Corporate Social Responsibility: the unpolished gems of Thailand

“Thai companies are increasingly embracing the global momentum of corporate social responsibility”, from the Bangkok Post Thursday 24 May 2007.

By Kamthorn Ounhirunskul

What is “Corporate Social Responsibility” or “CSR”?  In Wikipedia it is described as “a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations. This obligation is seen to extend beyond the statutory obligation to comply with legislation and sees organizations voluntarily taking further steps to improve the quality of life for employees and their families as well as for the local community and society at large”.  
The customers, the employees, the shareholders, the communities, the government or the people who are impacted by a business etc. are generally known “stakeholders” (not only the shareholders or stockholders of a company or a corporation).  In case of a manufacturing business, a stakeholder can be a government for which a manufacturer designs its manufacturing requirement standards to be over and above the government standard in the manufacturing process with measures protecting all the stakeholders i.e. its employees, the consumers, the environment (the society).  A carpet manufacturing company may only rent its carpets instead of selling them, in order to help reduce consumption of natural resources and accumulation of waste by taking the old carpet back for recycling.  A retail outlet chain may set up schools for training of the jobless in the communities in which it operates, thus creating jobs and reducing potential social problems.
So far, organizations operating with CSR have proven that their shares are more desirable than those without.  An operation with a CSR policy finds that its products are more desirable.  Employees who are involved with CSR proceedings are more contented with their career as they believe that they are part of an organization that accepts responsibility for society.  Products from a CSR producer are in a better position from the point of view of the consumers.  All in all, a company with a CSR yields better results than those without.  This is a result of its “Image”, a by product of its committed responsibility.
In the western hemisphere CSR can be stimulated by a written form of procedures, manual, code of conduct, compact etc.  All these, if they represent the responsibility of an operator as opposed to a mandated duty, are classified as CSR—so we can refer to the CSR as the “willingness” instead of “obligatory” duty for an execution of any exercise.
Readers may agree with the writer of this article that Thailand as a society can be considered as a CSR country by practice.  The aftermath of the Tsunami disaster is one of the incidents that has proven that a number of Thai people out there are “CSR minded” by nature.  The impromptu united wave of helping hands that flew to the needy, local and foreign alike, during the disaster represents the natural CSR in the creed of Thai people.  No written code of conduct, no written manual, no written rules, no formalized publicity was required.  With these qualities, you would not be surprised that a greater number of visitors are now visiting the southern resort of Thailand; not because these resorts have been fully reconstructed but to show goodwill and the wish to do a good deed of the natural CSR minded keeps these visitors coming back.  The advent of “Image” that naturally comes along with the good will and a good deed without “intervention” of the Thai people, is, indeed, the factor that draws those visitors back to Thailand, time and again.
This is no wonder, as Thailand is the largest centre of active Buddhism in modern world history.  With the majority of Thais having been deeply ingrained with Buddhism, the belief in natural “cause” and “effect” are part of the psyche of the people.  One should not be surprised if one sees a continuous chain of CSR activities from Thai companies like BIG C’s, “Do Good Deed for the Father”, EGGO’s “Clean Canal”, THAI’s “Stop Drinking” and etc. All these stemmed from deep-rooted Buddhist traditions where omission of immoral acts and doing good deeds are a norm.  Thus good deeds and good results.
If you are a foreign employer operating in Thailand, and already have clear perceptions of the Thai Buddhist tradition, then you have already gained assets to commence a CSR in whatever aspect you find beneficial to the stakeholders in society and eventually your own business as a whole.  They are the natural rough gems that await your cutting and refining.  A good model of CSR formally generated in the West will keep bringing out the shining gems amongst the people working with you and around you, and in your clients and customers in this deep-rooted traditionally Buddhist country for a better CSR programme, for a better society and a better world to live in.


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