CSOs drilled in corporate social responsibility norms
…made to understand obligations of mining investors
By Chiku Jere
Representatives of civil society organisations advocating for good governance and effective management of the country’s mining sector had an opportunity to improve their knowledge and understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues thanks to a training workshop held on June 26, 2016 at Riverside Hotel in Lilongwe, which was organized by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) with funding from Tilitonse Fund.
CCJP Acting Executive Director Martin Chiphwanya said the workshop was aimed at enabling CSOs to become conversant with CSR issues in order to competently provide effective oversight role and ensure that communities reap substantial benefits from exploration and mining projects taking place in their areas.
As CSOs, we need to know what we are fighting for. In this case, we need to understand what CSR entails so that we engage stakeholders, in this respect companies, and push them into upholding their fundamental responsibilities in areas of their activities,
Chiphwanya explained that pressure brings about change and that it is imperative for the CSOs to attain competency in issues like CSR, so that they provide proper guidance to the people they represent, to allow them make informed demands from corporate entities operating in their environs.
The task of taking the participants through the training was assigned to a consulting entity, Versatile Marketing, whose Managing Partner, Dan Kamanga, described CSR as
the responsibility of an organisation for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment.
Kamanga, who was the main facilitator at the workshop, said corporate entities are businesses whose main reason is to make profits, and for them to exist and thrive there are a lot of other stakeholders such as customers, members of the community and employees involved.
He said businesses and these stakeholders need to operate in an ecosystem-like environment where there is reciprocated dependability.
Social responsibilities of businesses are those that arise in context of corporate-stakeholder relationship. Imagine what would happen if customers or community stopped purchasing products of a company or if corporates decided to stop supporting customers or providing services to community?
The facilitator explained that the relationship between these two sides should not be parasitic; rather it should be cordial and have positive bearing on both parties because decisions and activities of one unit affect the other.
He also stressed the need for companies to consider every aspect that affects the environs they operate from.
Corporates need to operate through transparent and ethical behaviour that contributes to sustainable development taking into account the expectations of stakeholders in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour,
Kamanga cited aspects enshrined in a number of international guidelines on CSR such as the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
UNGC is a call to companies everywhere to voluntarily align their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to take action in support of UN goals and issues.
The UNGC principles are derived from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
The human rights principle calls for businesses to support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights, and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
On labour, businesses are obligated to uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
Investors are also asked to support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges; undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
There is also a requirement that obligates businesses to work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.
Kamanga asserts that responsible businesses enact the same values and principles wherever they have a presence, and know that good practices in one area do not offset harm in another.
By incorporating the Global Compact principles into strategies, policies and procedures, and establishing a culture of integrity, companies are not only upholding their basic responsibilities to people and plane but also setting the stage for long-term success.
Kamanga observed that in a country where government, individuals, corporate, formal and informal grouping effectively play their role, the society is well served and the country becomes a better place to live in.
The facilitator noted that CSR is now taking more innovative shapes, with companies pursuing dual or multiple goals, mainly in context of commercial and philanthropic needs, which are more sustainable, with bilateral as well as multilateral organizations equally partnering companies in the cause.
He cited UK-Department for International Development (DFID) which joined hands with First Merchant Bank (FMB) to drive financial inclusion initiatives.
These innovative forms of CSR are very effective as they do not require specific or limited budget unlike the traditional ones,
said Kamanga adding that companies are excited to come on board such initiatives as the benefits are mutual and dual.
He observed that the role of uplifting the poor masses is beyond government and the private sector as NGOs and other players equally have a crucial role to play.
Nevertheless, he said government needs to take a leading role in formulating regulatory and policy framework that can woo companies to engage more in developing the country such like giving incentives to businesses with life-transforming, bigger impact and wider reach initiatives.
Concluding, he called for mobilization and education of citizens to understand the value and impact of the stakeholder relationship with corporate.
The piece “Malawian CSOs drilled in corporate social responsibility norms in mining” featured above was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 40 that is circulating this August 2016.
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.