Fostering an Entrepreneurial Spirit… .what Does Corporate Social Responsibility Mean to You? [column]

IN 1970 at the Club of Rome a group of scholars, thinkers and executives took on the task of laying a future for industrial growth. During these networking sessions they launched the concept of “sustainability development”.

In 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Earth Summit defined economic progress, social justice and environmental protection as the three pillars of regional sustainable development.

In Namibia resources are scare and the population is growing with challenges facing the communities, our government and businesses. In order to deal with these challenges we need to re-invent more sustainable ways of growth.

Being socially responsible as a business means that people and organisations must behave ethically and be sensitive toward social cultural, economic and environmental issues.

It is important for Namibian businesses to strive for social responsibility as it will help individuals, organisations and the government to have a positive impact on the development of business and society.

In order to achieve Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), you must first look at your individual social responsibility (ISR).

The ISR concept may sound new but it is in fact a very old concept. Remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would want them unto you’.

In short ISR is about taking a stand for yourself to try and positively influence and affect the people and environment outside your immediate circle.

The thrust of CSR is ISR, because businesses comprise of individuals and determine the social responsibility culture it creates.

I would like to look at CSR from two perspectives.

One is from the viewpoint of the people and from the viewpoint of the businesses. Some Namibians have the expectation from the company to give a grant or a sponsorship. It is more about how much they can get, and not necessarily do anything good in return.

When I say anything good in return I am not implying that you should worship the company or pay them back.

There are small good things that we all can do to play our part. Be it picking up a paper on the street to keep Namibia clean, and visiting an old age home.

All this must come from your heart you have to own it to give it. Some Namibian businesses have reached that point that they just give N$100 just for the “show” and a picture in the newspapers.

It is time that businesses use employees to help with the building of houses, that businesses see the recipients of grants as partners and stop the “you need me attitude”.

When you invest the money, think of possible partnerships with local communities.

Through this your businesses can be a trusted partner and that will clearly illustrate that you are putting CSR at the heart of your business strategy.

What is the way forward for Namibian businesses to take CSR seriously?

From a social standpoint start working in a community to address local aspirations, assist with training or create local jobs and support organizations that are working towards the public good.

In terms of economic development, businesses can try to assist a local skills network by making its expertise or training resources available to local businesses.

This can create a win-win strategy and promote the local economy. In terms of the environment always ensure that your business at all times try to protect the local ecosystems. Remember the price to greatness is “responsibility”.

Dr Wilfred Isak April is a Unam graduate and holds a PhD – Entrepreneurship (New Zealand). He lectures in Entrepreneurship at the University of Namibia.

Source : New Era