Debating CSR in Nepal: A bit bumpy road but without a way back!

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Last Friday we had the fourth meeting of the loose network on Corporate Social Responsibility. To be precise, actually we are neither a real network nor an alliance but just a group of practitioners, some of us involved at personal level, others instead representing their own organizations, all united to reach a common understanding about different meanings of Corporate Social Responsibility.

The basic assumption underpinning the work of the group is that once we agree on a common framework (this can happen only through frequent interactions), we can move ahead with a more ambitious agenda that can strongly re-assert the role the private sector can play within the wider society.

It has not been an easy journey but so far we should not complain. In the previous meetings, when very few participants turned up, few of us had the opportunity to get to know each other and, step by step, agree on a common road map.

Commitment and perseverance are not lacking among few of us and this helped quite a lot in moving ahead instead of doing a reverse and give up.

What was initiated quite informally and without much hope by ICRI, Michael Rosenkrantz and ENGAGE slowly became something better defined with the important participation of institutions like NBI, Global Compact and GIZ, the German Cooperation Office.

It is still very an informal undertaking, there is no TOR (at this point no one feels the need) nor we have a budget (also this is not needed). So far all meetings were kindly hosted by ICRI but last Friday we reached an agreement to start a second phase process with monthly presentations to be hosted on rotating basis.

In August NBI will be responsible to organize one sharing event, inviting some of its members to present their best practices. In September the Global Compact will take the lead. Hopefully we will create more interest, get new players on board that will give us more “fuel” to keep going.

The participation of GIZ helped us to know a bit more about CSR practices from Southern Africa region where, in a country like South Africa, monthly CSR gatherings are a common practice. Hopefully in the near future more learning will be shared about international practices: while it is true that we need to find our own model, it is also important to know more beyond the South Asian landscape.

The involvement and ownership of network organizations like NBI and Global Compact is really strategic as the initiative does not want to replace or substitute any ongoing efforts but rather complement and strengthen whatever initiative is currently being undertaken. Both networks can help nurture and ultimately institutionalize what we are doing.

The added value of these gatherings is that players and stakeholders that usually do not cross into each other have the opportunity to meet and get to know each other. Hopefully more representatives from civil society will join too. We still miss them.

We want to create synergies, we want to foster a dialogue among different players and by bringing together membership based networks, academic and learning institutions, institutional donors or individual practitioners, we can enhance the overall level of debate on the boundaries, features and impact of Corporate Social Responsibility in the country.

We all agree that companies already do contribute to the prosperity of the nation by generating employment and outputs. We all know that companies have internal and external responsibilities as well towards their employees, the communities where they work and the overall society. We all agree that Corporate Social Responsibility (actually I prefer the term Corporate Responsibility as it implies an internal as well as an external dimension that is equally important) is not just about charity but much more. Philanthropic giving is no doubts part of the equation but there is an increased awareness that donations are just a part of a much broader, more complex “eco-system”.

Interestingly we all agree that Corporate Social Responsibility is also about ethical business and it is about ‘share value”, a concept that highlights the social contributions a company can make while thriving as a business. The interesting thing is that profits and margins are increased exactly because of new products and services put in the market to meet social goals.

Last Friday we had a fairly good turnout probably also because of the presence of a special guest, Anil Chitrakar that offered a very interesting while at the same time simple and concrete overview of the current status of play related to Corporate Responsibility in the country. Hopefully Anil will continue to be involved in our discussions and hopefully more institutions and members will join our non network.

Slowly and surely we are moving ahead. It will be a bumpy road but if we all stick together, even few of us, some progresses will be achieved in the overall debate over CSR in the country. New practices will emerge, new partnerships will be created. Definitely a win win.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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