On the failing role of Corporate Social Responsibility
9 August 2017
People viewing this article might be tickled into chastising me for using such a title before even reading the article and that would be their prerogative. I believe mine is to point out that indeed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – which is a code name for charitable giving – is failing as the whole idea is to uphold corporate responsibility in giving back to the communities where they exist or that have supported them by consuming their products in a way that is sustainable, which is not the case today (with some beautiful exceptions).
When this term and notion was first invented, it was expected that CSR would indeed sweepingly reduce poverty, provide a more equitable distribution of financial possibilities in the low to middle class levels and make shareholders of big companies happier. Unfortunately, it would seem – at least to me – that CSR has failed terribly on the dream it created initially. Obviously, when I say it has failed, I mean that those who were to apply this notion among their companies have failed in applying it in the right way. Is there one given right way, one would want to argue and I would have to say that there is not one right way but probably many right ways although it definitely is not the right way for many who are currently not advocating the right CSR approach.
To bring to light the failure, I shall quote an example from one of the defunct companies that I worked for where the CSR budget was simply used as a marketing tool to get the brandname marketed. While it worked well at the time because it was a Rotary event helping a school for special needs, the idea that CSR budgets should be considered as simply branding and marketing expenses shows how deep the failure is rooted in the mindset of the industry as many other examples of branding discussed with my peers in the industry come to mind (display of banners for an event, nameplate appearing for another, mentioned during the festivities for another, etc).
A couple of years ago, I moderated a panel on CSR and was excited to meet people who were actively giving and most of the talk was on how the money was simply given to the needy, to those who could not afford food, education and medication. After the panel when I asked one of the speakers about the possibility of funding my Microfinance endeavour, I did not even get an email answer, not even to say no.
The failure of CSR is further proven by the fact that in most companies (if they have it), it is simply a small budget to be given or a one man show department or sometimes a department that will give to a worthy cause but that keeps changing and does not follow the evolution of that cause.
I do hope that ultimately CSR will start becoming a real department in big organisations where giving will be made in an actually sustainable way, with a proper budget, a follow-up and will encourage a chain of giving so that we have a better world. Meanwhile, if you are interested in becoming a partner in my microfinance project ( mena-microfinance.ning.com ) do let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org). My project is focused on empowering women who are widows or divorcees and allowing them to join the workforce in a way commensurate to their needs and restrictions. To date, the only CSR opportunities to fund this project were so limited and so one-time only that this project has been put on hold.
Itni Shakti Hamein Dena Daata