BARBADOS’ BEST EMPLOYERS: Companies should give back
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT is one of the areas being covered in the 2016 edition of the Barbados’ Best Employers (BBE) programme.
Some call it “giving back”, and as part of its staff survey, BBE organiser Caribbean Catalyst Inc. will “seek to determine the organisation’s awareness of and commitment to its social responsibility”.
All of this falls under the broad umbrella of corporate social responsibility. It is an area that companies have paid increased attention to in recent years.
In its recently released 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers said “64 per cent say that corporate social responsibility is core to their business rather than being a stand-alone programme”.
It quoted Li Huaizhen, president of China Minsheng Investment Corporation, as saying: “Once you have done your bit – fulfilled your social responsibilities and formed a community with shared interests, with local people – they will welcome your projects and provide huge support. So a company’s own interest and the social value it provides are closely connected. In fact, this is also a kind of investment and it always brings returns.”
Mark Horoszowski is co-founder of MovingWorlds.org, “a global platform helping people volunteer their skills around the world, on their own or through corporate-sponsored programmes”.
He said chief executive officers cared about corporate social responsibility “because they care about building trust with consumers, partners, governments, and their employees”.
“A company’s employees are key to that business’ success and increasing social responsibility while communicating your business’s higher level purpose is a key to attracting the best talent,” Horoszowski said.
Dr Livingston Smith, an associate professor at the University College of the Cayman Islands, said corporate social responsibility “denotes the commitment by businesses to behave fairly and responsibly and contribute consistently to the economic development of the communities in which they operate, while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the society at large”.
“The crucial fact about businesses giving back is that it is not really a selfless act of giving. The companies themselves derive long-term benefits from their [corporate social responsibility] initiatives and it is this enlightened self-interest which should drive and is driving some companies to give back.
“Many businesses struggle to survive in a hostile business environment, while others make profits in the millions. In both cases, businesses do not exist in isolation and so cannot be oblivious to societal development.”
Smith said corporate social responsibility had advantages. This included that “it builds up a positive image by encouraging social involvement of employees, which in turn develops a sense of loyalty towards the organisation and helps to create a dedicated workforce that is proud of its company”.
He added: “Employees like to contribute to the cause of creating a better society. Employees become champions of a company for which they are proud to work. Society gains through better neighbourhoods and employment opportunities, while the organisation benefits from a better community, which is the main source of its workforce and the consumer of its products.”
Giving a different view of issue, Roel Nieuwenkamp, chair of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Working Party On Responsible Business Conduct, said in a recent article that there was an ongoing shift from corporate social responsibility to responsible business conduct.
“Responsible business conduct means that businesses should make a positive contribution to economic, environmental and social progress with a view to achieving sustainable development and that businesses have a responsibility to avoid and address the adverse impacts of their operations,” he explained.
“While the concept of [corporate social responsibility] is often associated with philanthropic corporate conduct external to business operations, [responsible business conduct] goes beyond this to emphasise integration of responsible practices within internal operations and throughout business relationships and supply chains.”
Nieuwenkamp asserted that neither he nor the OECD “killed” corporate social responsibility, but that it “committed suicide”.
“Several characteristics contributed to its demise. First, [corporate social responsibility] is often associated with philanthropy and volunteer work in the social sphere, rather than long-term sustainable development,” he said.
“This is especially true in some regions where [corporate social responsibilities] activities are limited to companies building schools, or sponsoring local activities. Company [corporate social responsibility] reports are often largely descriptions of feel-good projects and activities that ‘give back’ to society.”
He also said corporate social responsibility was “often understood to be an optional add-on external to core business operations”.
“For example, the scope of a [corporate social responsibility] manager’s responsibility is limited to voluntary initiatives while responsibility for non-voluntary obligations falls to procurement officers, human resources or legal counsel. Therefore corruption issues are often not considered a [corporate social responsibility] issue and are not dealt with by [corporate social responsibility] managers . . . . This division is problematic.”
This debate is sure to continue in the coming years. However, regardless of what broad definition it falls under, community involvement will continue to be important for various organisations. (SC)