Do More

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“Government of the people, for the people, by the people,” so spoke Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States in 1863. All very well and it works for many. But the reference to Lincoln here is not to launch into a political discourse on the merits and shortcomings of popular democracy. It is just to highlight that the proverbial ‘people’ came into the spotlight of good governance a long time ago, even if at a governmental level if not at a corporate or the commercial world level. For until very recent years – past 3 decades at best – the ‘people’ did not really figure in the governance style of the corporate sector. At least not beyond in a handful of countries. Even at the political level, not all were equal. Remember that discrimination against Afro-Americans in the USA did not taper off until the late 1950′s.

When Lincoln espoused people power in 1863, the world population was about 1.3 billion. Today it is over 6.8 billion. An over 420 percent increase in less than 150 years. The planet is bursting at its seams with humanity and dying from the pressures this humanity is imposing on it. Today it is clear that addressing people issues, be it the global food crisis or high energy costs or any other, cannot remain solely the responsibility of governments. Everyone has to play a part, and for stakeholder mapping we can look at civil society in terms of layers. So we start at the individual and go on to the family, neighbourhood, city, state and country. Then we add in layers on functionality basis in between, where each fits in – local government, associations, professionals, academia, media and of course the corporate sector. All are important stakeholders.

Perhaps the corporate sector needs to ‘do more’, relative to the other stakeholders. Why? For the simple reason that if society does not progress and prosper there will increasingly be fewer takers for the goods and services that the corporate sector is churning out. So strengthening civil society becomes a self-serving goal if nothing else.

Logically speaking, the contribution to a cause from any source must be a balance of how important that cause is to the source and the capability of the source to address the issue. In the case of an individual (lowest layer of civil society) an issue like the world food crisis may be directly relevant or quite important because for the individual it means rapidly rising prices and even non-availability of foodstuffs. But the capability of an individual to do something about the crisis is quite limited. By comparison the global food crisis may not be that important directly for the corporate sector as a whole, but certainly its ability to help alleviate the crisis will be substantially larger than that of the individual’s. Larger not only in terms of financial outlay that can be spent, but larger also in terms of structural direction and logistics support that the corporate sector can extend with its huge and multi-disciplinary human resource expertise, its trans-national and multinational presence and its invaluable inroads into the opinion-forming and decision-making process at all levels, from the legislature and the executive at the individual governmental level to the policy formulators at the level of international developmental and financial institutions.

And so the “CSR of the company, by the company and for the people” must assume an increasingly larger role as world population continues to grow unchecked and available resources of all kinds continue to be used up at an alarming rate, some if not most, being irreplaceable.

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