TOPICS : Corporate social responsibility in Nepal

Nepal is going through political, economic and social transition and every sector is in a state of flux. The political situation is grim and unpredictable. The issues of economic and social development remain sidelined.In the given condition, time has come for every responsible citizen to contribute for the country’s cause in their own ways. In this process, the contribution of corporate houses can be immense as they are regarded as the “super citizens”.

They can be champions in solving social problems with their commitment towards the society expressed in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) integrated in their core programmes.CSR refers to the contribution made by corporations/ business houses for the community they operate in. CSR is not simply a philanthropic act but a strategically important component of corporate world institutionalised by the concerned corporation itself. In other words, the corporation does not involve itself only in seasonal charity activities, but designs and integrates community development plans in its core annual management plan.

CSR is viewed not as an expense but as an investment that results in long-term profit. The efforts put into education, healthcare, employment, housing, environment preservation can prove a boon for both the society and the company. The industrial sector in Nepal contributes 23 per cent to the GDP while employing only three per cent of the population. In this connection, it also becomes important to assess the community development approach of the multinational companies (MNC) operating in the country. In Nepal, corporations like Standard Chartered Bank, Nabil Bank, Asian Paints, Yeti Airlines and some media houses claim to have started community development initiatives. The initiatives of some organisations to start campaigns like ‘Make Poverty History’ are laudable. But still the bulk of the work remains to be done.

The corporate sector can bring about meaningful differences in the lives of community members in many ways — planning and implementing its development programmes in partnership with NGO/INGOs, government organisations, academic institutions or by establishing its own trust or foundation. Intel’s assistance to academic institutions like IITs, IIS; Chevron and ICICI Bank’s association with NGOs and GOs and establishment of Wipro’s Ajim Prmeji Foundation in India can serve as good models for Nepali corporations.

Perhaps the true ethos of CSR is best captured in the following saying: “The Corporation cannot be an island of excellence. Along with the development of a business, the society around it too has to be developed. Otherwise, there are bound to be conflicts. It actually makes good business sense to work with the society in mind.” The need of the hour is to recognise the contributions of the corporate houses to social development and highlight them through media and thereby put pressure on other corporate houses to follow suit.