With the development of the Industrial Parks, we see the emergence of increased manufacturing, stimulation of export and direct foreign investment, foreign exchange earnings and job creation for thousands of workers. The enterprises that set up shop in the Industrial Parks thus have a great responsibility, supporting the economic growth of the country and providing decent work for many. In addition, companies have the opportunity to profile themselves by demonstrating their corporate social responsibility to society at large.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to a business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society. Sustainability is brought more into the core of business operations to create shared value for business and society. CSR can encompass a wide variety of tactics, from giving non-profit organizations a portion of a company’s proceeds, to giving away a product or service to a worthy recipient for every sale made. Broad categories of social responsibility that businesses are practicing include:
Environment: One primary focus of corporate social responsibility is the environment. Businesses, both large and small, have a large carbon footprint. Any steps they can take to reduce those footprints are considered both good for the company and society as a whole.
Philanthropy: Businesses also practice social responsibility by donating to national and local charities. Whether it involves giving money or time, businesses have a lot of resources that can benefit charities and local community programs.
Ethical labour practices: By treating employees fairly and ethically, companies can also demonstrate their corporate social responsibility.
Now, while the country enjoys substantial economic growth, unfortunately, many people still suffer food insecurity. They don’t only eat enough, the food they eat is not necessarily nutritious or safe to eat and those affected depend on water and food distribution by the Government and Humanitarian Organizations. A word of appreciation for the Government is justified here as it coordinates the humanitarian aid effectively and takes the lead in humanitarian responses if and when so required.
While the Government and its development partners have worked hard over the years to prevent drought for example turning into a disaster, we see that an effective emergency response depends largely on the allocation of money and other resources by the Government and humanitarian organizations. These investments are certainly essential and required but are there also other ways to support preventive and response activities, involving the private sector for example from a Corporate Social Responsibility point of view?
Some 7 years ago or so, a drought affected the Horn of Africa and I remember how one of the Mobile Telephone Service providers in Kenya, used its network to raise $25m from its users.
“Ethos Water (USA)”, a brand of bottled water with a social mission of helping children get clean water, donates 5 cents for every bottle it sells to help bring clean water to developing countries. They are also hosting three to six mile “walks for water” to raise awareness of the daily treks that families make in developing countries to get water.
These are just two examples of different ways in which the private sector can take initiative and be involved in development and humanitarian activities, making financial support available and at the same time enjoying commercial advantage.
With all the water being sold in plastic bottles these days, would it be possible for the brands to take on a similar initiative? Or perhaps, taking it wider to all the producers of bottled water, soft drinks, beer and wine in Ethiopia? Every five cents thus collected could easily turn into an ocean of money for projects in areas, often affected by drought and other challenges?
While the economy is booming, we all need to ask ourselves whether we continue accepting the poverty we see around us everyday and expecting the government and donor organizations to do something about it? Or are we going to take social responsibility and do something about it as a business community?