The Nordic Business Community came together to discuss ways of collaboration in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility at a workshop titled “CSR & Collaboration” hosted by H&M in cooperation with the Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh(NCCI) on May 30, 2012 in Dhaka. Participants included CSR Managers & Managing Director of Nordic companies and representatives of Nordic & European Embassies in Bangladesh.
The program commenced with a welcome address by NCCI President Arild Klokkerhaug followed by a brief overview of the program by H&M Chief Representative Pascal Brun. Welcoming the guests and members, he briefed them about the importance of having responsible business organisations for social and economic development. He also took the opportunity to introduce and welcome the new Chief Representative of H&M, David Savman.
The program was divided into two phases. The first phase comprised of presentation of H&M’s CSR and discussions regarding the John Ruggie Framework (RSCM 3.0) and its opening up for collaboration opportunities. The second phase included a group discussion among the participants.
Payal Jain, CSR Regional Manager South Asia at H&M, delivered the keynote presentation on their sustainability strategy dubbed “H&M Concious”, an approach to manage the business in a way that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. H&M defines CSR as a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concern in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis in order to meet or exceed the ethical, legal, commercial, and public expectations that society has of business. H&M “Conscious actions” defines seven commitments on sustainability.
1. Provide fashion for conscious customers 2. Choose and reward responsible partners
3. Be ethical 4. Be climate smart 5. Reduce, reuse, recycle
6. Use natural resources responsibly 7. Strengthen communities
The workshop also afforded the participants an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the Ruggie framework. Professor John Ruggie was appointed as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on business & human rights in 2005. In 2008, he presented his framework “Protect, Respect, Remedy”, which was followed by a guideline, “The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” in 2011. The framework has been widely accepted by both public and private sectors and now acts as a universal guideline for how businesses should work with human rights. The framework builds on three main principles:
Protect – the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication
Respect – the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to act with due diligence
to avoid infringing the rights of others and to address adverse impacts that occur; and
Remedy – both State and business responsibility to provide greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial.
The presentation ended with a video of Professor John Ruggie, providing an update on his mandate on “Business & Human Rights: Achievements and Prospects”. For the complete video, audio, and transcript, go to Policy Innovations. After the end of the presentation, the participants mingled around before the group discussion, enjoying complimentary finger foods and drinks.
H&M CSR Regional Manager Payal Jain introduced the concept and format of the interactive group discussion where the participants engaged in a dialogue based on the following questions.
1. How does your company/organization define and work with CSR (with a focus a Bangladesh)?
2. How do you want to align and cooperate with other stakeholders in your present CSR work?
3. Does the John Ruggie Framework present a workable way for your company/organization when it comes to collaborations?
Participants were divided into four groups and at the end of the debate session, each group was represented by a Chairman, who concluded and presented the views and findings of their group.
The Participants reviewed the current status and had extensive discussions on the present scenario of CSR activities in Bangladesh. The CSR programs of Nordic businesses are mainly engaged in healthcare, education, IT, energy efficiency, supplier development program, responsible business practices, local community investment and awareness raising of key issues.
Participants at the workshop highlighted that CSR is going in a sporadic way, mainly in health and education. It is vital to identify what is important in Bangladesh and the areas Nordic businesses should work on. CSR is defined in many ways, but common grounds can be traced. There is a huge scope for clubbing CSR activities. The Nordic companies should work together on one common goal through a consortium, within the Nordic Chamber.
Some participants also noted that it is essential to integrate business into social causes. CSR should be embedded into corporate strategy or in the value chain to ensure sustainability. The objective is to make it profitable not only for the company itself but also for the entire supply chain.
The Participants stressed that the engagement with stakeholders such as Government, Chamber of Commerce, Industry Associations and City Corporations is of paramount importance to ensure successful and sustainable CSR programs. All the participants agreed that the Government must encourage CSR among businesses by identifying it as one of the areas for tax rebates.
In terms of human rights, the participants recognized the need of creating awareness about the Ruggie framework with the Government and other stakeholders. A clear business case and benchmarks should be presented to the stakeholders. The participants emphasized the need of enforcement on common issues about human rights from all Nordic companies and underline the impact. They underscored the need to form a CSR consortium within NCCI for strategy development and policy advocacy with the Government. The Nordic businesses also recognized the need to cooperate and work together on these issues.
The program ended with a vote of thanks by NCCI President Arild Klokkerhaug. He concluded that business entities have a corporate social responsibility to fulfill, but the question is how these businesses can be Socially Responsible Corporate.