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Is social enterprise the new CSR?

League of Corporate Foundations to discuss new trends, issues on sustainability at 11th CSR Expo

(Manila, Philippines, June 6, 2012) – For more than 50 years, the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has gradually emerged as a significant theme among the larger business community. From mere giving or philanthropy, the idea of ‘giving back’ to the society has slowly become a trend which eventually evolved as a culture among large corporations, giving birth to the term ‘corporate social responsibility.’ The new term underscored the nature of the CSR agenda as a corporate initiative integrated with the core business strategy, rather than a series of independent activities.

As both the trends in the business sector and the needs of communities change through time, this paradigm shift continues to open new areas of development in CSR to address issues on making initiatives sustainable. Yet another CSR model is emerging—the social enterprise, involving bigger responsibilities and, in many cases, deeper commitments.

For 15 years, the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) has been the catalyst in promoting strategic practice of CSR among businesses. In its annual CSR Expo, which will take place July 5 and 6 at the SMX Convention Center, LCF will address current issues on CSR and explore new strategies in making CSR programs relevant and sustainable. This year’s Expo is themed “Transforming the Business of Giving Back.”

“The Expo gives exposure to replicable examples or best practice and so it has inculcated in many corporate minds the beauty of having a CSR program,” says Pacita Juan, president of the Philippine Coffee Board, founder and former president of Figaro Coffee Company and Figaro Foundation, and a former trustee and president of LCF. She has almost 10 years of experience in CSR projects.

“It’s difficult to say this but all companies must be social enterprises in an ideal world. It must come from the heart. And must come from a business need. Otherwise it will just be charity, whitewash or greenwash,” says Juan. “I hope LCF continues to be the driving force behind our public companies who still do not practice CSR. LCF should also embrace SMEs (small and medium enterprises) because they are a big part of the business landscape.”

Social enterprise has two goals: to achieve social, cultural, community economic or environmental outcomes, and to earn revenue (Centre for Community Enterprise). With a bigger premise and more focused targets, building a social enterprise poses challenges for companies.

“Challenges are present when your business partners do not believe in CSR.  As a CEO, even if your employees may believe in CSR, you must always check with your investor-partners if they also believe in CSR.” Juan also believes that company executives must be the ones leading the CSR efforts of their companies. “The CEO must lead it, live it, and be outlived by it.”

LCF president and San Miguel Foundation executive director Camille Buenaventura also shares this view on CSR. “The reason why we have strong corporate social responsibility in the Philippines is because of our Filipino values and morals. That’s our springboard. And social enterprise, that is still where it’s coming from,” she said. “Now how can companies make their CSR initiatives more sustainable? First, there should always be the support of the senior management—the CEO, the chairman or the president of the company. Second, the direction should always be clear. What are the things that we want to implement in our community, or for our target beneficiaries?  Third, you must have very good staff to help in doing these. There should be a collective commitment.”

LCF chairperson and Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. managing trustee Sonny Carpio views social entrepreneurship as a strategic model of doing CSR. “I see social entrepreneurship as a means of making our CSR efforts more engaging, relevant, and sustainable. Now we’re not only thinking about the triple bottomline which is ‘People, Planet, Profit.’ We’ve added two more, which are ethical-moral framework and ensuring economic returns for our country. To balance all of them, we must innovate. And I think social entrepreneurship is one direction we could consider looking at,” said Carpio.

“That is one issue we want to address in our upcoming CSR Expo in July. How do we use business models to address social issues? And by addressing such we will also be able to learn new strategies not only for our CSR programs to be sustainable, but also for our own companies to stay reliable and relevant to the communities we serve,” he added.

The 11th CSR Expo in July will highlight how businesses can operate with social, environmental and economic responsibility, and within an ethical framework while ensuring sufficient financial returns for sustainability. Around 600 delegates consisting of CSR practitioners, executives, entrepreneurs, government representatives, academicians, and civil society partners are expected to attend the Expo.

Topics during the two-day conference include social entrepreneurship, Filipino cultural values, public-private partnerships, volunteerism and philanthropy, creating shared value, and social media for CSR, among others. The Expo will feature an exhibition of the development work of corporations and corporate foundations, as well as free CSR 101 sessions for teachers and students to increase their awareness and knowledge on the practice of CSR across industries. As in previous years, LCF is once again adopting green conference practices to keep waste at a minimum and to recycle and reuse materials to the maximum extent possible.

For more information, visit the CSR Expo’s official event website, www.lcf.org.ph/csrexpo2012.

About the League of Corporate Foundations
The League of Corporate Foundations is a network of over 70 operating and grant-making corporate foundations and corporations that promotes and enhances the strategic practice of Corporate Social Responsibility among its members and the larger business community, towards sustained national development.