Corporate social responsibility: More to it than meets the eye

Business norms have changed � the importance of long term, purposeful corporate social investments (CSI) has increased and has now become a priority for business leaders globally.

Over the past number of years, public expectations on business expenditure strategies have increased as people have become sensitised towards the social and environmental sustainability plans communicated by corporates. This means companies are now expected to contribute to society in a much more meaningful and positive way. It's not just about making a social investment grow, but also about fostering smart partnerships between profitable entities and connected communities that have a shared goal,

Importance of being responsible

So, why should businesses care about CSR (corporate social responsibility)? Businesses of all sizes should care because not only it is the right thing to do, but also because it is also good for business � the benefits are many, from attracting and retaining staff to mitigating risks and increasing competitiveness.

Embedding CSR into your business practice can also positively affect your relationship and engagement with key stakeholders including customers, communities, suppliers, and partners.

Of course, CSR can present a number of challenges. Many companies might still consider it an 'add-on', or not as relevant for their business as sales or customer satisfaction, as a means to a dominant or lead market position for the corporation. However according to studies, spending at least 1% of profits on social investment projects that are aligned to the business strategy and country growth goals, could hold incremental benefits for the triple bottom-line of the business.

Supporting big issues �CSR should not be about your line of thinking.

The term 'line of thinking' implies that we will only support initiatives that are within our scope of operations.

Many downfalls are realised, when corporate institutions only direct their support programs towards their immediate surroundings. For example, banks must only support financial fields, or medical organization will only see value in active healthy lifestyle initiatives.

CSR plays a strategic role in how MTC conducts business � as a telecommunications company. Having worked with this brand for many years, I resonate with MTC's acute awareness towards the way we must not only manage our decisions' impact on the environment, communities, and stakeholders, but also ensure that these decisions' purpose resonate with a vision bigger than the company.

Since 2011, MTC has spent in excess of N$5 million dollars per annum towards the support of arts and music by sponsoring the annual Namibian Music Awards (NAMAs), therewith co-transforming the music and creative works industry into a semiprofessional career industry.

The NAMA project over the past nine years, has received a financial injection from MTC close to N$40 million dollars. A purposeful investment has not only provided opportunity to grow, but an opportunity to connect.

Social investment initiatives of this size require monitoring and reporting not only to ensure transparency, but also to keep projects in alignment with the sponsorship strategy. Through the NAMA's, MTC has had an immediate impact on 330 young male and female artists, towards realizing their dreams with the financial recognition received at the awards. The NAMA's has supported many career launches, and Namibia's arts industry has growth in confidence, and reputation.

Ten to one, the music/arts/creative space industry is not aligned with the core business of MTC, and equally so is soccer, boxing, road running, educational initiatives, or housing and health, to mention a few. However, the strategic objectives of the company CSR/CSI strategies allow for a proactive social investment approach, to the benefit of the wellbeing of society.

I agree that some areas are worth investing in; for example sport, mostly because the CSR and ROI (Return on Investment) appeal in sport makes business sense. However, corporates need to diversify social investments towards other opportunities, as life-sustaining endeavors that will drive prosperity,

Moving forward, MTC views CSR as increased partnerships and collaborations, compliance with global best practice, and a renewed appreciation and understanding of local issues and priorities.

There will be no space for silos, while employees will be empowered and will have the knowledge of how to integrate CSR into their particular area of work. Giving back, is becoming a pillar of business, and a workplace culture. It is also likely that, in the future, many of today's CSR activities will become mandatory requirements for business; however, there will still be a space for those companies willing to go beyond legislation.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia