Corporate Social Responsibility as organisations' survival tool

2010-03-31
THE PUNCH Newspaper-Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe


There is hardly any business organisation that will deny that money making is not a major issue. They have all got to make profits.

With these in mind, resources, both human and material, are always strategically deployed to ensure steady inflow of returns.

Experts have said, however, that while it is important and indeed, commendable to make profits, organisations should always remember that they do not exist in isolation.



According to them, it also makes good business sense to deploy resources to ensure that business activities and presence in a community translate to some form of uplift to those residents therein.



This, in a nutshell, is what CSR is all about.



Just last week, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group in collaboration with the Canadian Deputy High Commission, Lagos, organised a one-day interactive workshop to deliberate on this issue.



That shows how critical it is to enshrine the practice of CSR in Nigerian organisations. But the forum also threw up a lot of kickers as it became obvious that various organisations and their managements felt that there were quite a number of constraints in realising their dreams as far as CSR in Nigeria was concerned.



For instance, many of the companies‘ representatives present asked questions that implied that there was confusion as regards what CSR really meant.



But experts have said that despite the absence of a universal definition of CSR, it is important that organisations understand that it is mainly about the private sector‘s way of integrating the economic, social, and environmental imperatives of their activities.



In other words, it is about an organisation looking out for any community in which it finds itself.



According to the Director-General, NESG, Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr, while it is imperative that the private sector should link accountability on the side of the government and CSR, that does not diminish the gains accruable to an organisation that takes it serious. ”If you pay your tax and engage in corporate social responsibility, you will probably be in business much longer with much peace. Corporate organisations should embrace CSR from the moral perspective and from the perspective of survival. Therefore, they should embrace CSR as a survival tool,” he noted.



The Corporate Services Executive of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Akinwale Goodluck, agreed with Nweke. ”We believe that CSR is germane to our success. You cannot thrive in a community where only the corporate organisations survive. You must sustain your business by ensuring that the community also thrives,” explained.



However, he remarked that there had been an attempt to blur the line between CSR and local empowerment and that the two were different.



He added, ”CSR is an intelligent management of the expectations of the community. The corporate organisations cannot replace governments, rather, they should complement them.”



Goodluck also explained that there was a need to get innovative in order to address some of the challenges faced by organisations that want to impact positively on their host communities. This even becomes more imperative when they desire the sustainability of any project they embark on.



He therefore advised organisations to address the lack of monitoring and evaluation processes and inadequate funding for the sustainability of the projects.



”I am wary of projects that have to do with creating awareness. I do not want to spend N50m on disability awareness workshops when I can use it to provide wheelchairs for the disable and directly impact their lives. Today, we are putting in more into the sustainability of our projects,” he added.



Another hurdle, which he said, also hampers the promotion and integration of CSR was political instability. “Sometimes when there is a change in government, you might witness a wane in the interest displayed in the projects,” he stated.



According to the Senior Policy Advisor, Africa (Metals and Minerlas Sector), Natural Resources, Canada, Ms. Lois Hooge, there has to be a stakeholders mapping when an organisation is involved in CSR.



She said, ”While doing this, the organisation engages the Non-Governmental Organisations that have done community work in that area and it is much easier. This should be done in advance before a company comes in. If not, it will be accused of not meeting everyone‘s needs. Let the agenda be set at the national level and let every activity in that area align with that agenda.”



But should CSR be legislated? As a matter of fact, there is a bill right now in the National Assembly, which seeks to make it mandatory for organisations operating in Nigeria to be involved in CSR. No doubt, this will promote the principles of CSR and if made into law and enforced, ensure that host communities get something in return for making such organisations rich.



However, some stakeholders also believe it would be akin to killing the goose that lays the golden egg and as a result, lead to decreased investment in the country.



”We cannot afford to put in place further legislation that can undermine business investment in the country,” the President and Founder of the Growing Business Foundation, Dr. Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien, said.



According to her, the government must not be allowed to relinquish its responsibilities to the citizens. ”Our government must be responsible and accountable. We should allow the government to shirk its responsibilities,” she added.



The argument is that rather than making CSR mandatory through legislation, the government should concentrate on creating policies that will encourage organisations to embrace its principles.



”The question of legislating CSR is not necessary,” Goodluck insisted.



However, the Managing Director of Sigma Technical Agencies Limited, Dr. Soky Amanchree believes that some sort of legislation on CSR will not hurt.



He said, ”Let it be mandatory that companies should do CSR but not to burn their candles at both ends. It should be tax deductible and part of the operating cost. Let them not see it as a burden but as a duty to make the society better.



You do not need to be as big as Shell or MTN to be involved in CSR. You can do it at your level. The important thing is to be transparent and sincere in any community an organisation finds itself and the members of the community will support them.



There are international organisations that want to come in but they are afraid that the money they bring in might end up in pockets.”

 

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