Corporate Social Responsibility; Project Fame. Cowbell Mathematics Competition. Always Essay Contest. Malta Guinness Football VS Fashion Competition. Guilder Ultimate Search.
These are a few of the names of initiatives embarked on by brands or businesses as a way of contributing to society, leaving their mark on the lives of the people and environments that enable them, and also a way of promoting themselves.
In other words: we care about you so you should care about our products.
And there has been some difference made – at least in the lives of individuals. The winner of Project Fame walks away with ten million naira (N10,000,000), a brand new SUV and a chance at fame and fortune as Iyanya and Chidinma can testify to. The Ultimate Search winner gets an SUV and nine million naira. Cowbell awards the winner of her competition a hundred thousand naira and a laptop.
While the disparities in values and awards are almost laughable, it is clear these corporations/businesses spend millions of naira annually to keep themselves relevant and to ‘give back’.
But if we get down to brass tacks, how much exactly is being given back? And to whom?
Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility is defined, according to mallenbaker.net, as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.”
A senior colleague of mine argues that “if every huge corporation was made to fix roads and contribute to the power supply, their earnings would be a lot more justified.” I don’t support an entitlement mentality, but, hey, if you’re going to do something you might as well do it right.
Would ten million make a great difference to an individual? Definitely. To a community? Say, borehole provision or infrastructure building? How about local schools, libraries, and bookshops?
In an article written by Nicole Fallon for businessnewsdaily.com, there are several examples of truly socially responsible businesses. Some examples are an organization that works with IT manufacturing companies to make IT accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities. The best part? Seventy percent of that company’s employees have disabilities. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. That is corporate social responsibility.
Another company, real estate agents donate their commission to charity. Yet another, a sock company, sells socks and donates proceeds from sales to a fund that is used to provide small loans for entrepreneurs in developing countries.
That’s truly making a difference.
I don’t know exactly how much is being done for charities by corporations around these parts. I assume most of these charities get funding from individuals and celebrities and companies too small to be mentioned in the media, but I’m of the opinion that so much more can still be done.
Maybe I am biased.
For example, there was a public outcry on The Mirabel Center For Abused/Rape Victims brought into the public space via an article written by Wana Udobang, via Al Jazeera*. DFID, the UK’s Department for International Development, who had been funding the center since it opened more than five years ago stopped the money flow and it started to look impossible to continue to run the program. Proposals were submitted to several corporations but the gist has it that most corporations would rather not be involved with something as ‘sensitive’ as rape.
Anyway, people took to social media and broadcasted the plight of this very necessary program and money was raised – just enough to keep them in business.
Not permanently – but for a while.
What happens the next time funds dry up and a cry goes unheeded because the plight of several abuses and rape victims has lost its novelty and has become a fad people have moved on from? What happened to all the scholarship programs that used to be all over the place? Who holds businesses responsible when it seems as though their interest to make money supersedes their interest in the people they make the money from? Is it a sense of entitlement to expect people to give back to the people and places that made them in the first place?
Are we wrong to expect companies and corporations to be more socially responsible?
Could it be that we as a people have stopped caring for and about each other – and this is irrevocably being reflected in our homes and workplaces? Are we being responsible when we dump refuse into the streets; refuse that invariably clogs the sewage ways, causes floods, and eventually damages the roads (the same roads we blame the government for not fixing)? Whose job is it to not vandalize water pipes and electrical stations? Whose responsibility is it to keep our environment clean?
Maybe we should stop the blame-placing and just accept responsibility for ourselves, our lives, and everything around us. We can take more interest in society and what we can do to help those who don’t have as much as – or even what – we do. Maybe we can stop the violence against children. Teach our boys to be more responsible. Encourage our girls to be more vocal about abuse. Teach ourselves to care some more. Maybe we would have, individually and collectively, made a difference.
Maybe that is true corporate social responsibility.
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*Wana Udobang’s article, ‘A Day in the Life of…Lagos’ Only Rape Support Centre’ can be found on Aljazeera.com.