Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a relatively new and rapidly developing phenomenon. It is the commitment of business to contribute to sustainable economic development, working with employees, their families, the local community and society at large to improve their quality of life.
“But then CSR is not only simply a communality activity, although this is the most visible part of it,” says David Fletcher, the chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank, Bangladesh, while talking to The FE, adding CSR is also about the core values and ethics of an organisation.
“It, therefore, involves every employee,” explains the StanChart chief in Bangladesh. According to him, the field of responsible business practice is one of the most rapidly evolving and challenging subjects facing corporations today. “Companies now have to build shareholder value while balancing the increasing social, ethical and environmental expectations of the society,” he explained.
In short, companies today have to make profits with principles, which will eventually need companies to be more transparent. And what is more, there is a realisation that being responsible can actually be good for a company’s reputation and for business.
But is CSR really needed in a developing country like Bangladesh? David thinks that a socially responsible business environment is as much needed in Bangladesh as anywhere else, as he says: “In Bangladesh, the society should get even a greater level of commitment from business. You see CSR is about business giving back to the society. In developing countries like Bangladesh where social institutions are still evolving, the corporate entities have to show more commitment. Therefore, there is all the more reason why we need growing awareness about, and emphasis on, CSR in countries like Bangladesh.”
There, of course, was all old concept of CSR. But this is changing in Bangladesh. It is changing, David says, but not as fast as it is changing in other countries. Businesses now realise that social commitment brings recognition.
“All companies need to consider their CSR for two basic reasons. Firstly, because there is intensifying pressure from all stakeholders to do so. Any company that does not develop and promote its CSR policy to all its stakeholders will face increasing threats to its reputation. Secondly, because it makes a sound business sense, enhances reputation, brings in new business and improves stakeholder return,” the StanChart CEO in Bangladesh said.
He adds: “CSR is something that cannot be made more successful by passin2 regulations. I think more and more companies should come forward with CSR imitative from within to set examples for others to follow. The government can encourage CSR initiatives through recognition awards or tax benefits, etc. What is more, the government should encourage companies to be more transparent about their codes of conduct, employment practices, etc. They are already looking forward to doing this and this should be encouraed.”
Standard Chartered Bank is serious about CSR. This is driven from its Group office. There is a special office in the UK, which looks after CSR and ensures its implementation in all countries where the Bank operates. lit each country, the CEO is responsible for CSR implementation.
“Our Chairman and the Group CEO personally take interest in CSR activities and are accountable to the Board. Board. For more in formation on our CSR, you can visit our website,” David says.
StanChart’s CSR activities are of two types. One type includes community development centred around health, education and youth. StanChart encourages its employees to take ownership of such projects and get involved in these activities. In Bangladesh, StanChart has a number of community activities amongst which is its involvement in Island Eye Hospital at a significant level.
“We are building Standard Chartered Operation Theatre and Children’s Ward in Islamia and also sponsoring Primary Eye Care Training through Sight Savers International,” David says, adding: “In 2003, we are hoping to impart training to about 7,000 health workers. Our employees are also donating their one day’s salary plus additional amounts for restoring eye-sight of at least 150 children by the World Sight Day on October 09, 2003. Standard Chartered Group is going to raise fund to restore the eye-sight of 28,000 people by the World Sight’s Day under its ‘Seeing is Believing’ initiative.”
But what would be the case, if CSR is looked at as another form of advertisement of a company? If that is the case, CSR should be quite beneficial for business!
In this connection, the StanChart chief in Bangladesh said: “Many companies are discovering a clear correlation between reputation and customer satisfaction. Loss of reputation is seen as a key risk by a large proportion of CEOs today.”
A good reputation is the best form of advertisement in the modern world, David says. He notes this increases business opportunities and profitability. Moreover, if a company and its directors have made reputation “deposits” and created a good, open and honest reputation, it can survive a crisis.

I wrote this when I was working for The Financial Express of Bangladesh back in 2003. – Ekram Kabir.

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