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Dawn

Published Date: Dec 4, 2012

THE IMPORTANCE OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

“We did nothing for the locals – we threw industrial waste in the water courses, rivers and open lands – never employed the locals. Got all the labour force from the outside,” said Hammad Mansoor, a Canadian based Pakistani businessman.

Emotionally charged — as his business venture in the tribal areas had closed down — Mr Mansoor said that he learned the meaning of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) while in Canada but unfortunately never applied it in Pakistan.

“In the end we were all losers – including myself as I had to pack up after the unrest began and left the country,” he said.

Mansoor was one of the participants at a research workshop titled “Plural business partnerships for peace: perspectives from Pakistan”, jointly organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Responsible Business Initiative (RBI) and International Alert (IA), in collaboration with European Union, here Monday.

The speakers equally blamed businesses and the government for ignoring the local communities and it was highlighted that hiring non-locals, even as unskilled workforce, was preferred by the industries as outsiders would remain low profile and would not speak-up against any injustice — if meted out to them.

The experts said CSR needed to be institutionalised, as many companies were spending money on personal expenditures of senior management, instead CSR.

CSR was best defined by Asad Umar, former President Engro Corporation and presently pursing a career in politics.

“Thar is a major disaster looming around,” he said, “None of the officials either in the federal government or in the provincial government want to listen to anything that is related to the welfare or betterment of the locals.”

Mr Umar said that the government has not done anything in 50 years, for the residents of district Ghotki, Sindh, which has the second and the third largest gas field of the country and the third largest fertilizer plant of Pakistan “but not a single child belonging to Ghotki has been trained by the government in relevant fields – whatever has been done, has been done by the private sector.”

He identified lack of economic opportunities as the reason behind conflicts in Pakistan and urged on job creation, spending royalties on communities and improving the social capital in the community.

“Otherwise the small islands of prosperity that we have in a few cities would shrink further,” he added.

Omar highlighted that businesses can help resolve conflicts in the community through broader CSR framework that addresses social and economic needs of the communities.

The experts said that peace and poverty were interrelated and both are linked with prosperity of the community.

Former chairman Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), 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 tension.

Mirza said that it had been observed that CSR is abused by the companies and some even make profits out of it.

Mohammad Ali, Chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), informed participants that SECP had drafted guidelines for government owned companies to perform CSR activities.