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Corporate Social Responsibility: How it helps society

If a large warehouse store chain opens a branch in a residential neighborhood, it will make the lives of residents in the area more convenient. The proximity also saves consumers time and gas money. However, the development is sure to put all the nearby mom-and-pop stores out of business. And if said branch is built on virgin land (aka “paving paradise to put up a parking lot”), that’s another step towards deforestation. Building, maintaining and expanding a business takes a toll on society and the environment, which is why plenty of corporate entities engage, not only in profit-generating practices, but also in socially responsible programs. Enterprises give back to the community for a variety of reasons, such as to improve the living standards of their patrons, to make the economy they’re part of a healthier one, and to mitigate their environmental impact. This way, they can be assured that their business is sustainable. Corporate Social Responsibility is the way to accomplish this. In its most basic definition, CSR is a business entity’s contribution to the development of a society. According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, key areas that CSR addresses are “environmental protection and the wellbeing of employees, the community and civil society in general, both now and in the future.” When a company takes it upon itself to commit to a certain responsible investment, it effectively communicates to its stakeholders—investors, employees, suppliers, creditors, trade unions, community members, consumers, government agencies, concerned non-governmental organizations and the public sphere—that it recognizes the importance of social welfare and can be counted on to be part of the solution, make ethical decisions and do the right thing. Society at large benefits greatly with different CSR efforts by being ensured of product safety and quality, having access to corporate-sponsored community education, employment, housing and anti-poverty programs, being beneficiaries of employee volunteer outreach activities and receiving charitable contributions.

Helping hands

Here at home, it helps the poorest of the poor. In 2011 alone, Petron had 4,513 elementary pupils and 439 high school students on scholarship and trained 3,199 teachers in basic subjects. It also conducted medical missions that gave attention to around 5,000 individuals and fed 23,000 at soup kitchens. That same year, Isuzu Philippines expanded its existing CSR program with an agro-forestry project. Partnering with the World Wildlife Fund, it adopted a forest in the Northern Sierra Madre National Park and initiated an education and skill-training campaign for farmers. The company donated 6,500 seedlings to jumpstart the planting. Aside from addressing longstanding social problems like poverty and out-of-school youths, companies with CSR frameworks also provide immediate assistance and relief to people living in disaster-stricken areas. For example, in the aftermath of the devastating Typhoon Sendong, Canon donated P2.8 million (5 million yen) through Japan Red Cross Society to aid victims. An additional P300,000 was donated by Canon’s Philippine office. Shell contributed P2 million, split between the ABS-CBN Foundation and the GMA Kapuso Foundation. Epson gave P1 million. While a lot of companies are planning and implementing their own CSR efforts, others choose to pool their resources and share the burden to maximize the positive impact and efficiently reach common goals. The Philippine Business for Social Progress, an organization of Philippine businesses for social change, is an implementer of development projects on behalf of the private sector and a promoter of corporate citizenship as a model for poverty reduction in the country. It has over 230 corporate members, all of which have contributed to various social programs, such as education, health, livelihood and environment. Through P7.6 billion in grants and development loans and assistance in more than 6,400 projects, the PBSP has directly benefited over 5 million Filipinos. Meanwhile, the PBSP Center for Corporate Citizenship develops and promotes strategies for corporations that wish to initiate CSR programs. It also tracks the progress of these initiatives, 40 of which can be found on the PBSP website (www.pbsp.org.ph). These include the Aboitiz Group of Companies’ building of 261 classrooms and donation of over 1,000 computers to schools, among other accomplishments; Unilever Philippines’ efforts on the rehabilitation of the Pasig River and the conservation of Laguna de Bay; and CDO Foodsphere’s comprehensive feeding program  that has resulted in the recovery of 1,600 malnourished children. With a majority of the top corporations, both here and abroad, engaging in CSR, governments don’t have to do all the work. Because these practices are usually based on what stakeholders want, virtually no sector of society is neglected and forgotten.
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