CSR is everyone’s business
Becoming strategically relevant
Two weeks from today the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) will launch its 2008 annual conference. The theme of this year’s conference is “CSR Is Everyone’s Business,” suggesting that the practice of corporate social responsibility is more than a public relations exercise for multinationals. Instead, “every company must take CSR seriously if it wants to survive in these times of intense competition and unpredictable challenges,” according to LCF president Pacita U. Juan.
Juan – or Chit as everyone I know calls her – is the highly-respected CEO of Figaro Coffee Company, Inc. Named Entrepreneur of the Year for 2004, Juan founded Figaro with seven friends who shared a passion for coffee in 1993. A decade later, the chain boasted 30 stores, including one in China. Today the upscale Figaro chain numbers more than 60 thriving retail outlets.
Like many of her peers who contribute valuable time and energy to LCF, Juan has more than coffee as a passion. Figaro’s CSR initiatives are shown prominently on the company’s website and are the frequent subject of news features. The company, its employees, and Juan devote what appear to be substantial resources to helping grow the Philippine coffee industry, educating farmers and helping plant trees and harvest beans.
This effort seems designed to validate Juan’s perspective that no company can afford to prosper if it doesn’t give back in some meaningful and sustainable way. In Figaro’s case, helping farmers learn to produce high-quality coffee beans assures a reliable supply of the chain’s basic ingredient. At the same time, it generates good will among producers, who can be relied upon to take Figaro’s interest to heart.
For Juan, for CSR initiatives to be successful over the long term, “they must have both a positive impact on society and strategic relevance to the company’s business.” The 2008 conference will provide a venue, she writes on the conference website, to discuss how companies can integrate CSR into their business processes. That integration makes CSR a part of the business, not just an option when business is good.
Day One of the conference is designed to provide CEOs and other business leaders an overview of global, regional, and local CSR trends, and features a number of prominent international and local speakers. Dr. Bradley Googins, who is the executive director of the Boston College Center for Corporate Responsibility, will provide the global framework for the discussion with an overview of CSR trends. In the afternoon he will speak again on indicators of a winning CSR strategy.
Other speakers for the overview session include Felimon A. Uriarte, former secretary of the Philippine Department of Science and Technology and currently executive director of the ASEAN Foundation; Ms. Winnie Monsod, a professor at the University of the Philippines School of Economics and a popular public commentator; and, Juan representing LCF.
Another highlight of the first day of the conference is the lunchtime session that will also serve as a joint general membership meeting for top business associations, including the Management Association of the Philippines, the Makati Business Club, the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, and the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines.
The session is entitled, “The Business Case for CSR: A Dialogue with Business Leaders,” and will begin with an overview of the results of a recent study of CSR in the Philippines. Business leaders asked to sit on a panel to discuss the results and implications of the study include Paolo Benigno Aquino, president of MicroVentures; Jaime I. Ayala, president and CEO of Ayala Land; David Morin, president of Goodyear Philippines; and, Charo Santos-Concio, president of ABS-CBN Network. The session will be moderated by award-winning broadcast journalist and president of Probe Productions, Inc., Che-che L. Lazaro.
Panelists are expected to present their views on strategic issues that affect their businesses, and how strategic CSR can contribute to effectively addressing them. Because there are so many issues that require attention, however, the session is also intended to provide the opportunity for panelists to reach a concession on which issues are most pressing and therefore CSR priorities for all businesses.
On Day Two the conference will shift gears to focus on how to develop and implement winning CSR strategies. Speakers and panelists will present and discuss CSR initiatives undertaken in the Philippines, and provide a candid summary of what worked, and what could have worked better. Delegates will benefit from learning how to avoid difficult obstacles to implementation, and to focus resources on high-return projects.
The final day of the conference is devoted to the CSR Institute, and will provide insights into planning and crafting an original CSR strategy. Because senior executives have so many demands on their time, day one is designed for them. The next two days are for the capable professionals that will take responsibility for ensuring CSR initiatives are both strategic and strategically relevant.