Don't you just love acronyms? You might not know exactly what they mean or represent but for a short while everyone uses them. SARS anyone? That did the rounds of Asia a year or two back and now, in Indonesia at least, we have CSR.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a major conference, on the 7th & 8th of this month, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel here in Jakarta. The first I heard of it was a double page spread in the previous Sunday's Jakarta Post, the source of much of my cynicism. I wondered why I hadn't received an invitation. As sole proprieter of Jakartass I seemed to fit the profile.Participants attend because they see the need to improve their understanding on CSR and be part of the process that will make CSR practices better in Indonesia. They value the public standing of their companies. They know the global environment in which they need to complete.
I certainly need to "improve
(my) understanding on CSR
". Don't you?
All kinds of wonderful people were involved in the conference organisation
, people like Mrs. Yanti Koestoer, Mr. Dedi Nurfalaq, Mr. Duane Gingerich, Mr. Tatang Solihin and Mrs. Maya Tamimi.
The Steering Committee had some more familiar names, such as Prof. Dr. Emil Salim
, who would have been my pick as President if he'd cared to stand, Mr. Jakob Oetama
of Gramedia and the Kompass Media Group, Mrs. Erna Witoelar
, a well-known pioneer activist with NGOs. She began her career in the Indonesian Consumers Association (Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen Indonesia ? YLKI), before assisting in the establishment of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (WALHI),
and Mr. Heru Prasetyo
, formerly of Price Waterhouse but now involved at a high level in the Aceh Reconstruction. All-round good eggs.
So, what was the conference about and what is CSR?
To get a better idea, perhaps we should look at the key speakers, or for want of who-are-they info, the companies they come from and presumably represent.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present in no particular order PT. Rio Tinto Indonesia
, PT Newmont Pasific Nusantara
, BP Indonesia
, Shell Companies in Indonesia
, PT. GE Indonesia
, PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper
(RAPP), PT. Unilever Indonesia Tbk
and Indofood Sukses Makmur Tbk
Notice anything in common? Such as the preponderance of non-Indonesian exploiters of 'natural resources'? Not all the links I give highlight transgressions. Just a few, and they really do have problems of demonstrating their corporate social responsibility.
And the topics of the first session did little to indicate that they were interested in the community beyond their immediate social circle.
CSR Benefits for the Business Society
Economic Values of CSR to Business
Creating Enabling Environment for Business
Tax Incentives for CSR
Public Private Partnership for Development
Get the picture? The first session seemed to be about increased profitability for the absentee shareholders.
Mr. Ong Hock Chuan, Technical Advisor for Maverick PR spoke about CSR Communications Best Practices, whatever they are, on the first day. Blogging as Unspun
, Ong has actually reinforced my my doubts about CSR, although if Jakartass is to be consistent, this should surely be something I'm advocating.Throughout I was struggling with the atmosphere of the conference, held at the plush Ritz-Carlton, which was very slick and smelled of corporate showcasing about the do gooding on one hand, and what I felt to be the harsh realities of their do-gooding recipients, who are poor, hungry and quite miserable, on the other.
Yeah, I'm glad I didn't go, although Ong does continue that he thinks, for all its flaws, the conference was a good start in getting the corporate world together to build awareness of and sharing of CSR goals.
Which are ...?
I'll attempt to answer this question in CSR 2, coming to a screen near you soon.