CSR should be strategic, not philanthropic, Sri Lankan firms told

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Corporate Social Responsibility projects should be more strategic rather than philanthropic, international CSR experts have told Sri Lankan corporate executives.

CSR activities have changed in large corporates and moved from general projects to strategic CSR and now to an ‘inclusive business’ approach, according to Stephanie Koch, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at cement maker Holcim International.

CSR projects should be more strategic rather than philanthropic and commitment from senior management of the company in question is vital for it to be successful, Koch told a recent Knowledge Exchange Programme organized by CSR Lanka.
 
Holcim has had an environmental policy since the turn of the century and position with regard to climate change and an allocation of resources for all social issues faced by communities in and around where the firms was operating.

“The traditional type of CSR projects, which is philanthropy is an area which private sector companies should slowly move away from,” Koch was quoted as saying in a statement.

“Foundations and social service organizations can do that. In the case of Holcim International we are involved in needs assessment of the community that we are operating in and tools are developed after a stakeholder analysis and going through a social development scorecard process.”

Decisions are taken using the ‘Social Development Scorecard’ to constantly evaluate the sustainability of the project.

Today each plant of Holcim is required to provide a ‘Community Engagement Plan’ and the company constantly addresses social needs of the community.

Ariane Luthi, Human Rights Specialist of Holcim International, spoke about how the company uses the Human Development Index and Economic Freedom Index and engages with industry experts and stakeholders to prioritize CSR projects.  

The Holcim experts stated that CSR must always be linked with the core business and should be based on expertise of the company.

“Housing is complicated area of work and incurs high costs. Whereas sanitation projects and building toilets such as “Sanitation for life” project in India is less complicated and one unit will serve five to six persons,” said Koch.

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In South America, stoves made out of cement is provided to householders. The company has also trained 5 million masons in South East Asia, giving the trade a better and more acceptable image.

Luthi said many private companies are now considering human rights as a vital part of their business.

However she cautioned about the fact a company should put their own house in order before thinking of CSR. The management of the entire supply chain is important, she stated.
 

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