BackgroundThe birth of the initial concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and its practice in the Philippines can be traced back to the 1960s where companies give donations in cash directly to foundations and other charitable organizations. It can be said then that in the past, corporate social responsibility in the country is more confined to philanthropic endeavours or the usual one-time dole-outs to communities in need. A decade later however, when the country was beset with more socio-economic challenges, many companies have started to initiate CSR activities on education, environment, disaster response and recovery, and livelihood projects or skills building. In recent times, more and more companies are responding to the call to do more meaningful interventions that could contribute in providing a more sustainable solution to societal problems in the country through their own operations and/or products. They have began to mainstream CSR in their business practices for reasons related to business sustainability, stakeholders demands, enhancing their competitive advantage, access to new markets and reputation building.
The SDGs and CSR The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted on September 25, 2015 by 193 countries as a follow up to the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs focus to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, as part of a new sustainable development agenda. They aim to address inequalities, economic growth, decent jobs, cities and human settlements, industrialization, oceans, ecosystems, energy, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, peace and justice. Government, the business sector, as well as the civil society and the public, all have an important role to play in delivering the global goals for Sustainable Development. Corporations, being seen as among the key drivers of the SDGs can apply their creativeness and innovation in addressing sustainable development challenges and be a catalyst in the implementation of the SDGs. Businesses can contribute in three important ways: as engines of growth employment; technological innovation through knowledge and skills transfer; and as sources of finance. Companies can be engaged strategically towards achieving the SGDs through their development of products, services and innovative business models that are good for both society and the bottom line. Businesses have indeed a preponderant role in the agenda 2030, and they are invite to contribute together with other public and private actors to the achievement of sustainability, inclusion and a human development.
The Government and CSRCorporate engagement in CSR activities began in voluntary form. Over the years, however, governments gradually became more involved, either through regulations or incentives to businesses. Collaborations between national governments and businesses have increased towards promoting social objectives present in the national development agendas. In some countries, these collaborations include the development of legislation and regulation to control employee-firm relationships, maintain health and safety standards in workplaces, prevent discrimination and promote equal pay, among others.
Government has the important role of providing the CSR framework and benchmarks that can guide and encourage companies of all sizes to initiate and/or improve their CSR activities, harmonising the different international policy instruments such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights , the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration)and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
National CSR PolicyIn the Philippines, there have been a number of attempts to legislate a national policy on CSR Bills were passed and approved in Congress, but none have been enacted into law. The latest bill on CSR is House Bill 6137 or the proposed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Act filed in the 16th Congress in 2019 and approved in final reading in May 2020. The bill proposes to institutionalize the adoption of “social responsibility” in community development as part of corporations’ operations and activities.
The bill recognizes CSR activities such as charitable programs and projects, scientific research, youth and sports development, cultural or education promotion, services to veterans and senior citizens, social welfare, environmental sustainability, health development, disaster relief and assistance, and employee and worker welfare. It amends the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines to allow “stock corporations to retain profits in excess of the 100 percent of their paid-in capital stock so that it can now be used not only for definite corporate expansion but also for CSR projects and programs.” However this legislation missed the social responsibility aspect, in particular the inclusion of the labour dimension of CSR.
It can be noted that the nature of activities prescribed n the latest House Bill on CSR and previous CSR bills filed both in Congress and in the Senate were mostly philanthropy and event-driven. Aspects such as protection of labour rights and/or promotion of decent work are not considered as CSR. There seems to be inadequate awareness too on the part of the policy makers on different international CSR instruments or standards such as the ILO Declaration of Principles on Multinnational Enterprises and Social Policy or the MNE Declaration, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and others.