Should CSR be regulated to the point of being legislated?

Amongst all on offer, there was also an engaging debate at the 2012 Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (AFCSR), held in Manila, Philippines on October 18 and 19. The motion was: Should CSR be regulated to the point of being legislated? Arguing for the motion were Catherine Coumans, Research Director, Mining Watch, Canada and Professor David Grayson, Director, The Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, Cranfield School of Management, U.K. And speaking against the motion were Dato Timothy Ong, Chairman, Asia Inc Forum, Brunei and Ramon Rl del Rosario, Jr., Chairman, Board of Advisors, AIM-Ramon V. del Rosario, Sr. Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Philippines. A high powered panel by all means, with Dato Timothy Ong for me being the speaker of the whole conference, on the basis of the powerful, thought-provoking speech he gave earlier in the day during the plenary session on Encouraging and Embedding CSR, and Moving Forward.

The debate moderator was Dr. Bradley Googins, Director Emeritus, Centre for Corporate Citizenship, Carroll School of Management, Boston College, USA, and with great aplomb he ensured a lively debate and the active participation of the delegates in the audience.

Any guesses as to how the audience voted at the end of the debate? I voted for the motion, with Michael Porter’s commentary on the role and responsibilities of government for creating shared value fresh in the mind. Well, frankly, I was quite taken aback by the outcome! Over 80 percent of the delegates voted against the motion! And these were all people in the CSR space across Asia-Pacific. I would have thought that given capitalism’s tendency to swing back to focusing on profits in the short-term, at least CSR people would want more legislation. But perhaps the motion was not explained well, or the context was not elucidated enough. Sure, most of us believe in the best government being the least government; but again, going back to Porter, regulation by the government (through legislation in this case) that promotes corporations to think and act sustainably, rather than regulation that creates hurdles, should be welcome.

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Author Information

Zohare Ali Shariff is CEO of Asiatic Public Relations Network Ltd. & Editor-in-Chief of tbl. A graduate of the London School of Economics, he is a published author and winner of National Book Foundation wards. He is based in Karachi.

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