“There is enough in the world to meet everyone’s need BUT there is no where near enough to provide for everyone’s greed.” Mohandas Ghandi
What is it about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? CSR rhetoric tells us that Companies have or are developing various initiatives or actions aimed at improving social and environmental performance(s) which in turn, encourages positive reflection, on the Company, from its various stakeholders.
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Our community, has over the years, become very aware of the impact of certain corporate behaviours, particularly those that have damaged or threaten to damage important wildlife or natural reserves. From the Franklin Dam to current concerns about our Great Barrier Reef and even more recently the notion of oil rigs in northern Australia, the community is recognising just how precious our environment is. Visible CSR issues have mostly affected Indigenous peoples, particularly mining activity around sacred sites. Social vandalism is regularly practised by Federal Government, although under an assumed guise – a notable example in Queensland was the closure of 80 Indigenous specific alcohol drug treatment beds, following allegations of fraud in a particular service. No-one was ever charged but services were closed and no beds have replaced them.
One current concern is the environmental damage caused by fracking. This is becoming better known; for example, the Condamine river can burn (literally light it up!) methane gas for up to 2-3miles along the river, how much damage is really being done here? According to CSIRO, the Government research body, this has nothing to do with fracking! This is sadly just like so many other stories our community has heard over the years …………….. ?
CSR principles propose that Companies go beyond any legal requirements and look at what they can control or what they can influence, particularly through corporate or stakeholder collaboration and joint, environmental initiatives. CSR rhetoric suggests that social initiatives are also important, though in Australia, we are yet to see any genuine effort made in this area.
ACCSR who market themselves as Australia’s solution for companies, wanting to develop CSR strategies, can provide no record, of any social impact. Some projects appear to have merit but are focused away from our local community and into broader areas, commendable areas to be sure, such as Human Trafficking, modern slavery and water aid BUT of particular interest is that there is NO focus on Australian Indigenous communities, which rank amongst the poorest in the world and whose people, our people, live in conditions that put Australia to shame. For example: One of the promoted (by ACCSR) organisations is wateraid.org.au. Wateraid is a Not for Profit organisation, with a “global vision”. Arguably, a worthy vision BUT it is a vision that does not include Indigenous Australians. (https://www.wateraid.org/au/)
Sadly this is the example of Corporate Social Responsibility in Australia.
What can we consider as vital areas of focus for any Company that is trying to develop an inclusive policy or strategy of CSR? Environmental? That’s easy. We all understand at some visceral level that without our environment, humanity will be in trouble. But the concern for companies, is to build sustainable and productive business models that will continue to provide profits for stakeholders into the long term future, while meeting appropriate and sustainable environmental imperatives. It would appear to be an oxymoron, n’cest pas?
We want our company to continue to make great profits so shouldn’t our company be protecting the community that is providing those returns? That is not how the corporate world, views CSR. Rhetoric aside, it is difficult to find any corporate organisation in Australia, genuinely providing long term social benefit to the community. Is that because it is difficult to define social benefit to the community? Bendigo Bank, NAB etc promote social responsibility and give out small grants to local community organisations – to build “stronger communities”. However, the decision about how any money, is dispersed, is taken arbitrarily by those banks. Yes, it is their initiative and their money, but isn’t it is a little like the Federal Government putting money into Indigenous “Closing the Gap” initiatives. Evidence shows that over a long period of time these “initiatives” have not worked. What Indigenous consultation about those initiatives was undertaken? Indigenous people are not, it seems, highly regarded enough to involve in decision making about their own welfare.
Is there an important correlation here?
The long held argument that nothing will change for Indigenous peoples unless they have genuine self-determination, surely applies to the community in general. The interests of the wider Australian community depend upon us finding a solution that will given Indigenous people self-determination as a right, because in that solution the entire community will find answers to the very difficult long term questions that we have.
The real issues facing our community, such as treatment options for alcoholism / addiction. Strategies to impact the ongoing costs and increasing incarceration rates in Australia, especially for Indigenous men and women. The tragedy of our Indigenous First Peoples and the glaring inequities between black and white. Education. Rising health costs and less access for poorer people. Rising elderly population. Politicians wages. The disparity between rich and poor and the determination of those in power, (or the rich), to retain that power balance – to name but a few.
We have no genuine dialogue about any of these issues at Corporate Social Responsibility level. CSR – The Corporate Social Responsibility agenda, must begin to explore creative ideas about sustainability for our entire community. If your Company makes or provides something useful – well, that is really the first question. Does it? Are the incredible profits of CBA for example beneficial to our social culture or do those profits somehow help environment protection? Ask the right questions of your Company. Invest in Companies that have a genuine Corporate Social Responsibility agenda. Money is a good thing, the more investment in companies with CSR policy agenda’s, the more determined other companies will be, to emulate these sorts of policies and our community will start to become genuinely sustainable, inclusive and accessible to everyone.
“You give a poor man/woman a fish and you feed him/her for a day. You teach him/her how to fish and you give him/her an occupation that will feed him/her for a lifetime.” (Chinese proverb.)