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Opinions of Monday, 20 April 2020

Columnist: King Nobert Akpablie, Contributor

Covid-19 fight: Where is Ghana’s corporate social responsibility policy?

King Nobert Akpablie King Nobert Akpablie

There has not been anytime like this where Ghanaians have high expectations from companies and people of affluence to show they care.

Ghana has not been spared the novel coronavirus pandemic. The virus is widely spreading globally at the fastest rate and causing death in large numbers. Ghana is bearing the brunt of the spread with over 800 cases and 6 deaths.

But as Government fights the disease and addresses the challenges that come along with it, there is a seeming pressure on organizations to contribute to the fight.

This demand is a familiar concept in the business environment where an organization operating in a society needs to acquire a social license. This social license means putting a human face on your business, showing empathy to people that need it, running an environmentally sustainable business and providing financial and moral support to society. The social license is what we call, Corporate Social Responsibility.

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to the general belief held by growing numbers of citizens that businesses have responsibilities to society that extend beyond their obligations to the stakeholders or investors of the firm.

There have been various works of literature on this concept depending on how one sees it; either in a Business View or Societal View. These views are two opposing perspectives resulting from different interpretations of the role of Businesses in society.

Milton Friedman, one of the forerunners of the Business view, argued that the social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits. He explained that the only social responsibility of a business is to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it complies with the Regulations. He believes persons who directly benefit from the company’s profit through salaries or returns on their investment could play philanthropic roles on behalf of the company.

Edward Freeman and Achie B Caroll who argued for the Societal View insist businesses have a responsibility to their society in which they operate.

Whichever angle one may see it; it makes business sense for any organization to adopt a social responsibility policy. There is always a link between an Organization’s CSR activities and the organization’s unique selling proposition (USP). This unique identity differentiates a company from its competitors. CSR policies are cornerstones for the identity of many brands with deepened customer loyalty and support which translates into higher financial gains.

Sadly, Ghana has been relaxed in coming out with a comprehensive policy for all businesses operating in the country. What currently exist are sector-specific. For instance, Telecommunication, Petroleum, Tourism among others have their respective regulations largely focusing on how the companies could meet their ethical, legal and economic obligations without much focus on discretionary or philanthropic expectations that society has for organizations at a given point in time. The philanthropic activities sum up the whole idea of how business attempts to do well by doing good.

The absence of a comprehensive Regulatory Framework that merges all the sectoral policies exposes loopholes that are obvious during this pandemic. Citizens could barely feel the impact of organizations joining their hands to support Government in this pandemic. The random CSR initiatives without a comprehensive roadmap makes us lose focus on the crucial challenges CSR can address in Ghana.

It is common to hear citizens question the contributions of our Telecommunication Industry in this fight aside from the periodic tips they send via SMS educating citizens on the virus and health protocols to adhere to. The church is under pressure to support its members. While some Celebrities are being compelled to support, others have been scrutinized for being minimally engaged in the well-being of the society that support their arts. Politicians especially Members of Parliament are under similar pressure.

Interestingly we seem to have state-owned utility service providers such as the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Ghana Water Company bringing significant interventions with supports from the government but the private sector has been relaxed in its contribution.

Thanks to the few Corporate and Social Organizations who are giving back to society.

Social responsibilities of businesses or the affluent are drawn from the amount of social power that they have. To sum it; to whom much is given, much is expected.

Elsewhere activities of companies are reported to the state and the impact of CSR is measured. The US government requires Companies to provide details of their spending on CSR. In the United Kingdom, a company’s CSR activities are an essential component in its evaluation. Saudi Arabia levies a special tax of 2.5% out of the company’s capital for CSR. In India, CSR is mandatory and companies are supposed to use 2% of their net profit after tax for corporate social responsibility.

Ghana needs a comprehensive CSR Policy now than ever.

The writer is a Public Relations and Media Specialist. All views expressed in this article are my personal views and do not represent those of any organization(s). ( Mob: 0241145874)