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Business Recorder

Published Date: Dec 4, 2012

COMPANIES ACCUSED OF ABUSING CSR FRAMEWORK

Businesses can help resolve conflicts in a society through implementation of a broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) framework that addresses social and economic needs of communities. This was the gist of a workshop on “Plural Business Partnerships for Peace: Perspectives from Pakistan” jointly organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Responsible Business Initiative (RBI) and International Alert (IA) here on Monday.

Speaker cited lack of economic opportunities and social deprivation as the most pressing factors that contribute to conflicts within a community. Former Chairman Competition Commission of Pakistan Khalid Aziz Mirza said that besides CSR the businesses must comply with the law of the land in letter and spirit while adhering to accepted corporate governance norms and respect all stakeholders’ rights. Khalid Mirza said that the struggle between haves and have-nots is the basic source of conflict in the country and even the ethnic and cultural differences are the result of unhappy conditions which have led to all sorts of tensions.

“There is deep link between business and peace as conflicts give rise to exploitative and negative businesses whereas most of fair business grow in peace,” the former chairman CCP said. He said it has been observed that CSR is abused by the companies to make profits out of the money for the poor and needy communities.

“It is need to comply with the law of land and adhere to it, to be ecologically in harmony and deal fairly with people,” he added, while referring to the non- compliance of CSR by the companies, and said that better competitive regime was also required to improve the business practices in country.

Earlier speaking in the session on ‘Communities Perspective’ Naseer Memon, CEO of Strengthening Participatory Organisation lamented corporations, multinational companies and local businesses for ignoring local communities for employment. “Most of the businesses concerns say that it was not their job to train the people they were to employ people” he added.

Former President Engro Corporation Asad Umar and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf leader identified lack of economic opportunities as one of the many factors for most of the conflicts in Pakistan and urged for creation of jobs, spending royalties on communities and improving the social capital in the community. He said that businesses need to influence government agenda for sustainable growth adding that engaging media and communities are vital for such advocacy.

Former Federal Minister for Privatisation Altaf Saleem argued that due to lack of accountability businesses tend to indulge in criminal business practices for huge dividends and mostly get away with it. He urged to reform government system which reward honest businesses that positively contribute towards welfare of people, resulting into peaceful societies.

In his opening remarks, Dr Vaqar Ahmed, head of Economic Growth Unit at SDPI said that the purpose of the conference is to find a way to establish community-business partnerships for peace conducive economies where both can benefit from each other. Nabeel Goheer of Commonwealth London Secretariat said their work in Pakistan is aimed at building a peaceful and democratic society by appreciating the ‘cultural diversity.

Phillip Edward Vernon briefed participants on various initiatives of International Alert (IA) on peace building in Pakistan. Naseer Memon, CEO of Strengthening Participatory Organisation regretted that corporations and multinational companies are ignoring local communities for employment. Referring to UNDP Human Development Report, he stated that despite producing natural gas for decades, Dera Bugti remained poorest district in the country. SDPI Safwan Aziz presented the findings of SDPI study and shared that most of community members in their survey asked businesses to contribute in community development through provision of education, health, and economic opportunities.