Sunday, March 09, 2008

‘It’s good business to fight corruption’

Cebu Daily News
First Posted 11:34am (Mla time) 02/22/2008

CEBU CITY, Philippines - Landless farmers, fisherfolk and the poor benefit from businesses that practice corporate social responsibility (CSR), a United Nations official said.

“One cannot claim to be practising CSR unless the markets are linked with concepts of human rights, human development and good governance,” said Nileema Noble, UN resident coordinator.

“We have to ensure that the people’s rights are protected and fulfilled. People are no longer seen as consumers of goods. There must be a shift from shareholders to stakeholders,” she said in her speech during the 20th annual Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) Visayas membership meeting on Wednesday at the Casino Español in Cebu City.

Noble said the focus of CSR should be in improving the quality of life of society at large.

“Companies should not only be aware of the issues but be actively involved,” she said in the fight against poverty.

She said graft and corruption has “severely affected” the country’s economy.
“It makes good business to fight corruption,” she added.

PBSP is the largest social development foundation in the country and counts major companies in its roster of members. The Visayas committee, which marked its 20th anniversary, is headed by Jose Antonio Aboitiz, PILMICO chief finance officer.
Noble commended the PBSP Visayas for its anti-poverty projects in reforestation, coastal management, farming, education, emergency relief, business advisory services and others.

Noble said the UN Global Compact asks companies to align their activities with ten principles in the areas of human rights, environment and anti-corruption practices.

Global Compact is the world’s largest, global corporate citizenship initiative.

The ten principles include:

•Businesses should support the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights

•Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and recognize the right to collective bargaining and stamp ou all forms of forced labor.

•Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges and encourage the use of environmentally friendly technologies.

•Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

Noble said the Philippines is halfway from reaching its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce poverty significantly by 2015.

“The Philippines has made considerable progress in terms of fighting diseases like malaria and providing people access to clean water,” she said. But the same cannot be said for other targets such as the universal access to education.

“There is a decline in net enrollment rate. The cohort survival rate, students who stay from primary school to high school, of 100 students enrolled only six are able to graduate from high school,” she said.

“Poverty incidence shows there is an uneven progress among the regions. This is a reflection of the global trend. There is no equity in economic growth,” she added. /Editorial Assistant Ma. Bernadette A. Parco