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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Corporate Social Boogie Joogie

A telecom operator has recently announced to distribute 12,000 school bags to under-priveleged school goers under the auspicious banner of Corporate Social Responsibility. Our imaginary blogporter (blogging reporter) Apod Akkas smells a rat and intercepts a conversation between Puneer Koroki and the Arab master of Khabi group Al Bakri Al Sheikh Al Khabi from Abu Dhabi. Resemblance to the whole or part of this conversation or character to any living being is purely coincidental and accidental.

Al Khabi: Kaifa haaluka ya habibi! How are you Koroki my dear friend? I have a good news to share with you from the jewel of the desert.

Koroki: Ahlan wasahlan bhaijaan, I am good, change in BTRC, so adjusting to new games. What is the good news Al Khabi?

AK: We have around 12,000 pieces of school bags which never got exported to London due to defects, bloody Europeans, they have an eye of an eagle. So our shipment got rejected and now they are sitting on our laps for a while now. I had a great plan that if we send them over to you to the Miskeeniya, you can rewrap 'em, distribute 'em to street kids or somethin' and make it look like how is that for a plan?

PK: Kya idea hain sirji !! I don't understand how can you come up with such bright ideas by smoking mere sheesha....brilliant. But boss, is that CSR actually? I mean it sounds more like a charity, is it a CSR?

AK: Koroki...your problem is you think too much...have a look at the market you are doing business in...who would bother whether its CSR or the end of the day...its corporate stunts and you need to play your role in there sweet boy! If no one is asking too many questions...don't give too many answers.

PK: Shukran does it mean that when you will get excess garments, medicine, expired dates and ator...would you send them over to us to distribute under the great banner of CSR?

AK: Precisely...every other foreign company in that country is doing it....rejected medicines might get distributed for free as CSR, excess and defected garments might be distributed during winter by your competitors as CSR...who long there are 'blue fan' or 'tiger stripes'...they will feed to media as CSR.

PK: OK janaab...I will make sure that business gurus don't think too much about it and create a fuss...after all they have to make sure that their business students get jobs in our companies...also our ad budgets are enough to keep mouths silent for a while.... Moreover we have done true CSR when we got our licences anyways!

Blogporter Apod Akkas comments that many companies in Bangladesh have perfectly confused the audience with acts of charity, donation and corporate social responsibility. Whereas charity, donations, corporate gifts are supposed to be generous, one off actions by companies to contribute to a social cause, which might not have any relevance to the core business model of the company. On the other hand, CSR is supposed to have a direct relevance and link to the company's business objectives and model, it has to be sustainable over a period of time as well. For example, British American Tobacco knows very well that with their product, they are not only messing up your lungs but also messing up the environment with air pollution too. So when they decide to plant trees to 'save environment' it makes sense. Similarly when Grameen Phone opens up Community Information Centers all across Bangladesh, it relates very closely to their core business of selling air time. They are only using the same technology to create entrepreneurship in rural Bangladesh, allowing access to internet and digital services along with providing basic mobile telephony services. So this act of CSR has a profit motive in the long run but can be safely assumed as a CSR stunt.

Apod Akkas and his other two colleagues iPod Iblis and Bipod Bablu question how the act of distributing school bags are termed as CSR. Although the original news claims that the bags were recycled under a 'waste to asset' scheme, they believe that its pure and perfect corporate hogwash....bhaloi diya gelen! Unless the consumer are aware enough, some companies will still continue with these corporate social boogie-joogie.

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