Batuhan: The new face of CSR-A A +A
Friday, September 27, 2013
THESE are troubling times for Catholics. Probably no more so than Catholics in business, and those who are in some way concerned with the pursuit of profit and gain, be it personal, or for others (as in corporate profit).
Graft and corruption are rife. Theft, both in public service and private sectors, abounds. And those who suffer, those who are marginalized, and those who are left without the barest necessities of life are left to fend for themselves, sometimes to die trying in their vain attempt to eke out a meager existence in a world seemingly so full of abundance and prosperity.
True, the Philippines has come a long way in the economic arena. When I left the country in pursuit of greater management challenges and experience many years ago, the economy was in a bad state of disrepair, laid to waste by all the excesses of the Marcos years. Today, four years after coming back home, I see a country in rehabilitation, still the sick man of Asia maybe, but getting well very quickly indeed.
Blessed by an abundance of talented and educated young men and women, we are now at the forefront of the IT-enabled, global division of labor.
True, we are doing a lot of the work that foreign corporations consider less essential and peripheral in their businesses, but which they could not do without. And true, they take a much larger share of the profits over in their home countries than what is shared with us, but arguably this is better than what we had before.
And yet, is the whole country in better shape?
So many are still without the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, education and health care. Yes, we have tall, air-conditioned buildings where we do work for the affluent economies of the West, but in the shadow of these edifices are shantytowns, in whose squalor millions of our countrymen live their existence. Thousands of our young women continue to stream out of the country, to work as entertainers and women of pleasure to men in the richer parts of the world. Many young people who are left to fend for themselves turn to criminality and dysfunction, for reasons not entirely of their choosing.
What is a working Catholic’s response to this crisis, especially those who can do something about it? While searching for an answer myself, I stumbled upon a rather “unlikely” source, Ayala Corp. chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.
Listening to an interview with the illustrious businessman over MSNBC some weeks back, I heard him talk about the “new” Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda that the Ayala group was pursuing. The business world’s equivalent of the corporal works of mercy, CSR initiatives had tended to focus on direct giving, where companies donated to schools, charitable institutions, or otherwise engaged their employees in helping out various causes for the needy.
Jaza explained that the Ayala Group has gone beyond the traditional CSR concept of helping, to now integrating it into the way they do business.
Well, he says that their real estate companies now make it a point to develop homes for families in the lower middle-class brackets, which were heretofore excluded from the housing market. Their financial institutions promote loans for small businesses, and their companies themselves actively recruit from the ranks of the less privileged.
How ironic, I thought, that a rich businessman should be the person to articulate a message so intricately interwoven with the Gospel message.
And God bless the man, for showing people like ourselves that we can, with some creativity and foresight, use our own positions, power, and influence to better the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 28, 2013.