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.  


James McRitchie said...

Great post. Good to hear businesses in Nepal concerned with CSR.

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James McRitchie said...

Referencing the BCG Sustainable Economic Development Assessment, Douglas Beal of the Boston Consulting Group and Andy Ratcliffe of the Africa Governance Initiative, share lessons on how developing countries are turning wealth into wellbeing for their citizens.