This is the first article I’ve posted that was written by someone else. It was written by this young man who was a student in my journalism class a few semesters back; a young man for whom I have a great deal of respect. He believes in the principles discussed in his article and he is passionate about change in the world. I wish there were more young people like him.
The Jakarta Post
CSR: Being a fish in the sea
Jakarta Thu, 02/19/2009 2:12 PM Supplement
CSR cannot be an optional topping on the corporate pizza; it must be more like the yeast in a loaf of bread. CSR must be a critical component, part of what defines the corporation, not something that is added on and can be done without to save money. That was the main point Prof. Emil Salim wanted to get across when we sat down to discuss the current state of CSR and corporate sustainability in Indonesia.
Emil is almost a legend in Indonesia. An intensely patriotic Indonesian who developed a taste for Japanese food while living under the harsh conditions of the occupation of WW II, he was educated at University of Indonesia, and went to Berkeley on a scholarship; he came home with a PhD and since then has held various Indonesian ministerial posts, including 10 years as minister for population and the environment.
He is a professor on the Faculty of Economics at his alma mater, University of Indonesia, a member of countless boards, associations and foundations, most doing work on social and environmental sustainability. He is also a member of the Presidential Council of Advisors, where his guidance on issues related to sustainability helps form public policy. Emil is a committed environmentalist, often speaking on the relationship between economics and sustainability; being 78 years old hasn’t slowed him down or eroded his commitment.
That CSR needs to be an inherent part of any corporate culture was the main message he wanted to deliver. For sustainability itself to be sustainable, Emil argues that the sense of social responsibility must be embedded in the corporation’s DNA; sustainability must be an inherent component of every corporate activity.
Hugh Collett, a teacher at the Jakarta International School, is another committed environmentalist. He is in the process of developing a “sustainability village” that will be a model of sustainable living; it is to be an educational resource as well as a practical example of how life can be carried on while leaving a minimal footprint. Emil is on the board of directors of the foundation created to manage the village.
Collett argues that if sustainability is not inherent in a corporate culture, bureaucracy and other structural issues can be a hurdle. How important is corporate commitment? “That depends on how willing such corporations are prepared to ‘walk the talk’. In my experience, promoting my own environmental initiative of an educational eco village, talking is easier than walking – and less expensive!” he says.
As to the practical implementation of the concepts, CSR consultant and university lecturer Patrick Guntensperger, another member of the board of Collett’s village, insists that sustainability decision-making must be at the highest possible level of the corporate structure. “At the very minimum, there should be an executive vice president with the word ‘sustainability’ featuring prominently in the job description. Of course, a committed board of directors is vital too.”
A perfect example of this is Body Shop. Dame Anita Roddick, its founder, was known for championing the unconventional way of doing business by promoting its ethical aspects. She famously summarized the company’s way of doing business: “The business of business should not just be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”
Collett also points out that the main roadblock to sustainability issues is actually a moral issue. “In essence, I believe that human selfishness and prevailing attitudes based on greed, self-interest, and ignorance are the root of the difficulties”. Nevertheless, with more and more corporations including CSR as a fundamental aspect of their style of business, things seem to be changing.
The writer is a journalism student at Monash University in Melbourne and is interested in, among many other things, issues of sustainability. He can be reached at email@example.com or check his blog at http://cosmic-boy.blogspot.com/