Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Bangladesh Perspectives
Corporate means formed into an association and endowed by law with the rights and liabilities of an individual. Social responsibility is an ethical ideology or theory that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act to benefit society- at- large. This responsibility can be passive, by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active, by performing activities that directly advance social goals. To find a universally agreed definition of CSR is difficult if not impossible. Rather than adding to the futile debate on what elements constitute CSR, we choose to focus on the broader principles upheld by CSR.
We view CSR as a universal business strategic imperative that can be 'localized' to suit organization’s business objectives. It is not a question of 'one size fits all'.
A definition of CSR has come up in Bangladesh as "a set of business practices based on ethical norms and transparency that contributes to the sustainable development of internal and external stakeholder in the best interest of business, society and environment". While debate continues regarding elements that define CSR, few can deny that CSR practice improves operational efficiency, increases standards and reliability in the supply chain, and positively affects employee motivation and loyalty which, in turn, leads to greater productivity.
Other drivers for companies to engage their stakeholders include the fact that CSR practice strengthens a business's license to operate. By facilitating services needed in the community in which a company is seeking entry, CSR practice often enables the company to gain popularity with its customer base, which, in turn, leads to increase sales or retention of market share.
It is important to note, however, that CSR practice is not exclusively for the large companies; neither is it only for those whose concerns are in the export business. Such prevalent misperceptions need immediate rectification, particularly in Bangladesh, where all businesses, both large and small, can enhance their competitiveness through greater adoption and implementation of CSR. By embracing the values of CSR, the Bangladesh private sector can send a strong signal to the global market that they are discharging their commitments to society. Failing to do so voluntarily inevitably leads to adverse external pressure, often with more strict guidelines and under extremely tight timelines. The Centre will help the private sector be more proactive rather than reactive.
CSR practice in Bangladesh is a relatively new phenomenon and is often misperceived as philanthropy or charity. Also, very often, there is a clear lack of integration of CSR with core business strategy. Perhaps the greatest challenge in CSR implementation is the fact that CSR practice is perceived by many as a cost – a threat – rather than as a business opportunity. There is also a lack of quality data and resources to develop a business case for CSR and enable the private sector to relate better by learning from peers.
It is these observations and learning that led us to develop the CSR Centre Concept. Through the Centre, we hope to make available better products and tools that will increase awareness on CSR practice benefits, and will also help quantify the intangibles of CSR. By championing CSR under a specialized institutionalized framework, we hope that the CSR Centre will have greater economic impact and value addition that have so far eluded business in Bangladesh.
It is very true that few of us have the luxury of committing additional resources to new initiatives. That is where the benefits of CSR come to the fore. CSR is about partnerships and sharing resources, and is not limited to just financial commitments. Partnerships based on equity principles, where businesses can reach out to others with complementary strengths, is a cornerstone of good CSR practice....
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