The Nepali business sector is gradually becoming aware of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Some recent developments related to CSR indicate that business sector is now turning more CSR-friendly. In 2004, the manpower agencies were ravaged by Kathmanduites after the killings of 12 Nepalis in Iraq, which exposed the malpractices in manpower trade.

In November 2004, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry passed a code of conduct for the business community. In 2005, the Nepal Business Initiative carried a few activities appealing for help to the society. Last month a programme on CSR was conducted which drew participation from the National Planning Commission (NPC), Actionaid, Lotus Opportunities and Management Association of Nepal.

Prescribed principles and practices of CSR are no longer new in the western countries. It is already known that making profit using social, natural and human resources by ignoring society is no longer sustainable. Promotion of CSR can be regarded as maturity and self-realisation of the corporate sector. With effective market mechanisms and liberal economy, the West significantly relies on the formal corporate sector for overall economic welfare. The CSR recognises a close link between the practices of corporate sector, government and the society. Economic growth is the outcome of their symbiosis. The CSR establishes philanthropic, non-legal and social links between these three sectors, supporting the norms of tax and environment laws.

Since Nepal’s economic size, structure and dependence are different from the others, our business environment is unique. So, we should develop an indigenous CSR. It may be a key to economic development and true industrialisation. Nepal has been adopting liberalisation policy and we are heading towards a private sector-dominated economy. This leaves very limited direct economic roles of the government in reducing poverty. It obviously makes poverty alleviation and economic welfare burdens of the private sector. CSR and liberalisation complement each other.

CSR is an integral part of corporate governance or corporate practices. A liberal economy relies heavily on the private sector for the well-being of the people. The Nepali private sector should prepare an appropriate CSR in the liberal environment. The NPC documents discuss liberalisation in detail, but CSR and respective roles of corporate sector are not emphasised whereas CSR is more important in a country like Nepal where public governance often dwindles with unstable politics. In such a condition, corporate governance is crucial for the overall economic growth of the country. CSR also enhances transparency in government and business dealings. If designed and implemented well, CSR could prove helpful in harnessing many economic and political advantages. The CSR might be a competing edge in the present context if big business organisations are serious about implementing it and not limiting it to words.