Corporate Social Responsibility: The Cart Before The Horse

by on Mar.15, 2014, under Business

cart-before-the-horseBusiness is a force intended for good. While business can be accused of many things, it cannot be accused of its ability to transform lives. The government employs hundreds of thousands while Businesses and businesswomen/men employ millions. An example is the Kenyan government (both county and national) employs about 5% of the labour force in the nation. 95% of the labour force is employed in businesses and a few in NGOs. When businesses and businesswomen/men concentrate on thier co-objectives of making profit for the shareholders and take care of the people that work for the organisations, it is enough contribution to national development.

I have seen many young men and women that landed jobs in many good organisations (business) in our nation and abroad, their lives and in most cases the lives of their families are transformed forever. The siblings get to finish school while the parents may have new house built for them and they can access medical care in their old age. Lives are transformed courtesy of their relatives landing jobs in organisations/businesses.

It is my believe that businesses are more useful in the society if they concentrate on earning returns for the investors, compesenting employees justly, treating the consumer fairly, paying the rightful taxes and taking care of the environment where they do business.  The rest of the activities that businesses engage in are side shows to blind the consumers and the public from scrutinising whether the businesses meet their primary responsibilities above.    

Media is awash  of stories of many politicians across the globe that dip their hands in the public coffers either to recover the money they donated during the campaigns or boost their stocks of cash ahead of the next election. Many people including the business community find the actions of political leaders unacceptable. What the politicians do is to take our money and give it back to us in exchange for votes and support. This is the same thing that many businesses do, they overcharge the consumers of the products in order to make supernormal profits which they give back as donations to win support and loyalty. If businesses were to charge consumers fairly, the consumers would remain with some money to pay fees and take care of other social demands. What some businesses are doing is to rewrite the saying “rob Paul to pay Peter” to “rob Paul to pay Paul.” They collect the money from the poor through selling of goods and services and give back some peanuts as donations, through the CSR activities. I hope that one day the businesses and the world will realize that the best CSR is not overcharging the consumers the products and goods.    

Business/employers may not need to expand their PR offices or increase their CSR activities if they compensate their employees well and create a good working environment for them and their families, if they pay their suppliers fairly and in time, if they utilize the natural resource responsibly, if they treat their customers humanly and if they do not make exorbitant profits from their consumers. If the point is to do good then these are better ways of doing good since the employees and suppliers are members of the society where businesses are operating, treating them well is a better way of helping those societies.

The spirit of CSR is not bad since it is a human spirit to give. The bad part of it is what some businesses give: fruits of blood and sweet from ill-paid and overworked employees. If an organisation finds its employees struggling with work-life balance, if the employees of that organisation work for more than eight (8) hours either in the office or at home  without pay then that organisation has no moral authority to give charity to other people outside the organisation, charity begins at home.

Why is the society so pretentious? Why are we building a society where many of us find it ok to put the cart before the horse? Why is the business community fake but it only seea the spark in the eyes of the government?  Why is it ok to give to other people outside the organisation but not to give to the people who are creating the wealth? Why is it acceptable for organisations to steal employees’ time to give the proceeds to CSR activities.   

I hold the view that organisations should first pay employees fairly for ALL hours worked, pay supplier justly, meet all statutory obligations, take care of the environment where they do business and earn a just return for the investors. If that has been achieved 100%  only then should businesses/organisations think of CSR. Anything before that is pretense, a mere PR exercise and a cheap publicity posturing.

Dispite the fact that many businesses are on the wrong target, I remain a firm believer that business is the only vehicle for a people and nations to prosper. Business is a force for good.

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