CSR in an age of uncertainty and loss
By Digoy Fernandez ONE of the unintended casualties of the current global financial meltdown may be corporate social responsibility programs. CSR projects are not exactly favorites of the sharp scissors of most budget cutters, who also cast an evil eye on what they consider as expensive programs like Training and Manpower Development, the upgrade of Information Systems, and the like. In fact, for CSR and the others mentioned to survive the budget cutters’ wide strokes, these would need strong sponsors from the upper reaches of top management or the ownership. Otherwise, kaput! When CSR programs get short shrift, it also sends a signal to various publics of the corporation that the company has ceased to care about some of these sectors and is buckling down into self-defense (or self-preservation) mode. There are many ways of cutting down on expenses without sending the wrong signals to the public. In fact, I am particularly enamored of a continuously running short feature on CNN and Discovery Channel showing a denuded piece of land in Malaysia that was replanted in 2004, and that has began to show signs of becoming a true wildlife habitat just 4 short years later. This is the kind of project that can be replicated by companies, groups, and individuals: regenerating parcels of land -- small to large -- and reclaiming them in the interest of the environment. In fact, the project that finally won the Grand Anvil for the bank I worked with was conceived by this author way back in the early 80s when the country was reeling from the economic and financial crisis that accompanied the assassination of Ninoy. In short, I suggested that companies or groups each adopt a depressed community, and work with them in developing skills that could eventually be made use of by the trainor / adopting units. Our own parish council has some programs aimed at helping the depressed sectors assigned to us, under the concept of Stewardship. For example, used paper could be given to these people to be recycled into stationery or other paraphernalia that both the company and the public could make use of. It is unfortunate that the rapacious greed of a few high flying financial mavens finally caused them to crash, bringing along with them practically the whole world economy. It will be a long time before companies begin to think of CSR again…which would be very very bad indeed. Let us hope that enlightened individuals and companies manage to rise above the projected morass and think of how they can help those who may be in worse shape then even they are.
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