The last few speeches I’ve made, have had me starting them with a “thank you”. For the fact that today, welfare work and social responsibilities, corporate or otherwise, to a large extent has become a shared responsibility of everybody and that realisation and awareness to do our bit is worthy of some recognition albeit a simple thank you.
I have also been delighted to see so many new faces to the recent round of forums and roundtables that we’ve hosted. This also goes to show commitment and new interest as csr and the responsible business agenda gain traction.
I would like to thank the Board who has put the welfare of people at the heart of all our development initiatives over the years and put up with me in making some bold changes.
The Association has time and time again asserted that real CSR is more than an ideology; it is the business driver of the future. Welfare and CSR are intractably linked. In the context of Pakistan, CSR offers the building blocks for the architectural landscape of a new Country. It is indeed the basis for national cohesion and cooperation across ethnicity, across sectors and across social and economic divides.
This year, it was gratifying to note that we had nearly as many emails and requests for announcing the Awards entry as we did submissions last year. I believe that this is because dynamic Pakistan companies, represented by so many here today, have regarded doing well, in terms of profits and doing good, in terms of caring for the community, as not mutually exclusive objectives but mutually reinforcing ones.
For this, we at the Association see the Awards as a way of visibly recognising these achievements. When doing well in terms of profitability and doing good in terms of community investments start complementing each other, it becomes a strategy for sustained development. This community development, is a community that is energized and rehabilitated, the impacts are lasting and very far reaching.
A new global economy is constantly taking shape all around us. It is built on new forms of value creation and, as when consumers reacted to genetically modified foods, it is often colliding with both old and new values. As one controversy follows another, a new vocabulary is surfacing. Whilst Politicians and business leaders increasingly talk in terms of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, we’re encouraging everyone to move beyond csr.
Now a new wave of societal pressure is reshaping business thinking.
Business is being responsible, is looked up to by its employees to address a wide range of new accountability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues, some of which would once have been handled exclusively by governments. But there's a double gap to be bridged, a gap in understanding and a performance gap. One problem is that the language of CSR is horribly opaque. It can confuse rather than communicate. It's a testament to the force of CSR that its messages still manage to get through, but there's no doubt its language is a problem.
The performance gap is just as tricky. Many businesses first encounter CSR in the context of brand: when the brand is in trouble. A company does, or fails to do, something that lands it in the CSR hot seat. In such cases, poor CSR performance poses a risk to corporate reputation and brand.
But CSR is now moving from the sphere of brand risk to brand opportunity. Smart companies are realising that good CSR performance can be a source of brand advantage. The exciting question now is not, how companies can protect their brands from reputation debacles, but how they can build brands aligned with strong CSR performance and global citizenship? Trust is critical to brand success, but trust is in short supply when it comes to CSR and that presents an opportunity for alert brand owners and their agencies.
The critical point is that the search for responsibility has moved from an ethical niche into the mainstream. Early leaders, promoted environmental, social and economic responsibility alongside their products saving energy.
The new emphasis being put on business agendas for CSR, global citizenship and sustainable development has huge implications for the commercial communications sector.
In the interest of its business and its environment, an organisation needs to relate its operations and policies in ways that are mutually beneficial. The models of CSR encourage businesses to actively and voluntarily contribute to community development.
An important element of Corporate Social Responsibility in businesses is taking responsibility for its impact on society or their activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders, and all other members of the public sphere and as part of my meet & greet with the business community throughout 2013 and 2014 I’ve seen the change and I want to encourage bold and innovative thinking which does not shy away from long term goals, object sharing and community impact. I believe there is much more to be done in these areas, including possibly new approaches using technology.
There are, I believe, huge opportunities in networks of strength and expertise – across cities, across particular sectors, across areas of educational expertise. And as I said earlier – across the creative industries – and let’s see where the conversations might lead.
I am struck by the way the best organisations are already extending their reach, where there are real example of a well-developed partnership programme involving education, communication, information and social change.
These organisations work together for no other reason than that it makes sense – they view it as an essential rather than a luxury. And they are stronger for it. I want to see greater appetite for convergence and am determined to enable it wherever possible, through the Association.
In 2015 we will continue to build capacity and impact in our current operations while undertaking some key developments for the longer term. Our priorities are:
• To mobilise more businesses to integrate responsible business practice and to take action for people and planet – focusing on employability, skills and employee
• engagement; and increasing the reach and impact.
• We shall also concentrate efforts to grow and engage our membership, Pakistan and internationally by demonstrating the value and measurable impact of the Association.
• To create a shared vision of a sustainable future In collaboration with our members and key partners, and develop a "roadmap" for business to help achieve this
We’ll also restart the dialogue for CSR Development Programmes with its partners, that will be available for organisations that are embarking on their CSR initiatives and are looking to implement these initiatives in their operations.
It is also for organisations trying to improve their CSR practices through acquiring the knowledge, skills and competencies to apply CSR principles and practices towards creating a healthy business environment for the sustainability of their businesses.
We’ll be launching the Leaf Quality Commitment – a voluntary standardization for Corporate Social Responsibility to be formally launched in 2014 at the Awards. The new standard on social responsibility is a voluntary guidance standard focused on seven principles of social responsibility and is available to companies that meet the criteria.
The Association’s introduction of this kitemark, highlights it’s commitment to promoting the principles of sustainable and responsible management within organisations through the development and delivery of professional CSR Reporting and Advisory Services, Sustainability Solutions.
The Association will additionally be offering a range of advisory tools and bespoke services to our members to assist them in integrating responsible business practice and meeting business and sustainability goals. We’ll help companies to understand better their most significant social and environmental issues and help them develop strategy for systematically managing, measuring and reporting on how these issues are being addressed.
Our services have been developed through the knowledge built up over years of operation and information gained through the CR Index, our Annual Awards for Excellence, and our extensive multi-stakeholder network of contacts in the business and corporate responsibility fields. Our breadth of knowledge and expertise extends both across the CR spectrum and across industry sectors enabling us to assist you on a focused, yet holistic, basis.
To do all this, we need to continue to grow innovative cultural leaders and strong and effective boards and bodies. Over the coming months, the Association will be announcing the Advisory Representatives Committee, made up of people from within the industry. The various forms of trust status are not in themselves a panacea, nor can they be applied everywhere, but I believe that a mixed group of likeminded people is the right way forward.
I would like to thank everyone for the time, attention and creativity put into designing your CSR projects. You enrich a community and give this country its potential competitive advantage. I would also like to honour the ‘unsung’ heroes that are doing their bit.
Taking the cue from you, we prioritized Education, Environment, Culture and Heritage, Community and Social Welfare, Best Workplace Practices, Empowerment of Women, Small company CSR and the Media. These awards that are being given are very, very special. Not only because it comes from our nation’s own creativity, but because in evaluating the submissions we have looked at companies who have managed to align stakeholder-driven initiatives with business impact.
The idea of CSR is not new. Here in Pakistan charitable giving by businesses and individuals have always been part and parcel of our lives. But what is important is that CSR projects must engage the community.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate each and everyone of you here. You have stayed the course despite the huge challenges presented by the global economic & political climate.
We have still much to do, but I’m inspired and encouraged by the enthusiasm that is bouncing around Pakistan.
Do you bit!