CORPORATIONS NOT DOING SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY

KANWAL SALEEM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Apr 16 - 22, 20
12

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an obligation, beyond that required by the law and economics, for a firm to pursue long-term goals that are good for society.

CSR is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as that of the local community and society at large.

Corporate social responsibility means conducting business in an ethical way and in the interests of the wider community, responding positively to emerging societal priorities and expectations, a willingness to act ahead of regulatory confrontation, balancing shareholder interests against the interests of the wider community and being a good citizen in the community.

Nevertheless, a company's sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates is SCR.

In the developing economies like Pakistan, corporate sector has more obligations towards society.

When it comes to corporate social responsibility, we have not seen many companies in Pakistan making an effort to do something extra-ordinary regarding this matter. Although, we do hear a lot of companies giving donations and charity, but most of them have restricted themselves to philanthropic activities only.

There are sectors like education, poverty alleviation and social network where corporate sector need to play their due role for the benefit of society. The banking institution is being socially important in its basic nature but like most other areas of welfare has been corrupted by those who were expected to rather improve upon, this institution of vital importance has also been hijacked by lesser vision.

Experts believe in order that the sacred aim of equitable distribution of wealth is made a movement, to start with, the banks and other financial institutions must be transformed into investments and funds management institutions so that the rich may have access to the money of the depositors only as equity/share money and not as loans.

According to them, all banks and other financial institutions must, by law, be owned and managed by depositors and other investors allowing them to own a maximum of one per cent shares individually so that all financial hegemony, exploitation and undue profiteering comes to an end and any and all benefits are eventually returned to the actual source of funds i.e., the depositors and public at large with every one and any one to be eligible to buy/own shares.

They said profit should be a means to sustainability and growth; it must never be allowed to become the goal and the sole driving force.

One very seriously unfair practice, which needs to be severely reprimanded, is the personal loan issue of these poor credit card holders where these banks charge markup on principal amount without any adjustment of installments collected month after month whereby the loan outstanding is diminished but not taken into account for the purpose of markup calculation.

On top of that customers are not paid full loan amount but only the amount after deducting first month installment and when the banks say it is 1.5 percent per month actually it is over 30 percent annually, they said.

We have all heard about companies helping the poor by providing them education, or visiting special schools to spend a day with them. This is certainly a good effort as an initial step. While it is commonly argued that Pakistan is a country that is still lacking in CSR practices among companies there have been certain organizations that have taken the lead and must be lauded for their efforts in contributing to the society and people of Pakistan.

There are some good examples as follow:

UNILEVER CSR INITIATIVES

One company that has been exemplary in its CSR initiatives is Unilever. I say this not because of any personal biases against any other companies but because their CSR programme titled the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan has covered a wide domain of areas that has considerably impacted the society and the underprivileged people.

According to the Sustainable Living Plan, the company has outlined a number of goals to be achieved by the year 2020. Unilever Pakistan's Sustainable Living Plan focuses on the following:

1. Reduce the Environmental Impact of our products through reduction of greenhouse gases, optimisation of water usage and waste management

2. Enhancing Livelihoods by rural programmes and creating opportunities through enhanced distribution and empowerment through education

3. Improving Health & Hygiene by helping more than 68 million people take action to improve their health and well being through our personal care products. Nutrition enhancement to reduce salt and calories in our food brands

4. Promoting Sustainable Workplaces by improving employees' lifestyles, encouraging diversity and creating an environmentally friendly office.

Through this programme they have reached 6.2 million people in the year 2010. In their health and hygiene programme, they have managed to reach approximately 5.2 million people, under their nutrition programme 82,608 meals were provided to the world food programme, under their environment initiatives they managed to reduce carbon footprint through Unilever Head Office Initiatives by 16 per cent. They also took part in flood rehabilitation programmes by contributing Rs2.43m towards flood relief and rehabilitation work.

PSO CSR INITIATIVES

Another company that has taken leaps as far as corporate social responsibility is concerned is PSO. The company engaged in a plethora of initiatives encompassing Education, Healthcare, Community building, Women empowerment, Special children welfare, Sports development and Relief Activities. The company has led from the front in its CSR campaign by financially supporting several national educational institutes in order to enable the outreach of education to the underprivileged across the country. With the help of the heritage foundation, PSO has also helped build two schools in the earthquake affected region of Mansehra, whereas five more such schools are still in the pipeline.

With regards to healthcare, PSO has partnered with various institutions in the health sector to facilitate the underprivileged in having access to healthcare facilities. The company has provided financial assistance to institutes such as the cardio Vascular Diseases, Karachi. Further an annual donation is also given to the Marie Adelaide Leprosy center. PSO has also helped a number of hospitals to acquire ambulances and state of the art medical equipment among other similar CSR initiatives.

According to the PSO website under their community building platform they have made efforts in the domain of Women empowerment, special children welfare, sports development and relief activities.

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT

PSO has been supporting Behbud Association, a national NGO working in the field of reproductive health, community development, education, vocational training, to uplift the underprivileged sections of society. Moreover, PSO also assists Rashid Memorial Welfare Organization which carries out Education, Health, and Vocational Training for females and orphans and takes poverty alleviation measures. By providing financial assistance to this organisation, PSO aids the substantive development of a large proportion of rural population.

SPECIAL CHILDREN WELFARE

PSO has generously supported Institute for Special Children Quetta, the only institute of its kind in Balochistan to upgrade its equipment to facilitate imparting of education to the special children. Moreover, the company financially assists Pakistan National Institute for the deaf children of rural areas, Kamoke, district Gujranwala. The major objectives of this institute were to uplift the living conditions of the neglected special children by imparting education and vocational skills. So far several hundred students have benefited from this institute. PSO extends financial support to this institute to overcome the maintenance, transportation expenses of this institute and to construct Skill Development Training Center. PSO is also associated with Family Education Services Foundation, a non-profit, educational, volunteer organization working in Karachi. They have established Deaf Reach, a school for the Deaf in Karachi as well as two vocational training centers for Deaf students; one in Karachi which has been running for the past ten years, and another in Lahore which was opened six years ago. PSO appreciated the commendable community services of Family Education Services Foundation by adopting some students and providing their monthly expenditure and also by facilitating them in providing free pick and drop service to needy students by providing free diesel.

SIEMENS - CSR

Corporate social responsibility is one of the most significant gauges one can use to measure the worth of any company, and its contribution towards the nation. Siemens Pakistan, has been one of the leading companies in Pakistan with regards to just about any economic fašade and certainly if one pulls out the corporate social responsibility yardstick. Siemens is a firm believer is sustainability and for the company sustainability implies that they should act responsibly on the behalf of future generations for the fulfillment of economic, environmental and social progress. Siemens takes this responsibility as an employer, a contractor, an investor and provider of innovative technology solutions. And of course as an integrated technology company, the company wants to promote as many opportunities of sustainable development as possible.

Compliance is another facet that can be peddled as the cornerstone of responsibility conduct. Corporate responsibility can fully realise all of its prospects if everyone complies with external and internal company rules and regulations. Decision making and actions should always be in synchrony with moral principles and values. And Siemens has rightfully claimed that it measures itself by this abovementioned standard. Siemens' compliance programme is what towers above and showcases the depth and fortitude of a truly formidable company.

And then there is the factor of diversity - another feather in the cap of Siemens. The company's success is a corollary of a multitude of ideas - ones that ensure that the product is a diverse ensemble of competence and compliance. And Siemens oozes with such dependability and integration of diversity. The company realises its social responsibility and ensures that no discrimination prevails - be it owing to race, religion, colour or any sort of backgrounds whatsoever. Siemens provides that quintessential environment that enhances productivity with responsibility. The company considers responsibility as a strategic, management-driven assignment and binds the business, environment and citizenship activities and this in turn creates sustained tangible and intangible value for the company and also for the myriad of stakeholders. And also this is done within the realms of ethics and morality.

Even though there has been an indubitable economic and financial turmoil in Pakistan, Siemens has ensured that it maintains a top-drawer standard and cements their high level of commitment for projects that run the entire gamut from health, education, culture and sports. Siemens values the corporate social responsibility, and makes sure that it is a well thought out process that encompasses sustainable projects with long term benefits.

The Agha Khan Hospital's new emergency center and the workshop for the disabled are noteworthy examples. As Siemens touts so brilliantly; that they are vying to make Pakistan a wise, healthy and enjoyable place - and fair play to the company.