Commentaries | Sep 26,2021
February 26 , 2022
By Million Wondmagegneu ( Million Wondmagegneu is a communications expert interested in research and policy issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. )
Many of us have heard the word Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) thrown around. The issue of how clearly we understand its exact meaning is questionable, nonetheless. Low levels of awareness by the society about this critical term have emerged from its connection with profit-making organisations and its novelty to Ethiopia, as well as lack of adequate information by media outlets.
Rarely is it observed that CSR programs are announced to the stakeholders through annual company reports on their own company day. Instead, it is a media event for government officials, local communities and customers. To their credit, some firms also disclosing their social activities through their own websites, magazines and broadcast media spots.
Complicating the problem further is the absence of clear legal frameworks established with a mandate to govern all the activities of CSR, perplexing its noticeable importance to the larger community.
It is agreed that the form and purpose of corporations carrying out their social responsibilities has a variety of definitions among the various disciplines. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines Corporate Social Responsibility as the continuing commitment by businesses to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and society at large.
On the other hand, Michael Hopkins, a researcher on CSR, stated that the wider aim of social responsibility is to create higher standards of sustainable living while preserving the profitability of the corporation or the integrity of the institution, for people both within and outside these entities. It is related to improving the living standard of citizens by increasing their income, providing education, healthcare and job creation as well as being associated with economic growth.
Worldwide experience shows that big business firms and a large number of companies in developing countries have been implementing it for decades to improve the lives of millions of low-income households, minorities and vulnerable groups, and as a result remarkable benefits have been achieved among the society.
In the case of Ethiopia, there is no specific policy that guides the proper implementation of corporate social responsibility, while there is a lack of information and wide promotion. CSR is seen only as a form of philanthropy by for-profit organisations. Various companies are seen executing it based on will, rather than incorporating it into their annual plan for a systematic corporate social responsibility approach.
This, in turn, causes redundancy, consuming resources, and creates aimlessness in what the company wants to achieve. For instance, few companies, firms, factories and industries in Ethiopia are able to guide resources and discharge them during a time of emergency to assist the victims of conflict and natural disasters as a CSR. Their approach is not strategically guided to address the crisis properly and therefore fails to meet its desired intention comprehensively.
To alleviate the bottlenecks and challenges in the area of CSR, specific actions are needed. It can start by establishing a social protection fund and rules to regulate as a system in order to have the different supports, which were provided separately, to be continued in a coordinated manner. Adequate information about CSR should also be available to for-profits and nonprofits, making organisations accountable to society through legacy and social media outlets. Finally, robust regulation ought to be formulated and put in place to bring about transparency and accountability in CSR activities.
PUBLISHED ON Feb 26,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1139]
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