CSR focus an advantage, says IT firm

Published by rudy Date posted on May 26, 2011

COMPANIES can set themselves apart from competitors by having a special focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR), an executive of a United States-based information technology services firm said.

Mary Johnson, senior director of UST Global’s CSR division, flew to the Philippines last week to strengthen the CSR platform of the company’s Taguig office.

In an interview, she said the platform would focus on education, health, and the environment.

“The primary goal is education. If we train future associates especially in math, engineering and other core areas, they can better the lives of their families,” she told BusinessWorld.

UST Global counts among its clients some Fortune 500 companies. It has 200 employees at its McKinley Hills office in Taguig. The firm has participated in projects spearheaded by local nonprofit organizations, such as Gawad Kalinga’s house-building project in Bantayan Island, Cebu, last April and a fund-raising run sponsored by the Haribon Foundation last year for the restoration of a million hectares of rainforests.

“UST Global’s founder, Mr. G. A. Menon, believed that it was everyone’s obligation to give back to the less fortunate. It was not an option, it was an obligation. So he started a company that had a passion for giving back to the community,” Ms. Johnson said.

UST Global employees enjoy participating in CSR projects, she said.

“When we do employee surveys, we ask, ‘What are your most memorable experiences at UST Global?’ Year after year, generally, the number one or the number two answer is, ‘We love being able to give back to the community.’”

Ms. Johnson said she had observed that US companies with solid CSR strategies perform better “stocks-wise” and attract higher patronage.

“It emphasizes to me that companies can both do good and and do well. So they’re doing good in the community and they’re doing well from a productivity standpoint,” she said.

“When you have a lot of competition, what is the differentiator? Quality is the same, price is the same, and all things seem equal. Clients would rather work with a company that has that differentiator: a focus on CSR,” she added.

Jorge V. Sibal, dean of the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations, sees CSR as an “investment by companies to achieve good will.”

“In addition, tax laws in the Philippines consider as tax-exempt philanthropic activities and donations to scientific developments,” he said.

Meanwhile, University of Asia and the Pacific economist Cid L. Terosa said: “Businesses with CSR programs fulfill their role as corporate citizens. This is an advantage for them in terms of their corporate image. With greater public esteem and public recall, patronage of their products can heighten. They also have the opportunity to channel profits to activities that could serve as catalysts for new products, services, corporate partnerships, social and government alliances.” — Marielle Dianne S. Misula, Businessworld

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