Fri | Dec 15, 2017

J'can companies urged to create more CSR programmes

Published:Friday | November 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer Sean Keown (left), consultant monitor for Deloitte, has a briefing with speakers Bridgette Levy (second left), director- Center for Social Responsibility; Saffrey Brown, general manager JN Foundation; Onyka Barrett, Jamaica programme director CUSO International and Rhys Campbell, head of economic development JPSco. Occasion was the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation and CUSO International forum on at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel on Tuesday.

Senior consultant at strategy consulting firm Monitor Deloitte, Sean Keown, is encouraging more Jamaican companies to create corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.

Keown believes this will not mately be more profitable, but also "help accelerate Jamaica's progress", particularly in achieving the Vision 2030 goals. Keown was speaking at a presentation on Tuesday at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel, hosted by Jamaica National Foundation and development agency CUSO International. The event focused on CSR as a tool for enhancing business performance, with an emphasis on medium-size companies.

Observation

Keown spent approximately two months in Jamaica, meeting with various businesses and looking at how they had successfully implemented CSR initiatives into their business plans. He said that, despite what is widely believed, CSR initiatives do not sacrifice investor returns and can actually reduce a firm's cost of capital.

"Several studies indicate that corporate social responsibility does not adversely affect, and can in fact enhance, business performance," he said. Keown showcased the findings of seven businesses in Kingston, St Ann and St Mary, and noted that, in every single example, the CSR programmes helped the business improve whether in actual sales or brand recognition.

For Keown, medium-size businesses were also equipped to take on CSR initiatives as there are fewer owner-manager conflicts since the owners usually handle the day-to-day operations. A critique against CSR is that managers are spending 'shareholders' money, but for medium-size entities that is frequently not the case.

effective CSR

Keown said effective CSR has certain criteria. Programmes that are: mutually beneficial to company and community stakeholders; tied to the company's core competency; and address the root cause of a particular social problem, are all proven to be effective. Another speaker, head of economic development at JPSCo, Rhys Campbell, opined that good CSR was more than just philanthropy. He advised companies that, in formulating CSR programmes, they have to know their target audience.

"Kingston is not Jamaica," he said. "And make sure it (the programme) is relevant to what society is asking for." Campbell encouraged companies to use surveys to know what people think of their efforts, as feedback "is a gift", because companies don't always get it right.

"It (feedback) is something we should all treasure," he said. "The only way to get it right is to ask." He encouraged companies to incorporate staff into any CSR initiatives as staff members were the best advertisers.

daviot.kelly@gleanerjm.com