Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reality Check: May CSR Ka Pa BA?

Reality Check: May CSR Ka Pa BA?
By Perry M. Calara


The crisis is eating everything on its path, just like a black hole.

It has gobbled big banks and corporations in the US—hopefully with its greedy bonus-freak managers. It is destroying forces of production--means of labor and labor itself. By now, we have heard of jobs being lost and dreams of families that depend on these jobs. About 200,000 Filipinos are expected to lose their jobs by June.

In the Corporate Responsibility (CR) front, many of my colleagues at the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) are asking emotionally-filled questions.  What are the effects of the crisis to corporate foundations, the supposed repository of CR knowledge?

It will definitely be affected-- some negative and some positive. It will have a very negative consequence to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practice closely related to donations, charity, and the “PR types.” The logic is: less of the extras (read by my “anakpawis” friends as: “crumbs”), therefore, less for charity and  "CSR.”

On the other hand, I believe, there will be a positive effect if companies have been seriously conducting their CSR's triple bottom line approach--profit, people, planet. They will have a much bigger momentum to survive the crisis. Of course! They have an enhanced business framework compared to the “primitive types.”

As I write, the LCF is continuously conducting reality check. The question that goes with this is, “May CSR Ka Pa ba? (do you still have a CSR).  Last March, this was exactly the question that we asked ourselves.   I and Junie Del Mundo of EONs were asked by the group to facilitate a forum.


O well, many from the audience believed that the crisis is because of greed. What can I say, they are describing neo-liberalism. It is the contemporary form of capitalism that my "anakpawis" friends have been blaming for their sufferings since GATT-WTO was conceived.

But I have to admit that many of the thoughts shared were inspiring. One of the philosophical, if not poetic, outlooks I heard from the forum came from one of the resource speakers, Mr. Lorenzo Chan of Pioneer Insurance. He said that at this time, "we can have a little less of profit to have more." I take that as more friends, more environmentally-friendly, and market in the future—triple bottom line.

Although everybody was saying that we have to continue with our CRS that was expected from practitioners. What maybe a little surprise to me is that some companies are actively positioning their CSR with additional budget. Whaaat! While waiting for the coming of the black hole? Yes! Tracy Peralta of PNOC-EDC proudly reported that they have increased their “CSR” budget. Malou Ernie, Executive Director of Petron Foundation, also confided to me that her boss even wanted their activities, "be further communicated.” If it’s going to be communicated, it must have a budget. I can only say, May CSR pa sila!

The raging black hole is still there. The reality check of LCF must dig deeper to understand it more. They have to be ready to face its destructive forces—the greedy forces.

Frankly, I think the "deep" unanswered question posted by Eric de la Torre of Team Energy during the forum should be dissected “to the bone” first. He asks, "how can capitalism solve the crisis when it was the one that created it in the first place?”  So, LCF, when is the next forum?


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Monday, October 20, 2008

CSR During Crisis

The present economic crisis, or any other crisis that pops up in the life of a capitalist society, will test CSR: the framework. It will put to test and expose the level of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in corporations.

I am expecting that many of the corporations in the Philippines will be reducing the budget of their foundations, usually the repository of (CSR) activities and knowledge in their corporations.

The crisis is an "acid" test how companies treat CSR.  Are they using it for Public Relations or community relations? Is it a Philanthropic and charitable work?  Is it a framework of just "giving" something back to society. Or, is their CSR aligned with their business activities.

This crisis will show how companies treat their stakeholders vis-a-vis their CSR framework.

Definitely, companies who are in the framework of philantrophy will lessen their charitable work. Crumbs (compared to their profit and salaries of their CEOs) from capitalist profit will come in trickle, lesser crumbs than before.  "Belt-tightening" activities will also tighten their "extra" to their supposedly stakeholders and partners (or mere beneficiaries, depending on how they look at their stakeholders).

Those whose CSR framework is more aligned with business may see the crisis even as an advantage.  They can even expand business by doing  good in this period e.g. in times of high unemployment and poverty can be a time to enhance solidarity with their employees. They can have a CSR niche. This can only be so if they treat stakeholders as partners of the business and not just a commodity where they can get profit. 

In the Philippines, my estimate is that most foundations are in the Philantrophic framework--not that it is bad but majority are in this level although they claim that they have aligned their CSR into their business activities. You will know that their CSR is not aligned as they reduce resources of their CSR activities first before they reduce resources for "business" activities.  During the test we will know the CSR model of these companies. 

Those with aligned CSR in business know that it is imperative to help other stakeholders to weather the crisis.  It may be an instrumentalist belief that helping the stakeholders is helping the business but it is also CSR nonetheless.

To some company the crisis can be an opportunity to enhance and align CSR into their business, or   Perhaps to mitigate risks or mitigate the impact of the crisis.  But if they want to have a long lasting gains and impact, this time around, they should have a strategic outlook in terms of their CSR alignment.


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Friday, August 15, 2008

CSR advocacy

We have to do CSR for Human Rights, advancement of the Peace process, Policy advocay, and even do Philantropy work for the sake of the company’s own interest. It means that these are not just the social responsibility of NGOs, civil society, and militant groups. It is imperative for business to do these things. In a way, stretching the imagination of Milton Friedman--you do it because it is good for business.

Friedman, I think, was assuming a functional government. In a situation where we have a dysfunctional relationship in society--“kinda” dysfunctional—companies must have an INCISIVE model of CSR to contribute in correcting the ills of Philippines Society. Again, you do it because it is good for business in the long run.

But there is a caveat in this CSR model. It has limits. I do not think the creative capitalism of Bill Gates can do it. It is pushing capitalism’s errors too far in the demand of our society for social justice. But this is another topic for another blog entry.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Peace advocacy

Peace advocacy
by perry calara

Business can only function in a situation with order and peace. In a way, they have to plan their business around this premise.

Imagine this. As a result of inequity, the Philippine society starts to break up--without peace, in Civil War and peppered with mini-riots.

A rebel starts to take the metropolis. They start to March from the CALABARZON area and Central Luzon to the Metro Manila. The Army Defends, starts to bombard the rebel position, 50 rounds of Howitzer towards the advancing rebel in Roxas Boulevard.

There is a huge barricade in the South and North Luzon Expressway. There is a “Peoples strike" in Bicol, Cebu, and the major areas in the Visayas.

On the other hand, while the Government in Luzon is busy, Muslin rebels in Mindanao starts to reclaim ancestral lands including multinational agricultural lands.

Bandit groups start to terrorize towns in other parts of the country. Rioters start to enter malls and get whatever things that they can get. Chaos!

You think you can still do business? Unless you are in the mercenary business, most business will have to “close shop.”

This scenario is the very logic that business has to advocate peace and order in society. No one can do business without peace and order. Plus, it is easier to predict things, particularly profit and risk, in time of general peace.

CSR, Order and peace.

• Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one of the Frameworks that can best guide business in pursuing peace and order. It is the framework with the social element.

• It is imperative that Business should advocate and support peace process within the society where they are operating.

• Philippine history is peppered with rebellion and revolution. These social phenomena were basically due to poverty and inequity. This situation and its historical context have to be understood by business for its CSR peace advocacy activity to be successful.

Major peace talks

At present there are two major peace processes: 1. the peace talk with the National Democratic Front, and 2. the peace talk with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The success or Failure of these talks will have a bearing on many business activities. Do we expect one entity (or more entities) to be collecting our taxes? Or physically, do we expect more cell sites be bombed? Or are we expecting more human rights victims that may be our business stakeholders (or clients)?

You know the answers, let us advocate peace. Peace Myn!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Neutrality vs. Objectivity

Is the CSR framework neutral? It is.

Tools and things are neutral, "they can neither be good nor evil." but not the person using them.

No person is neutral. They are bounded by their own culture, history, and mother’s advice. Every minute they make a choice. It is only when you do not make a choice that you are neutral. They may not be neutral but people can be objective. Objectivity should be one major rule if there would be a CSR debate in the Philippines. This is a reason to consider why research in CSR should be enhanced. The CSR institute of the League of Corporate Foundation or Business schools may take a lead on this part.

If one say that CSR is neutral and not to be debated, it is as if people and things/tools are one and the same. The CSR tool and the people using it should be analyzed separately. Of course tools and things can not debate. Only people can debate.

In history, if we did not debate with the antiquated medieval church--using their antiquated tool as compared to Galileo's more scientific framework-- you and me will still believe that the earth is flat.

Monday, July 14, 2008

CSR Relevance (imperatives)

CSR Relevance (imperatives)

For the companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative to be relevant, it has to link its activities to the dynamics of the society. It has to involve itself in the socio-economic and socio-political discussion (sometimes heated debate). They have to put this discussion in the equation of their CSR initiative.

Otherwise, if CSR practitioners in the Philippines can not relate to the life and social struggle of the masa in the bigger society, they will just be living in a cycle of CSR lip service. Their CSR program will be in a vacuum.

It can be of help to their business if they can link with the disciplined and organized masa in the Philippine society.

Some of the pressing issues that should be considered by the Filipino CSR practitioners are:

• Human Rights (HR). In addition to their employee’s human rights, they have to discuss the basic human rights of the right to live in the very environment that their companies do business. In the past eight years. About a thousand activists have been killed. Some have taken the issue but generally, this issue should be in their CSR radar.

• In relation to HR they have to talk about peace. They have to operate in a peaceful environment after all. Peace talk should be supported.

• Identity of the Filipino in a globalized world, in a neo-liberal framework. They have to link this in the poverty situation of the country. They have to study the effect of the neo-liberal tendency of business in the poverty situation of the country.

Announcement. There is a big CSR event in the Philippines this week, at the Makati Shangri-La, 16-18 July 2008. This will be sponsored by the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF). See you there.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Business in Governance

Traditionally, Business supports the status quo. This is particularly true if those people in governance has a big interest in Business.

But majority of business, SMEs, may not have anything to do with people in Governance. Or business people who are socially oriented, they just want people in government to do their job correctly so that business can do business correctly.

what if there is a big governance dysfunction. Should business also support that dysfunction?

Well, if only for their business interest they have to advocate good governance for their business.