Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an initiative close to my heart and one I advocate very seriously.
If you’re not entirely sure what it means, it’s a concept where corporations give back to society usually through corporate philanthropy or volunteerism programmes. If done with the right intentions, it’s an admirable movement that can make a big impact to worthwhile causes. However, it is also a sad fact that some organisations do it mainly for the positive publicity it might bring. After the programme ends, beneficiaries are often forgotten. That’s a shame because with their resources, businesses are really in an optimum position to make a huge difference.
Most times, these programmes are aligned to a company’s corporate values which is fine. After all, as long as they do it with pure intentions, the initiatives still help society. However, to make a sustainable change, let’s get to the root of what’s troubling mankind.
You might have heard of the phrase, “What’s the value of saving the clothes of a drowning man but not the man himself?” It simply means it’s better to get to the root of the problem and solve it once and for all.
How does this phrase apply to us? In society, we’re all drowning, not literally, but with diseases, pain and suffering. Financial aid helps in the short term but does not get to the bottom of the issue. Monetary donations, for example, may help a poor family feed themselves for a month but do not eradicate poverty in the long term.
A truly sustainable CSR programme would be education of the spirit. This is going beyond traditional CSR so it might be a foreign concept to some of you. Let me illustrate what I mean.
Rich or poor, there are things everyone goes through. These are birth, disease, old age and death.
I’m extremely thankful to my friends and teachers who inculcated the spirit of charity in me since I was a boy. We spent a lot of time helping people and providing food for the poor. More importantly, we educated people both spiritually about the soul and who they really are, and mentally to help them create a better life for themselves. At the end, the key lesson they walked away with is, material things will not make them happy. They realise the truth – that we’re not the material body but the spirit soul. Suddenly, something trivial like not having enough money to upgrade our car will not matter anymore because you realise materialism is just temporary.
That is true CSR to me. After all, social responsibility means caring for others.
As they say, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. It’s all about empowering society with the right tools and knowledge to improve their lives. By society, let’s not forget to include the animals we share the world with and the environment we live in.
So let’s all do our part in caring and only then can we make real sustainable change.
Group Managing Director