By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
A global authority on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) recently articulated that businesses should not be using such practices for image building and winning awards.
“The first thing to say is that, you shouldn’t be reporting for public relations, but companies unfortunately do it for that,” CSR International Founder Professor Wayne Visser said.
He said that some companies still use CSR as a means to defend themselves for their unethical business practices, much like the Lehman Brothers which won 2 CSR awards, but was instrumental in the unfolding of the 2008 financial crises.
Prof. Visser was making the comments during a breakfast meeting organized for top corporates by the apex CSR body, CSR Lanka (Guarantee) Ltd.
He said that he has observed Sri Lankan businesses mainly using charity as a tool for CSR. While recognizing charity as a mainstay in Sri Lankan culture, he said that was not the way.
“Charity has its place, but CSR is not just about charity or minimizing harm. It’s about how you make your money. Not making money and giving some away at the end,” Prof. Visser added.
According to him, CSR should be integrated into every level of the business, whether micro or macro, throughout supply chains to create a uniquely value added product based on good governance, societal contribution and environmental integrity.
Prof. Visser, while recognizing a company’s purpose of making profits, said that businessmen should have come together for a higher purpose, and that having a unique CSR product would create ethical profits.
“If the top 3,000 companies in the world paid the true cost of their impact, their profits would be wiped out,” he noted.
Therefore, he said most companies would have to transform their business models, leadership styles and processes to live in a world with ever diminishing resources.
“Transformative CSR is not nice to do. It is a must do strategy to survive and thrive in a stakeholder-driven future,” he noted.
He advised that the government too could play a major role in making businesses focus on the sustainable triple bottom line by putting out policies.
“Businesses are very adaptable. We don’t need disasters to happen before change happens,” he said.
Prof. Visser also addressed a forum of public officials during his visit, in an attempt to make them realize the potential of sustainability, and reduce the inherent mistrust between the public and private sectors.
However, it remains to be seen whether this approach could be implemented in Sri Lanka, given the country’s current position in the global supply chain; being pressured to supply more quantities at lower costs, in addition to the motivations of the shareholders to take profits at any cost.
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