CSR - For the greater good
Malaysia - Marian Slazman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR explained in its 2012 trend spotting report that "more and more brands are taking to CSR collaborations because we've entered a new era, one in which brands are in service to consumers-not just to provide goods and services but also to make the world a better place".
In Malaysia, more and more companies are conducting CSR initiatives to benefit the environment and the society at large.
In conjunction with World Wetlands Day, 47 HSBC Malaysia employees volunteered their time to plant 1,000 "Tenggek Burung" saplings at the launch of Friends of Peatland Forest and the Peatland Forest Ranger programme, both community-based initiatives in peatland forest rehabilitation at the Raja Musa Forest Reserve in Kuala Selangor.
Marlene Kaur, head of group communications and corporate sustainability at HSBC Malaysia, said they have a variety of programmes that are supported on an annual basis with some programmes running between one to five years.
Marlene explains that HSBC's CSR programmes/projects are determined based on three core pillars - the environment, education and philanthropy. "We ensure that our selected projects support and emphasise the core pillars," added Marlene.
They also regularly involve employees, and encourage them to volunteer by allowing them weekdays off to volunteer. This is part of their matching time programme and matching gifts programme, whereby the organisation will match the time or funds raised by employees, to be donated to their charity of choice.
Edelman's 2012 Trust Barometer survey of Malaysians showed that 58% of the general population reportedly trust both NGOs and businesses to do ‘what is right'.
For HSBC, their assessment tells them that the Malaysian public views HSBC as an organisation that is very much part of the local community.
Being one of the market leaders, Guinness Anchor Berhad (GAB) believes in leading by example, thus making CSR a key business consideration.
"Our efforts have paid off as we have received industry and consumer recognition for our CSR initiatives. Last year, we were invited to speak at the World Class Sustainable Cities Conference on our ‘Water Project'," said Renuka Indrarajah, director of GAB Foundation.
The ‘Water Project' initiative saw the rehabilitation of the 2.5km Sungei Way river that runs behind their brewery and with the help of their partners, GAB Foundation managed to rehabilitate the river from being Class IV-V (extremely polluted) into Class III (suitable for living organisms).
Since its establishment in 2007, the recognition the GAB Foundation has received includes the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards for the second time last year for the ‘Investment in People' category and the 'Best Corporate Sustainability for Community Development' title at the inaugural Malaysian Dutch Business Council's Sustainability Awards.
GAB's CSR initiatives, Indrarajah said, "are not limited to just community initiatives, as corporate responsibility is a key consideration in all our business operations. Hence, while we are always looking at ways to operate more sustainably, we also seek to implement best practices in the workplace and provide policies that look after the total welfare of our employees."
However, to get the CSR initiative right, companies need to consider conducting research on social changes and create mechanisms.
Raymond Siva (pictured), managing director of Edelman tells A+M his advice on how companies can make the best of their CSR initiatives:
- Companies first need to determine what social or environmental issues matter to their primary audiences/stakeholders and to their business objectives or strategy.
- Setting the upper limit of CSR initiatives can be determined from whether the CSR programme is succeeding in its benevolent goals (ethical/sustainable/environmental) as well as in its business goals.
- Companies that engage in cynical CSR practices, with the sole aim of generating positive PR, run the risk of mobilising NGOs and creating a problem that didn't previously exist.
"While many companies originally engaged in CSR to protect their reputations, they have increasingly begun to understand that responsible and sustainable practices enable companies to effectively manage risks and create new business opportunities", adds Siva.
But for those who still shy away from practicing in a social cause, they are missing out on a bigger picture.
"They are missing an opportunity to consolidate and improve the relationships they already have, start new relationships and improve their core business model. A good CSR or CR plan should be ubiquitous to an organisation and be connected to everything it does."
"In an ever-changing world in which the consumer, the NGO, the employee and social media have never been more influential, what organisation can afford to not have a CSR strategy?"
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- Guinness Anchor Berhad
- Edelman Public Relations
- HSBC Bank
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