Karachi, November 02, 2012 (PPI-OT): Declaring Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) support for Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP)’s initiative to encourage responsible business activities which promote community growth for public interest, Begum Salma Ahmed ,the first ever lady Vice stated President of FPCCI, in her inaugural address, reiterated that inspire of being surrounded by challenges on numerous fronts, the business community of Pakistan has always been at the forefront when it comes to giving back to the society.
She urged upon corporations and business entities to endeavor involving people from diverse backgrounds more importantly women, minority groups and disabled persons in their workforce.
Encouraging such a diversity will lead to tolerance, respect and a more congenial work environment fundamental to the growth of any society, stated Begum Ahmed. She was addressing the 37th Business Talk CSR meeting organised at the Federation House by Global Compact Pakistan Network in collaboration with Employers Federation of Pakistan and FPCCI.
The Chief Guest Haji Muhammad Javed, President, Employers Federation of Pakistan, speaking at the occasion appreciated the Global Compact Pakistan Network for actively bringing the business, workers, academia NGOs and civil society on one platform on issues which are vital for sustainable development. Initiating this social dialogue on the SECP’s draft Guidelines for business on CSR was a timely step as it was the first initiative in the way of developing consensus on a document which is going to have a big impact on future business competitiveness. Expressing EFP’s full support to the initiative , he said ,conveying the soft image of Pakistan and its business was among EFP’s priorities as our commitment to social development is inspired by the deep rooted values inscribed in the teachings of Islam and our holy Prophet ( PBUH) .Haji. Javed called upon the speakers and panellists to help the Network in developing a model business policy on CSR which can be recommended to all public and private companies for adoption with necessary modifications as the prime step towards implementing the SECP Guidelines.
Faisal Zawwar, Managing Partner, CERVELOT Management and Strategy Consultants, in his key note presentation highlighted the salient features of the SECP draft Guidelines on CSR which was supposed to be enacted in July this year and reviewed the sorrow state of readiness of Pakistani companies Reviewing the situation ,he commented that CSR was conceived as corporate philanthropy and green washing, was used as a marketing gimmick, with no regulation, strategy/ policy of integration and stakeholder engagement and no framework for CSR/ Sustainability reporting.
He opined that in response , Pakistani companies must adopt sustainable practices to improve processes and productivity at the same time reducing negative environmental impact, build a business case for CR and S as opposed to the normative case for sustainability, identify and distinguish sustainability and green washing, develop ,implement and integrate operations in line with sustainability policy and reporting framework. The companies should develop a framework for CSR in Pakistan by embedding the ten principles of UN Global Compact, Faisal concluded.
Shaukat Ali, President, All Pakistan Trade Union Congress, appreciated the SECP initiative of CSR Guidelines for public companies and advocated its coverage to private companies, SMEs and small business ventures also. He was of the opinion that as a first step, CSR practices need to evolve through an institution for CSR dialogue with stakeholders that respond to our changing market demand.
Terming this meeting as the right step by the Global Compact Pakistan Network for initiating policy dialogue among stakeholders, he suggested, it was the right time to start a wide ranging and multi-tiered awareness campaign to enable all to understand the advantages of CSR and to form a task force for the purpose, to introduce CSR as a business topic starting from business and commerce education to the highest level of trade negotiations and to introduce tax exemptions, rebates, awards, public recognition and other initiatives for those with higher rating in CSR.
The trade union leader also suggested that the EFP and the Global Compact Network may think of sponsoring a national CSR Forum, an information dissemination network with a dedicated website and newsletter.
Shah M. Saad. Hussain, General Manager, Corporate Affairs, in his plenary address said since CSR was going to drive the way of conducting business, the SECP Guidelines were a timely Initiative. He made some useful suggestions in improving upon the guideline by suggesting that (a)the word’ compliance’ may be substituted by’ adoption’ as the former sounds much too strong and legal, (b) policy should be linked with strategies of business, (c) ‘ indicators’ framework should not be copied and the ones specific for Pakistan may be developed, ( d) CSR Consultative Committee should be headed by the Co’s CEO, (e) Independent Assurance should be authoritative and cross functional and the should be conducted by a Forum comprising of representatives from SECP,FPCCI, EFP and UNGCPLN to give the institution more credibility and acceptability by business.
Dr. Mustaghisur Rahman, Director and MS/ PhD Program Coordinator, SZABIST, in his plenary address advocated that business should take CSR as a competitive strategy. He opined that the SECP document lacked in building a case why CSR should be done by business. He said a Company’s responsibilities in CSR towards its own employees, investors, customers, suppliers and community at large need to be explained and understood.
He emphasised that business need to invest rather than spend in CSR to grow and develop society which in turn will promote their business and that a decaying society can not promote business. CSR was therefore in business interest and in the larger interest of competitiveness and sustainability. Dr. Mustaghis strongly argued that giving for CSR was of an important strategic dimension to be taken up by business not as an expense but as an investment in people and society which was bound to yield returns in terms of profit and dividends in respect of ethical responsibility.
Mirza Raza Ali, Director, Newports Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Lions Clubs International in Pakistan, in his plenary address called for increasing the scope of CSR as most of the areas of interest identified in the SECP document still focus on philanthropy. He called upon SECP to create a HUB for CSR which can provide guidance to companies in identifying areas of interest specific to their business goals and strategies and allocation of resources.
Mr. Raza mentioned about 65 business models developed by students of his Institute in the last few years and emphasised that a close liaison of business with the academia and the research organisations through the proposed CSR Hub could facilitate the process of CSR sensitisation among stakeholders in a more effective and meaningful manner.
Rahat Aziz, Faculty at the Sindh Judicial Academy, in his plenary address opined that all the listed companies may be advised to form a Section 42 company by virtue whereof the whole exercise of CSR will be more formalised, regularised and legalised. Sec 42 company will have its object clause which can be its CSR policy commensurate with vision and mission of the holding company. Sec 42 company being a public company will have its own accounts which will then be audited as per law. It being the subsidiary of its holding company ,the accounts are required to be consolidated. Mr. Aziz was of the view that such a course will help in harmonising the CSR activities of public companies.
Siddique Sheikh , Founding CSR Chair of FPCCI in his address on the occasion said that business has to be pure and legitimate and their m intentions, words and acts must coincide as it is accountable in Islam for how they earned and spent money . He said meeting Hoquq ul Ebad is a basic obligation of every Muslim and there is no escape for business from it.
CSR is another name for this obligation which is built into the very framework of our religious system and we therefore don’t even need to look for another model for embedding CSR into our business. He called upon academia and scholars to come forward with the knowledge of extensive research already available on the subject so as to sensitise our business on principles very basic to the teachings of Islam which can make business sustainable not only in this world but also in the Hereafter.
Anwarul Haq from FPCCI in his brief intervention, stressed upon the need to correlate the core issues identified in the SECP Guidelines.
Fasihul Karim Siddiqi, Secretary, Global Compact Pakistan Network while summing up the discussion in his concluding remarks said that the SECP Guidelines indicated the writings on the wall which the business today has to embrace to survive tomorrow.
He thanked the speakers and the panellists for engaging themselves so profoundly in the policy dialogue initiated by the Global Compact Pakistan Network on this important topic which has a far reaching impact on the sustainability issues related with our business and to which a formidable response was available to business in their act of embedding the ten principles of UN Global Compact advocated by the Network through a series of initiatives like the one taken through this stakeholder parleys.
He looked forward that the valuable suggestions given by the stakeholders in this meeting will be consolidated and presented to SECP so that a detailed discussion for business engagement may take place before giving the Guidelines a final shape for meaningful implementation. He thanked the business organisations and academia for joining hands and hoped that soon than government will be on board to draw the road map for sustainable business development in Pakistan.
For more information, Contact:
M. Raza Ali
Global Compact Network Pakistan
State Life Building Building No. 2
Care of Employers Federation of Pakistan