CSR: A Strategic Approach to National Development

A stakeholder makes a contribution during one of the CSR consultations sessions at the University of the West Indies. Source: UNDP Trinidad and Tobago

In 2008, UNDP with the support of members of the business sector conducted a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mapping exercise.  It was the first comprehensive diagnostic of CSR activities on both islands. The study examined the situation with regards to CSR focusing on a broad range of aspects and criteria such as strategic planning, different forms of external and internal CSR, involvement of the public sector and partnerships between Private Sector and Civil Society while highlighting shortcomings, bottlenecks and challenges for local companies.

Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Trinidad and Tobago embarked on a two year 2 year project aimed at drafting a Corporate Social Responsibility policy
  • “CSR can increase the visibility and credibility of companies such as ours while contributing to the country’s social and environmental development. Another benefit I see is improved disclosure and transparency in how we do business, and the policy will also promote socially responsible investment.”

The report findings showed that while many businesses in Trinidad and Tobago focus on philanthropy, charitable giving and public relations, many of their programmes were not aligned with national development goals.  Finding also highlighted, limited involvement of Government in the practice of CSR; limited collaboration with civil society; little evidence of strategic planning and limited awareness of the business benefits of CSR.   Wainright Iton, who held the post of CEO at Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange when interviewed during the mapping exercise, had this to say, “I think as corporate citizens we have a distinct responsibility to make sure that the environment in which we operate is wholesome, we treat everybody fairly and if we do that there is the possibility of sustainability, other than that it all implodes and nobody wins.”

Following the mapping exercise, UNDP and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago embarked on a two year 2 year project aimed at drafting a Corporate Social Responsibility policy. The Private Sector and other key stakeholders contributed to the draft by participating in a series of stakeholder and national consultations.  In December 2013, the project also delivered a CSR website which serves as a resource centre to businesses wanting to learn more about CSR.  Once the policy is accepted into legislation, it will provide a framework for corporate entities to engage in structured, meaningful sustainable CSR that responds to the needs of individuals and communities and by extension national development in Trinidad and Tobago.

Anton Modeste, Executive Director of Images of a Lifetime often engages in CSR initiatives with an NGO.  He agreed that his company can benefit from the CSR policy and website in a more strategic way.  Modeste, who understands the benefits, explained, “CSR can increase the visibility and credibility of companies such as ours while contributing to the country’s social and environmental development.  Another benefit I see is improved disclosure and transparency in how we do business, and the policy will also promote socially responsible investment.”  The policy is also expected to embed CSR more firmly and strategically in private sector companies and their value chains while increasing participation of Small and Medium Enterprises and their capacity to implement CSR.

 

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