CSR is no
longer an annual altruistic gesture but an increasingly
important component of business strategy that is being
integrated into the proceedings of several corporations.
There was a time not too long ago when taking part in
corporate social responsibility (CSR) set corporations
apart from their competitors.
However, in the last few years the spike activities
centering around environmental concerns and social
responsibility has caused a boost in CSR activities. In
fact, a company runs the risk of losing appeal to
stakeholders and customers if it does not give back to
When we think about CSR, it is often associated with
philanthropy-whether it is volunteering, donating or
taking eco-conscious measures, it involves the intention
and act of giving. Today, many companies are moving
further away from this idea of CSR as charity.
First-hand experience from entrepreneurs is changing the
common understanding of CSR today.
It is no longer an annual altruistic gesture but an
increasingly important component of business strategy
that is being integrated into the everyday running of
Recent research suggests that more and more companies
are adopting CSR approaches to help retain customers,
ensure efficiency and stimulate innovation.
This has led to a paradigm shift of sorts – CSR can now
be viewed as an investment rather than an expense, in a
symbiotic relationship between company and community.
customers and employees
Publicity stunts and green washing (dissemination of
dsinofrmation to present an environmentally responsible
public image) have driven the publics to become
increasingly wary of the motive of corporate social
responsibility activities, which places the onus back on
companies to start being truly responsible.
By showing the community that you are serious about
mitigating the adverse effects of your business on the
people or environment, you are building a bridge of
trust and acceptance.
After all, a satisfied customer tells three of four
people while an angry customer passes the bad news on to
Referrals by satisfied customers can do wonders for the
growth of a company.
Retaining customers is just as crucial as recruiting new
ones, and maintaining a solid client base is more
plausible when social responsibility is exercised.
Global brand Nestle, for example, recognizes the
importance of firstly creating long-term value for
society in order to do the same for shareholders.
Through its Creating Shared Value approach, Nestle
focuses on creating value for society in three
areas-nutrition, water and environment, and rural
development-which have the greatest potential and
influence for joint-value creation.
“These areas are core to our business and it is also
where we can contribute most to the society”, says Alois
Hofbauer, region head of Nestle Malaysia and Singapore.
One of its water and environment efforts is Project
RiLeaf, a reforestation and palm oil sustainability
initiative in collaboration with Sime Darby Foundation.
riverine Vegetation restoration efforts along the lower
Kinabatangan River unites the needs of people, nature
and agriculture to demonstrate how CSR can be an effort
of mutual interest and co-existence for all
The project engages local community members and oil palm
smallholders, strengthening the relationship between the
company and the community it serves.
At the same time, Nestle is able to do its part in
protecting the environment while building a respectable
corporate reputation as a responsible member of the
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
Human capital development is yet another return of CSR.
Nestle, for example, seeks to foster a holistic approach
to work with its employees through promoting social
An important message is conveyed to employees-their
skills and contributions not only benefit the company,
but also society as a whole.
Their jobs then start to have a deeper meaning and
become more relatable on a human level. It becomes less
about a pay cheque and more about working together to
accomplish something that could create a positive
This builds character beyond the workplace by allowing
employees to experience the full impact of their
participation in the organization while building healthy
Corporate culture has a direct impact on how individuals
make decisions affecting all aspects of managing a
Ultimately, employees and customers want to work with a
company they respect-this respect can only be earned if
a company acts with transparency and responsibility.
Spearheading innovation and sustainability
closely linked with the principles of sustainable
development, calling on corporations, calling on
corporations to consider the social and environmental
consequences of their activities instead of putting
Society expects companies to be good corporate citizens
and with the expedient nature to information transfer
today, are able to identify companies that fail to
address their social responsibilities.
Businesses that create and carry out effective CSR
initiatives are not just being philanthropic; they are
With the increasing significance of the “people, planet,
profit” triple bottom line, being socially and
environmentally conscious is vital in today’s
Companies have found that incorporating sustainable
measures in their business and products spur innovation
and end up benefiting the company on a larger scale
while also reducing costs by allowing them to operate
Keeping affordability, accessibility and social value in
mind when designing products can result in a competitive
advantage for companies, proving that sustainability is
not merely a buzzword but a viable business strategy.
Customer feedback can also be beneficial to product or
service improvement. Taking the needs of lower income
customers into account can generate product
improvements, which could benefit the target market as a
whole, yielding returns that profit the company as well.
There are many ways of practicing social responsibility,
and companies that do it right are able to benefit from
the way it can drive businesses forward.
Integrating green features into products and services
has long been one of the more popular CSR efforts but
companies are now exploring fresh ways to make their
businesses more environmentally friendly.
Asia Pacific, for example, has attempted to considerably
reduce its carbon footprint by moving its headquarters
to a new green office in Kuala Lumpur.
“In order to continue our CSR activities, we must be a
strong company from the financial viewpoint as well,”
says Yoshio Hanada, president of Fuji Xerox Malaysia.
He acknowledges the symbiotic nature of CSR, saying,
“Strong XSR participation supports the company in terms
of brand awareness and understanding corporate attitude,
while improving financial results.”
Maximising impact to match needs
Tandemic is an enterprise dedicated to innovation and
social change by engaging various companies in building
impactful CSR strategies that address social challenges.
Chief executive officer Kal Joffres believes there are
certain approaches to maximizing the benefits of CSR to
both company and community.
“The biggest impact happens when a company adopts and
organization for two to three years-getting to know them
and their challenges well and implementing a whole set
of different projects to help them grow,” says Joffres.
Companies that focus their CSR initiatives by investing
for the long term maximize potential impact on the
society they serve.
“We need to move beyond building good brand image as a
motivation for CSR,” adds Joffres.
“Instead, try to look for real business benefits from
doing CSR. For example, a volunteering opportunity can
serve as team building. A technology company’s
prototyping workshops inspire underprivileged teens to
get into electronics and they become potential
have much to gain from intelligently practicing social
responsibility, which, considering all the returns, is
less of an obligation and more of a smart business move.
The best approach to CSR, however, is still to give
earnestly. Joffre's believes it all goes back to the
“These CSR initiatives cannot be thinly veiled
approaches to selling products.
“Instead, they need to be grounded in the belief that if
we help people broadly, some of it will come back to