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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A New Paradigm for CSR- The Needs of 2006

Daily Mirror: 19/12/2005"

Following is a summary of the presentation by Chandra Jayaratne at the Workshop organized by the Centre for Poverty Analysis.
The private sector should reflect on the need for the adoption of a new paradigm in CSR, in the year 2006, taking cognizance of ;

-The effective and national value adding role-played by the private sector following the tsunami of December 2004

-The increased exposure to natural disasters Sri Lanka now appears to be subjected to

-The environmental and ecological issues that will no doubt dominate and challenge the lives and livelihoods of the people of the region

-The continuing high levels of poverty, with a majority of Sri Lankans lacking capability and capacity through effective livelihoods, knowledge and skills to break through the clasp of poverty

-The outcome of the recent elections, the expressed wishes of the majority and the expected operating environment in the medium term.

There is an opportunity for the private sector to continue to engage in a value adding societal contribution thus maintaining the commitments displayed during the tsunami. The traditional approach of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction led initiatives can be the main focus. This capability so well demonstrated during the immediate aftermath of the tsunami and continued for many months thereafter by the private sector will not be appropriate in the medium term, especially in the context of expected pressure from the external environment.

The CSR delivery by the private sector in the years ahead must not only serve the societal needs after a disaster, but more importantly target on a continuing basis;

- The eradication of poverty and the causes that lead to such levels of poverty

- The development of links with the community for the private sector to become friends and network partners of the community

- These friends in the community being willing to come forward to protect and assure the survival and growth of the private sector, shielding the private sector from any impending economic, social and environmental challenges

A new approach in CSR must take cognizance of the following;

-A more direct level contact at the base of the community (ie. village and villagers)

-The development of a new set of village leaders endowed with the capability and thinking of the private sector, but yet growing up and maintaining the original village and national values

-CSR being led by the top management with all management staff along with their families collectively participating in the village level CSR action implementation

-The transfer to the village communities of modern technology and best practices with options for improved economy, efficiency, effectiveness targeting quality and competitiveness supported by network links to access markets with distribution support and financial facilities on appropriate terms

-Any CSR support package to uplift village communities must ensure the sustainable growth of livelihood outcomes improving the quality of life of the village folk assisted by the private sector

-The private sector must access their trade and services contacts, networks and friends overseas, multilateral and bilateral donors and foreign NGO’s get them also to become linked as support partners in the initiatives preferably done in association with local civil society organizations

-Effectively communicate with the village communities and always listen to the voice of the community

-CSR initiatives must not primarily be designed to target corporate image and brand value enhancement

-Be willing to establish systems of “Social Premium” based fund raising and facilitation support

-Become significantly involved in environmental and ecological protection strategies

-Being willing “to adopt” villages and villagers and to be protective and caring for these communities supported,

-Be forthright and willing to challenge any one attempting to damage or negatively oppose initiatives of national economic value enhancements, and the empowerment of the governance, economic, social and spiritual empowerment of villagers

-Develop policies and practices within the business entities that assure the welfare and wellbeing of employees consistent with international best practices and standards

-Be focused in supporting a CSR and support selected projects over a sufficiently long-term period

-Network with competent and capable civil society organizations that demonstrate effective transparency, accountability and good governance

-With CSR projects, target village level reconciliation and reawakening

CSR initiatives can benefit by adopting the Ghandian Principles of “Loving Kindness towards all living beings”, “ Self Awakening” “Caring and Giving”, “ Shramadana”, “Upholding the Truth”, “ Caring for the Ecology and Environment”, “ Being one with society in human interaction” “non discrimination”.

The private sector must also accept the Ghandian principles that differentiate a man from being in the eyes of society a “ god” or a “monkey”. This classification is dependent on whether, “on seeing or on hearing some one act, speak or engage in acts against humanity, and society (including action against the weak, poor, disadvantaged or disabled) the private sector closes its mouth, eyes and ears it will belong to the latter ( a monkey) or if they react with positive support for society and humanity they will be “gods” in the eyes of society .

The private sector must act as the key catalyst in providing access to markets and must support and establish distribution facilitation networks for village products and services. This initiative must be engaged, within any livelihood empowerment and promotional CSR programmes. As a part of this support facilitation, the private sector can establish special counters in their offices, supper markets, sales outlets etc where access options can be created for the sale of village products. These counters can be brand marked as “ Social Premium Support Counters” (following the example of fair trade marked sales outlets) and should differentiate the products from those of reputed importers and manufacturers. The higher segments of society and private sector business leaders, their management staff and families can set the trend by patronizing these products and be willing to pay a “social premium” to support the livelihoods and economic empowerment of the village communities.

In addition, the private sector entities selling imported and locally manufactured goods and services targeting especially the higher income segments of society (especially, those products that mainly target luxury and special needs of this segment or even non essential items in common use in the day to day life styles of this segment of society - eg. perfumes, imported cereals, tissue and toilet paper amongst many such products), including products that have some harmful effects on the majority or the environment and ecology but yet not considered illegal or unethical, and products that are wasteful or extravagant, should have an added “social premium” to the ultimate sale price. Such premium collections can be leveraged to fund CSR programmes.

The principles governing both of the above strategies are “those who can afford and are committed to support the many in dire need” must be leveraged by the private sector to support their CSR initiatives.

The private sector business leaders and their management staff can enrich themselves through CSR and gain a new source of wealth,- “a new bank balance” in a “time bank”. The “time bank” is a concept that yields to any person giving voluntarily one hour of his time for the benefit of another in need of his help or a sharing of his knowledge with a another or even extending a supporting hand in an act of “shramadana”. For every one hour that is given voluntarily, the giver gains credit of “ one dollar hour” in the “time bank” and recipient a debit of “one dollar hour”.

If a private sector manager with his family spends a day in a village with the manager imparting knowledge, information and hand holding an entrepreneur in the village whilst his family similarly gives time to the mothers and children of the village, they will collectively gain an enhancement of their bank balances in the “time bank”. This big bank balance can proudly be compared with that of their colleagues and they too can be encouraged to similarly seek a comparatively larger balance, one that will in addition not expose the holders to any security risks. Bigger the balance in the time gained by private sector leaders, managers and professionals, they and their families would have yielded more benefits to the village communities and in the process added value in enhancing the livelihoods, living standards and capability of the villagers.

This is a “win-win” for all with knowledge, skills, technology and best practices transfers to the village bringing about a resurgence of the village economic and social values leading to a national reawakening..

May all private sector business leaders remember that Ghandhi is quoted to have said that

“wealth without work, pleasure without conscience., knowledge without character and
religion without sacrifice are “Mortal Sins on Society.”

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