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CSR seen adding value to business, PHL society

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SOME call it capitalism with a heart. Cynics say, however, that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a capitalist’s cheap marketing tool.

 

However it is, CSR, also known as corporate philanthropy, has spawned many advocates. One of them is Wayne Visser, founder of CSR International.

 

“CSR is a radical agenda if it is done right. Karl Marx was probably right in his study on the concentration on wealth. This ideology pervades in business schools,” Visser said during a forum organized by the Benita and Catalino Yap Foundation Inc. (BCYF).

 

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In Photo: Indira Kartallozi, director of Cambridge-based media company Kaleidoscope Futures, and Wayne Visser, professor of integrated value and holder of the chair in sustainable innovation at the Antwerp Management School, at the forum organized by the Benita and Catalino Yap Foundation Inc. on July 20 at the Manila Polo Club. (Image Credits: Nonie Reyes ~ BusinessMirror)

 

Visser, professor of integrated value and holder of the chair in sustainable innovation at the Antwerp Management School, recently visited the country and served as the keynote speaker of the League of Corporate Foundations’s 2017 CSR Conference.

 

He admitted he is currently uncomfortable in using the term CSR since it has become a narrow concept since many organizations have been stuck at CSR strategies that were not transformative in nature. As a result, the programs pursued a lot of companies failed to inject substantial changes in the lives of the stakeholders.

 

However, Visser noted things have changed among CSR practitioners in the 2010 to 2016 period when many “thought leaders” were influenced by economist Michael Porter’s concept of creating integrated value, also known as CIV.

 

CSR, CIV

SOME advocates note that CSR was a born on a theory called CIV, a concept and practice borne out of a lengthy study on the role of business in society. These ideas developed primarily along two elements called by streams of consciousness: the responsibility stream and the sustainability stream, according to Visser, a fellow at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

 

“More than a new concept, CIV is a methodology for turning the proliferation of societal aspirations and stakeholder expectations—including numerous global guidelines, codes and standards covering the social, ethical and environmental responsibilities of business—into a credible corporate response, without undermining the viability of the business,” Visser explained in his paper, “Creating Integrated Value: Beyond CSR and CSV to CIV.” “Practically, CIV helps a company to integrate its response to stakeholder expectations [using materiality analysis] through its management systems [using best governance practices] and value chain linkages [using life cycle thinking].”

 

Visser further pointed out that CIV played an important role in the formation of the corporate responsibility and sustainability movement. He said CIV combines many of the ideas and practices already in circulation—like CSR, sustainability and creating shared value (CSV) signals some important shifts, especially by focusing on integration and value creation.

 

Visser pointed out the integration is applied across vital processes in the business, such as governance and strategic planning, product/service development and delivery and supply- and customer- chain management. Finally, he said CIV intends to be a tool for innovation and transformation, which will be essential if business is to become part of the solution to the global challenges, rather than part of the problem.

 

Integration of CSR

Visser recognized the fact that CSR is generally a challenge and reality to reckon with.

 

In the Philippines a CSR component has been traditionally established either by the matriarch or daughter of a family, he said. In short, CSR is just being relegated into the background and will only get exposure when there is a formal announcement of a donation or a turnover of goods from a wealthy benefactor. On the broadside, Visser said this structure led to failures.

 

“So long as CSR sits on the side, it will fail,” Visser added. “It failed in the last 50 years for not using the core business to make the transformation.”

 

Meanwhile, Jeremy Moon, professor of CSR and director of the International Center for CSR at Nottingham University Business School, pointed out that a lot of companies experience challenges in integrating CSR in their operations.

 

“If they excel in their communities and other sectors, running across all operations remains a challenge to many companies,” Moon said in a video presentation.

 

He added leadership is also a factor in the implementation. If the leadership is not engaged as expected, then expect a failure to achieve the objectives and goals of CSR in the organization,” Moon explained.

 

Tapping core business

Visser noted the corporate sector has learned to make their core business a part of their CSR. He cited as example the Dutch-British manufacturing firm Unilever Corp. that developed a CSR “to create a positive difference”.

 

Under its “Sustainable Living Plan”, the company collaborates with business, governments, non-governmental organizations and other entities to ensure it is developing products that are sustainable and create a social impact to the community, Visser added.

 

As far as the Philippines is concerned, some companies recognized the fact that using the core business in their CSR programs bring good results to the business, he said.

 

Human Nature, established by Anna Meloto-Wik in the year 2000, is a good example how a social enterprise has used its core business to be the platform of their CSR program, according to Visser. The company was born when Meloto-Wik and her husband Dylan noticed a demand for affordable, natural, eco-friendly and ethically made products entering the mainstream market.

 

They brought the concept to the Philippines because of the country’s rich source for the firm’s raw materials.

 

Human Nature

HUMAN Nature sourced several raw materials, such as citronella, coconut oil and lemongrass, at above-market prices from rural low-income communities and provided them with livelihood training, farming and processing equipment. At the same time, the brand rapidly expanded its line of effective, safe and environmentally sustainable products from ingredients that can be grown locally.

 

Although the Philippines is rich in agricultural products, the majority of the farmers remain poor with an average daily wage of P156.80, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board. Meloto said farmers must go beyond planting rice.

 

“Human Nature aims to help change this by creating demand for high-value essential oils instead, as well as programs that invest in skills training, sustainable technology, infrastructure and values formation to improve the farmers’ output and quality of life,” Meloto added on the firm’s web site.

 

As firm believers in fair trade principles, Meloto said Human Nature buys products at “a fair price” from their community-based suppliers. Sometimes, she said, they buy these even above market prices if the price is not enough to provide a good quality of life for the farmers.

 

Juan’s store

Echostore (environment, community, hope and organization), founded by CSR advocate Pacita Juan, is one of the examples of CSR ingrained in a business.

 

Together with her partners Reena Francisco and Jeannie Javelosa, Juan led Echostore to include micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises in their supply chain. The store said it taps cultural communities and small farmers for supply of rice, coffee, coconut sugar and other staples, raw materials used in making products positioned in the health-conscious market segment.

 

“We also make sure that farmers get only from sustainable sources that do not deplete resources,” Juan said.

 

Further, they conduct training on packaging and product development for producers. These sessions are funded by the Philippine Commission on Women.

 

Visser said the latter shows the important role the government plays to ensure the corporate sector can push their CSR agenda into the market.

 

“Providing incentives to companies that sell environment-friendly products, such as hybrid vehicles and electric cars, must be given incentives since they have also integrated CSR into their core business,” Visser said at the BCYF CEO roundtable.

 

This article was originally published by our media partner, BusinessMirror.
CSR seen adding value to business, PHL society
by Rizal Raoul Reyes  |  23 July 2017  |  BusinessMirror

 

 

Author: Rizal Raoul Reyes, BusinessMirror
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Photo source:
Top photo – Nonie Reyes, BusinessMirror

 

 

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