The development of a country’s economy is dependent on the successful collaboration between its Government and private sector entities. The Government has direct access to people and resources, while companies have capital and expertise. Therefore, a very high impact can be achieved if synergistic partnerships are formed and business strategies and processes are aligned through transformational thinking.
The founder of CSR International and Director of think tank Kaleidoscope Futures, Dr. Wayne Visser, will be in Sri Lanka to deliver a series of keynote speeches on transformative CSR from 22-24 April. He is here at the invitation of CSR Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka spends over Rs. 4 billion annually on CSR (Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility) initiatives, yet little attention is paid to sustainability in most projects. In addition, there are no mechanisms to measure the impact or map the continuity of these projects.
In the past, companies used CSR for philanthropic or public relations purposes. This concept is now outdated. A new business paradigm that looks at creativity, scalability, responsiveness, ‘glocality’ - which means ‘global localisation’ - and ‘circularity’ - which is an alternative to the traditional linear economy - is the new way forward and will be expounded in great detail by Dr. Visser.
He says: “Increasingly, society and governments are looking to business to help them address the urgent economic, social and environmental challenges we face. Yet, the old approaches of CSR: defensive, charitable, promotional and strategic, have failed to reverse the negative trends. Today, the real business pioneers are going further and adopting transformative CSR, which creates innovative solutions and integrated value.”
According to him, a new era in relationships between business and society is being ushered in. It is defined by actions such as ‘global commons’, ‘innovative partnerships’ and ‘stakeholder involvement’. It is a shift from centralised to de-centralised, from marginal to mainstream and a change in application from single and exclusive to multiple and shared.
In keeping with this development, CSR Sri Lanka was launched in October 2014 to be the apex body in providing strategic guidance and the resources to create long-term sustainable value in the CSR efforts of the corporate sector. CSR Sri Lanka also seeks to build like-minded partnerships in the private and public sector that are focused on national priorities such as education, vocational training, rural development and poverty reduction, to name a few. In addition, CSR Sri Lanka aims to be the central repository of technical expertise on CSR in the country while acting as a platform for knowledge-sharing and capacity building. CSR Chairman Chandula Abeywickrama said: “There have been no greater challenges faced by society, enterprises and the environment for their continuity, sustainability and survival than what we face today. Neither can we sacrifice one for another just for short-term gains. This is where the paradigm shift is critical for transformation in the way we think and act in business; whether it is social, entrepreneurial or environmental.”
Ultimately, the purpose of business is to serve society by providing safe, high-quality products and services that enhance our wellbeing without eroding our ecological and community life support systems. There is a clear need to develop CSR specialists in Sri Lankan companies to drive their CSR activities. Less than 25 % of Sri Lankan companies have a CSR division and surveys show that a good majority (72%) would like to engage more in CSR.
The three-day sessions by Dr. Visser are targeted at three specific groups: The CEOs and chairmen of companies, senior Government officials and CSR heads of private sector companies.