Last September 29, 2014, I was part of the panel of reactors who was tasked to share insights on research done by some academic institutions on CSR.  Organized by the BCY Foundation and co-presented by the Asian Development Bank, the 4th Philippine Conference on Research in CSR rode on the theme: “CSR Enhances Human Dignity”.
Various speakers and reactors from the government, corporate and academic  institutions as well as socio-civic organizations shared perspectives on the importance of bringing corporate social responsibility to the foreground by connecting at the levels of both shareholder and stakeholder value. 
Keynote speaker Secretary Mario Montejo of the Department of Science and Technology discussed how incorporating CSR with science, technology and manufacturing could spur economic growth that could be truly inclusive in impacting communities and personal lives.  Congressman Rey Umali shared how certain partnerships between LGUs and private corporations can pose a challenge when it comes to creating benefit for the constituents and the donor; for example, in the case of a tobacco company supporting an education program. Should proponents of CSR automatically exclude such partnership or could they encourage the effort so perhaps these donors can be enjoined to do something that is truly for the greater good.
JJ Moreno, past president of the Institute of Corporate Directors noted this “tension” as he shared that context and challenges for corporations include the need to maintain an equilibrium between the language of business (which of course includes profit) and the concept of “doing good”.   Can “growing a conscience” be as readily developed within companies who need to balance shareholder and stakeholder interests, and can NGOs be run like businesses to ensure sustainability?
These are but some common terminologies one will encounter in discussions on CSR –philanthropy, common good, social enterprises, PR, volunteerism. 
As a reactor to the research presentations done by academic institutions, I gained some insights on how results of these studies can be re-framed for corporate use.  In the case of Lyceum of the Philippines University topic on the motivations and attitudes of student volunteers, one will find familiar strains of earning new perspective and experiences, the value of caring and self-fulfillment, possible resume and career enhancement – common things that employees might also like to gain from volunteerism.  Polytechnic University of the Philippines San Juan shared how collaborations were essential in maximizing limited resources just as some amount of risk-taking was necessary from the leadership to make things happen (note that this is in the context of schools).  Bohol Island State University also touched on collaboration plus the role of the mentor in ensuring success of social enterprises. Ateneo de Manila University shared how it is important to bring social awareness to the conscious level at all times.
Wearing my marketing hat, I was compelled to reflect on how volunteerism can be compared with how consumers “buy”.  If the product were the cause or the CSR program, what would make an employee choose which one to volunteer for?  Is he going to choose from other programs or will he look at his options outside, as the marketer realizes that his competition may not necessarily be other programs but whatever options the employee has in the use of discretionary time?  In other words, how should I, as the company, “sell” my CSR program so I have an engaged group of employee-volunteers willing, happy and able to pursue a cause that, for them is important and gives them meaning?  How can I maximize collaborations and even create third party validations to support success formula on CSR projects?  What is the true role of leadership in building an ecosystem within the company to encourage employees to “work” beyond their 8-hour shifts, all for a cause?
I reflected at the end of the day that companies already know that doing good is the right thing to do and that CSR programs can definitely benefit not just the business but many people especially the poor.  Companies already know that taking care of one’s environment is needed for the future and protecting and supporting the supply chain are essential for sustainability.  What else must be done so leaders and employees can truly live to think and do CSR with authenticity, clarity of purpose, good governance and consistency?

Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc.  She will be conducting the 20thDelivering Outstanding Service program on July 21-22, 2016 in Makati.  For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-5858 or (02) 412-0034.