Business News of 2014-07-22

‘CSR can’t solve our problems’ – PEF boss

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) cannot be the panacea to the country’s economic ills, Nana Osei Bonsu Chief Executive Officer of the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF), the private sector umbrella-body and lead advocator has said.

“CSR is not the solution for solving our economy’s problem; CSR serves as support for the activities within the economy,” he said.

Speaking at a forum to gather private sector’s contribution to the upcoming CSR Policy Framework being led by government, Nana Osei Bonsu noted that economic transformation is government-led.

“CSR can never take the place of good prudent policy framework to drive good economic policies. CSR is just support. Government develops and private sector participates in providing the leverage to be able to do,” he added.

He noted that government has the responsibility to provide and businesses are therefore no substitute for government, and government’s responsibilities have to be performed by government.

He added that private sector’s responsibility within the communities in which they operate is undertaking to improve the environs through CSR -- but the CSR must be transparent, accountable, have respect for societal norms, international laws and the environment.

He lauded the coming of the policy because it will arrive with incentives that spur the private sector to help communities strategically.

“The private sector will then look within themselves, and see that ‘these are the incentives available to me, so what do I do to take advantage of them and how do these incentives improve my core business’?”

Coordinator at the Centre for Corporate Responsibility at the University of Ghana Business School Professor Dan Ofori said, currently, only a few multinationals are doing strategic CSR with the rest doing philanthropic CSR.

“CSR has several elements and it seems that the majority of our companies are concentrating on the philanthropic aspect of CSR, whereby they do things for the community and go to some places and paint their buildings, buy bread and milk for some people. These things are good, but they only happen when the organisation has money. What happens if you do not have the money?”

He believes that when CSR is embedded in the company’s corporate strategy it then becomes strategic CSR. To him, this means CSR has almost become a business on its own.

“If you do it well and you are getting value from it, are you going to stop? No. We are saying that we should gradually bring people round to this point of being more strategic in their CSR, and when they do that then they can see the value in what they are doing.

“Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL) for example uses cassava for some of its products. Now the company is helping cassava farmers. The more cassava farmers are comfortable with what they are doing, the more quality raw materials Guinness gets to produce its products and stay in business.

“Cadbury Cocoa is doing the same thing with cocoa farmers. The company is making the lives of cocoa farmers so fantastic; so much so that these farmers are not dreaming of leaving the business of cocoa farming. The more cocoa Cadbury has, the more its business prospers. These are examples of strategic CSR some companies are doing.”

He believes CSR in this country can be done better than is being done today. He called for a united front in undertaking CSR activities, because if companies in the same sector work together a lot can be achieved.

Professor Ofori also complimented the CSR policy, saying that working with a policy in mind can help everybody see the role they can play.

“Hopefully, if we all come on board and do as the policy stipulates then we are going to be doing some good things for this country. We are not saying CSR should be regulated, but what we want highlight is that as a country we have bigger problems that CSR can help solve.

“So we want a policy that can make the companies do strategic CSR that can help develop the nation and achieve the millennium development goals. This doesn’t mean that when you are building a school you shouldn’t pay your taxes or be mindful of the environment.”