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Greening CSR

Advocates say corporate social responsibility (CSR) is central to how businesses operate and stay competitive. If so, like other business processes, CSR initiatives should be professionally managed to generate efficiency, productivity, and high return on investment.

The Philippines has a rich history of CSR, in part because it makes businesses sense, strengthening admiration for brands and as a result, brand recall. But it also makes sense because public sector resources to support the delivery of basic services—education, healthcare, and nutrition, for example—are almost always inadequate or inadequately administered. Businesses help fill that gap by giving back.

Giving back is serious business. According to Augusto Carpio, chairman of the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF), organizations that set the standards of excellence in CSR are successful in part because they carefully plan how they will develop what can be life-changing CSR interventions and related activities. Whether it’s a team of talented people, funds, energy, or supplies, resources need to be put to good use, he says.

That’s especially true when it comes to the environment.

“One of the ways we can ensure the relevance and impact of our projects is to make sure that they do not harm the environment in any way,” Carpio said in a recent interview. To illustrate how basic planning can have far-reaching effects, he said that when undertaking urban gardening projects in support of nutrition-focused projects, for example, project managers can ensure that discarded plastic bottles are put to productive use as pots or watering containers.

Compared to slowly degenerating over generations in some landfill, it’s clear that rehabilitating non-recyclable materials makes great sense. There’s certainly plenty of supply generated by sari-sari stores and supermarkets.

Plastic bottles may be an easy example, but there is no shortage of other ways to keep discarded but usable “trash” out of those landfills. Eco-bags made from used tarpaulin and product packaging are used to transport supplies, equipment, and medicines during medical missions, community build-outs, and education drives. Businesses can also partner for CSR initiatives with suppliers who are engaged in “greening” socially responsible business practices.

Any company—big or small—can create significant, positive impact beyond the confines of the office or other workplace, not just large domestic companies and multinationals. Aside from professional management, a little—or a lot—of inspiration helps.

“Companies exist as part of a community. To create genuine impact, CSR programs must truly and fundamentally inspire people in the organization,” LCF president Camille Buenaventura told my team recently. “By helping fulfill their company’s role as a corporate citizen, employees clearly perceive their personal impact, which enhances perception of self-worth and provides a meaningful sense of purpose.”

To see some examples of professional CSR management that inspires, July 5-6, LCF will conduct its annual CSR Expo. The theme for this 11th Expo is, “Transforming the Business of Giving Back.” “The CSR Expo is an excellent platform for stakeholders to discuss issues and challenges in the practice of CSR, and to share inspiring success stories,” says Carpio. The event takes place at the SMX Convention Center. (Disclosure: LCF is a client of my firm.)

Since 2010, the CSR Expo itself has been organized as a green conference. “This year, we aim to make the CSR Expo another successful ‘green’ event. We will continue to keep all waste to a minimum, starting with the use of recycled materials, not only during the two-day conference and exhibit but even in the many preparatory meetings,” Carpio said. Evidence of careful planning is abundant.

LCF encourages delegates to register online, organize a carpool, and reduce food and beverage wastage. Daily tips on green ideas are already being posted on the conference website, and the Expo’s carbon footprint will be reported at the end of the two-day event. During the Expo, visitors and conference delegates who visit the exhibit area will learn how to calculate and reduce their carbon footprints. And those who pledge to reduce their carbon footprint will enjoy the benefit of having a tree seedling planted in their name at the Marikina Watershed.

“Every lifestyle choice we make somehow impacts the world we live in. As CSR advocates and practitioners, one of our goals is to make more people aware of the practical things all of us can do to help the planet or vulnerable members of society,”  Carpio told us. He also said that LCF is organizing a series of CSR 101 lectures as part of its commitment to promote CSR across industries and sectors.

The two-day CSR Expo features discussions on social entrepreneurship, Filipino cultural values, public-private partnerships, volunteerism and philanthropy, the Millennium Development Goals, and global CSR trends.  The exhibition will focus on the development work of corporations, corporate foundations and partners from civil society, academe, and government. For more information, visit the CSR Expo’s official event website.

(Michael Alan Hamlin is the managing director of TeamAsia and a Manila-based author. His latest book is High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand. Write him at mahamlin@teamasia.com and follow him on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. Copyright © 2012 Michael Alan Hamlin. All Rights Reserved.)