Do Good – Or Else??

I knew a long ago I would never make it as a newspaper editor. I just can’t come up with headlines like this – I’ve never been able to. This one grabbed my attention this morning. I noticed it in both the Asian and European editions of the Wall Street Journal. It is an opinion piece regarding a new regulation in Indonesia (paragraph 74) that mandates CSR for companies with certain environmental impacts. You can read the short opinion piece here.

Mandating CSR — not a concept I strongly support or one that I think has a high chance of success for many reasons. There are laws on the books in almost every country on the planet regulating environmental quality and pollution. Many countries also have labor laws that set maximum work hours and minimum pay scales. There are laws that cover fair competition, bribery and corruption, and in some cases community impact like noise or light pollution. There are even companies and sectors in the US that are mandated to contribute a certain percentage of dollars to community or philanthropic efforts as part of their rate or fee negotiations with local regulators.

Now I agree that these laws may be different all over the world. And sure, in many places compliance or enforcement is lax or lacking altogether. But for all these reasons, developing a new regulation or set of regulations that attempts to cover a subject as broad as CSR, may be next to impossible.

A few years ago, I was involved in the EU multi-stakeholder forum process. I’ve been plugged into the global reporting initiative (GRI) as it’s evolved over the last decade. And more recently, with the proposed ISO standard on CSR (ISO 26000). All of these efforts in their own way help advance the concept and performance of CSR. They’ve given many stakeholders and many companies a framework to improve their efforts in these areas.

While I may disagree with the editorial in the Wall Street Journal – that CSR is primarily philanthropy. I have to agree that another set of regulations mandating CSR in addition to existing frameworks for environmental, workplace and business ethics may do little more than prompt more debate.

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