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Focus shifts from environment to society

Pornnalat Prachyakorn

Global warming might be one of the lowest-ranking concerns for people who are about to lose their jobs this year. An increasing unemployment rate is anticipated as the global economic crisis has yet to reach bottom and more impact on the local economy are expected to come.The focus of corporate social responsibility this year is being shifted to the newly unemployed and to the estimated 500,000 to 600,000 new graduates who are entering the tough job market this year, says Pipat Yodprudtikan, director of the Thaipat Institute (, a non-government organisation set up to promote CSR.

"Last year, we saw a lot of 'going green' in terms of CSR trends. But in 2009, due to the economic recession, many eco-conscious CSR activities could be transformed into social programmes instead," Mr Pipat said.

"The CSR campaigns will turn to 'blue' (collar) from 'green' this year."

Public and private organisations are expected to come up with activities to help those suffering from the grim job market. The objectives would mainly focus on developing skills to promote employability rather than simply obtaining employment.

"Business organisations will aim to give more opportunities to employees to develop and improve their skills not relating to their regular jobs, so that they'd be able to move forward into a new position or even a new profession," he said. "It's a preparation for the future changes in the organisation."

Mr Pipat suggested Thai educational institutions help students build presentation skills to approach desired jobs or positions rather than just providing ability and knowledge development.

One of the significant factors that would help drive CSR forward within the organisation is the role of a corporate responsibility officer to educate people in the organisation that CSR concerns everyone, not just a certain department.

"Many companies have set up a specific department to look after and promote CSR activities and that sometimes has caused misunderstandings that CSR is not everyone's responsibility," Mr Pipat said.

However, this year many organisations are likely to set CSR policy that would include practical strategy, objectives and operational plans as well as an outcome and impact evaluation for all stakeholders. This would make CSR part of an organisation's work process instead of a separate activity or programme.

To be able to effectively take up CSR activities this year, an organisation must have a creative idea as well as look for positive aspects amid negative sentiment.

"Creative CSR is a trend for this year and it's not about being responsive or proactive like the past," Mr Pipat said. "It's about being collaborative which means both the organisation and the society are working together."

Such collaboration would help reduce the gap separating the two parties and leading to a cohesive relationship.

This trend in CSR is to urge people to use the right side of the brain rather than the left side which controls logical thinking. In other words, Mr Pipat said, "you shouldn't be too concerned whether the activity is worth the return or not."

Creative CSR means one does not have to change the work process. For example, instead of encouraging staff to turn off the lights when not in use, an organisation can consider changing normal lightbulbs to power-saving units.

As well, a publishing firm looking to save printing ink can try to design an ink-saving fonts rather than cutting down use of ink, which could cause poor work quality.

The Product Liability Law that will take effect on Feb 20 will also be another factor influencing the CSR trend in 2009 toward socially friendly products. Under the new law, entrepreneurs and producers within the supply chain would take responsibility if their products cause any damage and consumers no longer carry the burden of proving damages.

CSR as part of a supply chain will also get a higher profile this year as businesses tend to provide an opportunity for the local or grassroots people to be part of the supply chain under an inclusive business concept.

However, workplaces should not be the only places for initiating social responsibility awareness.

"CSR should be included in the school and university curriculum. Many business schools have started to set up CSR programmes for both bachelor's and master's degrees," Mr Pipat said. "It's important that we start cultivating social awareness as early as possible."

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