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CSR - it's a joint effort

By Nophakhun Limsamarnphun

Dr.Pipat Yodprudtikan explains how stakeholders need to tackle the four main issues |of perception, incentives, factual and timely communications as well as pursuing sectoral initiatives to make the corporate social responsibility movement viable in Thailand.

To push forward the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement in Thailand, Dr Pipat Yodprudtikan, director of the non-profit Thaipat Institute, says the government and other stakeholders should join forces and tackle at least four issues.

The first is perception. Some company executives and employees often see CSR activities as giving donations to communities.

"In reality, CSR is much more than that. It's about companies' compliance with laws relevant to human rights, labour, environment, consumer protection as well as other issues.

"In other words, CSR is not just about community involvement and social development," says Pipat, who recently presented a paper on "Responsible Business Conduct in Thailand" at a regional conference held in Bangkok by the OECD and the UN.

"Some employees think CSR is not directly related to them or that CSR practices are the responsibility of certain authorised persons or the CSR department.

"In fact, it's about everyone, and every employee should take part in CSR activities.

"Our latest survey shows that more than 60 per cent of Thai companies and their employees in provincial areas are still unfamiliar with the idea of CSR so we should help increase their awareness [which is comparatively lower than that of employees in Bangkok and its surrounding areas].

"In order to address this issue, the government should play the lead role in terms of education and training, especially for small and medium enterprises [SMEs] in provincial areas.

"In addition, the Federation of Thai Industries, Thai Chamber of Commerce and other organisations in the private sector should facilitate these educational and training activities.

"We should also ask academics and higher learning institutes to produce more textbooks and learning materials on CSR as well as conduct more research on this topic in collaboration with international partners," he said.

The second issue is that there are not enough incentives, financial or otherwise, for SMEs to integrate CSR into their enterprises.

"While large enterprises can easily integrate CSR policies or come up with a CSR plan, most SMEs do not have the resources or capability to do so.

"As a result, the government should introduce incentives to help SMEs embrace responsible business practices.

"Enterprises need to define appropriate CSR strategies that take into account their resources and competency while developing a management system that allows CSR to penetrate the entire operation."

The third point is that public relations can do little to amplify an enterprise's CSR activities because CSR communication should always be factual and timely.

In this context, enterprises need to find new ways to communicate their activities across their organisation and in the public sphere.

The fourth point is that it's necessary to pursue sectoral CSR initiatives because they will have a long-term impact on the international competitiveness of Thai industries and overall economy.

The latest data shows that more and more businesses, especially export-oriented enterprises, are collaborating their CSR practices throughout the supply chain due to growing international pressure.

As a result, the government should encourage exporters of machinery and parts, electrical equipment and computer, automobile and parts, gem and jewellery as well as plastic and rubber products to prepare for CSR initiatives.

The failure to do so could lead to declining international competitiveness as more and more foreign partners enforce their CSR measures across the supply chain.

For example, stringent labour and other standards could be imposed on certain export-oriented sectors.

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