Thursday, May 26, 2011

CSR event focuses on value

CSR event focuses on value
By Michael Alan Hamlin
Bottomline, Manila Bulletin
May 24, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — Research shows that corporate social responsibility (CSR) leads to increased customer loyalty, willingness to pay premium prices, and lower reputational risks in times of crisis, according to a recent report by the Conference Board. “Each of these marketing outcomes in turn has the potential to support increased profitability,” authors John Peloza and Jingzhi Shang conclude.

According to the authors, CSR has been defined “as a business organization’s configuration of principles of social responsibility, processes of social responsiveness, and policies, programs, and observable outcomes as they related to the firm’s social relationships.” Collectively, they can contribute to building a reputation for CSR – “a valuable business asset of its own” – and enhanced brand visibility.

CSR activities are wide-ranging, say Peloza and Jingzhi. “A recent review of financial metrics deployed to calculate the business case for CSR found 42 unique CSR activities.” The value of these activities naturally varies because some are more impactful than others, and some are more relevant to the communities they impact. A corporation’s clients and customers’ views are also likely to vary in terms of what constitutes CSR.

Peloza and Jingzhi determine CSR value by first defining it as “an interactive, relativistic preference experience.” Customers want to be a part of the experience, and it must impact them or their values. This makes CSR value multi-faceted, and powerful.

Although there are many competing demands for scarce resources in any organization, multi-faceted CSR value helps explain why it has become thoroughly ingrained in the Philippines’ corporate culture. Organizations such as Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) – where members commit a percentage of profits to CSR activities – and the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) both undertake and encourage CSR.

One way the LCF encourages corporations of all sizes to take CSR seriously – for their own as well as the community’s sake – is by conducting an annual conference and exposition, called the LCF CSR Expo. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Taking CSR to new heights.” It is meant to address the evolving CSR environment and challenge members and the general public to thoughtfully consider the impact of CSR on society and corporations.

LCF is an association of more than 70 corporations and corporate foundations that supports and promotes the CSR practices of its members. The foundation has played a crucial role in developing CSR in the Philippines and in raising public consciousness of the importance of conceptualizing and implementing CSR activities that contribute to preserving the environment, empowering individuals, and contributing to increased prosperity for millions of Filipinos.

According to Ed Amistad, LCF chairman, “CSR has evolved into a movement beyond philanthropy – more than giving, it has become a platform for empowering beneficiaries to make a difference in the community. This has made CSR a tangible and measurable endeavor. Our challenge now is to take CSR to the next level – of reach, participation, and goals.” For Amistad, CSR is a work in progress.

This year’s CSR Expo is LCF’s tenth, and it is scheduled July 20-21, 2011 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. Aside from knowledge sharing on best practice and emerging CSR trends and models, the two-day forum will provide a venue for discussions on key stakeholder issues such as CSR values, a pending CSR bill, the capability of small and medium enterprises to undertake CSR, lectures on the work of CSR practitioners and how they can have greater impact, and complimentary CSR 101 lectures for students.

The ASEAN CSR Network is also participating in the Expo year, and there will be an exhibit showcasing CSR value open to the public. According to Amistad, the LCF CSR Expo is the largest annual CSR conference in the Philippines, and several thousand executives and CSR practitioners from the business and government sectors are expected to attend, as well as representatives of the media and academe.

“There's always something new to discuss about CSR, and the Expo is the perfect forum to gather Philippine and multinational corporations along with small- and medium-sized businesses that are taking on a more active role in CSR. This year, as our members renew their commitment to working for a better tomorrow, LCF as an organization will recommit itself to lead its members in creating a stronger and lasting positive impact,” Amistad said.

"The LCF CSR Expo is a venue to let CSR practitioners know that we go beyond LCF’s 15 years of promoting and practicing CSR in the Philippines. It is not just a celebration of our anniversary, but a celebration for a better tomorrow."