Bolivia and Corporate Social Responsibility… where we are and where are we going to?

Natali Vargas reports for Pagina Siete:


Expert: “CSR gives companies more sustainability”

The true of CSR as COBORSE says, focuses on the development of programs and projects whose impact is sustainable over time.

2014-09-24 09.08.35 am“The Social Responsibility (CSR) is an element that ensures greater sustainability for businesses. Today, besides the financial health of companies, it matters how they relate to their employees and to society, because that is part of a safe and comprehensive growth,” said the director of the Bolivian Corporation of CSR (COBORSE), Alvaro Bazan.

For him, CSR in recent years -not only in Bolivia but also in the world- has become a management tool that enables companies to achieve and secure good results, along with safeguards for the development of safe activities first; but it is also being used for good marketing.

The expert gave a workshop last week on CSR to a group of journalists. The initiative was organized by the Association of Journalists of La Paz; and besides, it was sponsored by the oil company Petrobras. In this activity, Bazán referred to different forms of businesses to focus on CSR.

Through donations

Bazan said that “most companies enter the world of CSR by way of donations.” However, in his opinion, the real CSR is addressed especially to those productive activities that are sustainable over time.

In Bolivia, companies that have percentages of their profits to give grants are engaged in areas of extraction of natural resources, financial and commercial entities, and those firms that have significant revenue for the preference [they enjoy] in the domestic market.

Few companies are those that outlined a series of programs to improve income and quality of life of the people in their environment, to support the generation of sources of funds. However, that is the case of “accounted” firms such as Banco Sol, Bolivia Repsol, Petrobras, and Cervecería Boliviana Nacional Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento, among others.

These companies develop projects to encourage producers of the communities around its plants, so that over time people reach a “good improved status”, so they can have productive and sustainable businesses.

However, most of the companies tend to make donations to children’s centers, nursing or health; and even some do not give resources from their own profits, but give what is collected through campaigns that drive customer participation.

Lack of standards

In the country, only the financial sector, through the new Financial Services Act, must comply with CSR activities, but there is no rule requiring or determine the guidelines for the development of this business institutions in other areas.

That is, there are no rules providing for example, that all companies are committed to the development of society through CSR policies, or to delineate a minimum percentage of the profits should be allocated to them.

In this regard, Bazán indicates that “it is better that States do not get into regulating CSR if then can not enforce the law, is better than the situation stay as it is,” but also notes that there is a school of thought very stronger among entrepreneurs in the world in the sense that if there were laws requiring conduct CSR, it would lose its voluntary value.

In my humble opinion, RSE in Spanish or CSR MUST remain apolitical, it has to be voluntary to be sustainable. Within a company, from the shareholders down to last employee, they have to be all in agreement as to how to implement CSR. No need to raise unfulfilled expectations as it can back fire in the companies’ reputation. On the side of the beneficiaries, they have to fully understand this is not a given, they have to work to make it sustainable. The government has to give support like they do in Denmark.

Companies must do CSR on areas that are nor related to their own business, however most companies from the hydrocarbon industry, for example, say they are doing CSR when they are actually mitigating and complying with the social/environmental damage they are doing with their own business. Those impacts are part of their responsibility, aside of CSR.

Companies should keep in mind that once they select a beneficiary for their CSR, they should try to bring other players/actors on board, so that by the time the company leaves, that project continues, is self-sustained.

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