Corporate social responsibility (CSR) helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. By practicing corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they have on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental.
Essentially, it is about listening and responding to the needs of a company’s stakeholders.
COVID-19 has been declared as a global health pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). It not only has caused massive economic knocks but greatly impacted the health and wellbeing of many citizens globally and Namibia is not spared. Health of every Namibian is of paramount importance at this point in time; anything thereafter is secondary.
Corporations cannot function optimally without employees. I am not downplaying the importance of employers, as the employee/employer relationships is equally important. Having said that, this is not the time for corporates to be more concerned about their profits (bearing in mind that these profits were generated with the help of the employees). Many corporates and companies have identified certain areas of social responsibility of importance to them in normal circumstances where they assist the needy as defined and dictated through policy formulation.
The issue is about how should the relationship between business and wider society be viewed, assessed and managed in the time of COVID 19?
In the Namibian context, we have countless corporates in the public and private sector, individual business entities that do business in every sector of our economy, ranging from medical, mining, banking, insurance, property, retail, funeral undertakers, fishing, construction, petroleum etc.
Some of these corporations generate their income and profits from State or private tenders. Directly or indirectly many of the companies in these sectors benefit from the citizens of Namibia, hence they should be compelled to contribute to the well-being of Namibians. How do these Namibian companies intend to Harambee with the Namibians from social responsibility perspective to help fight the COVID-19? How do they intend to tie in with the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) in their social responsibility strategies to also help the government to alleviate poverty and curb the spread of the current COVID-19?
Let the corporates in private and public sector, including the recipients of fishing quotas and lucrative government tenders, set the precedent in sharing their proceeds with less fortunate Namibians.
Investors already domiciled in the country should follow suit to assist our cause to alleviate poverty, fight COVID-19 and help to improve the quality of life. We have municipalities and town councils collecting rates and taxes from residents or property owners to keep on providing their services. What strategies do these municipalities or town councils or property owners have in place to plough back into the communities, apart from collecting rates and taxes? Surely, rates and taxes must be paid to the municipalities and town councils but how socially responsible are they towards the residents?
History teaches us that many of the companies operational in Namibia today, in almost all the sectors of our economy, have their origins and footprints in South Africa. Again they are involved in mining, banking, insurance, medical, retail, fishing, construction, petroleum, manufacturing etc. They are almost voluntarily contributing to the well-being of its citizens via the corporate social responsibility strategies put in place. Here in Namibia they must be asked, literally begged. What hypocrisy is that?
There are really those corporates and organizations including individuals that understand the social responsibility aspect, who have gone the extra leg to assist; we are grateful to them for advancing the “triple bottom line effect’’. Many of the corporates will argue that they have in place identified areas that address social responsibility. Let them be informed that gone are the days of such arguments. They must align their corporate social responsibility on the needs of the society and not dictate to society what they think is best for the society from their perspective.
There are many other theories pertaining to the origin of COVID-19 and its related issues, but what is important now and going forward is that we as Namibians hold hands and fight this pandemic through availing the resources, time and energy for the greater good and health of all our citizens.
Let us also, as citizens, adhere to what we must do contain this deadly virus as directed by WHO. Let the lessons that we have learned as the Nation through COVID-19 in collective better prepare us to deal with future outbreaks and to cement the public health sector through the well-armed and readily available and on-standby public health arm.