportunities as boys and men to participate in basketball, i.e. whenever there is tournament, it should include competitions for everyone.   It is also important to treat all fans the same and allow everyone to sit together to cheer for their favorite players and teams.   This will also help to grow the game.

I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen during my eight months in Nepal.  My hope is that the love of basketball will continue to grow among the general populous and that more people will play, no matter what level of expertise they have.  But further I hope that everyone, young and old will participate in any sport which they enjoy in order to keep themselves healthy throughout their lives. 

For further information about the Tournament, please go to: