MEUSAC addresses the challenges of Corporate Social Responsibility in a breakfast briefing on June 12th
“Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important tool for the competitiveness of enterprises that can bring benefits in terms of risk management, cost savings, access to capital, customer relations, human resource management, and innovation capacity.” This was stated by MEUSAC Head, Dr Vanni Xuereb in his introductory remarks to a business breakfast on ‘Responsible Business: A New Approach to Corporate Social Responsibility’ organised by MEUSAC for the European Year for Development 2015 (EYD2015). As the national coordinator, MEUSAC has already organised various events on Development. Dr Xuereb stressed that new paths have to be discovered in order to engage more EU citizens in what the private sector can contribute towards society in general.
The panel for the event was made up of Dr John Vassallo, Senior Strategic Advisor to Microsoft Corporation and Director at the Malta Business Bureau (MBB); Mr Serguei Outtara, President of the EU-Africa Chamber of Commerce; Mr Stephen Pandolfino, Head of Wholesale Credit and Market Risk, and Deputy Chief Risk Officer at HSBC Bank Malta plc; Ms Sonia Toro, Communications Director, EU-Africa Chamber of Commerce and; Mr William Grech, Chairman of the NGDO umbrella organisation SKOP. John Vassallo spoke about the role of the private industry in development cooperation. He said that Microsoft was always committed to putting people first, including employees, customers and communities and that this meant, first of all, bringing connectivity and putting technology in the hands of individuals so they can reach their potential and achieve their goals.
Today’s biggest challenge in CSR, he said, is to achieve faster innovation, and to bring connectivity and create new catalysts for growth and jobs. Serguei Outtara spoke about responsible business opportunities in Africa. He stated that although the African continent is making progress, inequalities and lack of inclusion remain, and income is not translated into poverty reduction. He stated that domains such as work-force, products, services, supply chains, markets, and environment are fertile ground for investment and represent good responsible business opportunities for Europeans.
In concluding, he stressed the importance of partnerships between European businesses and local actors as well as long term diversified and resilient strategies. Stephen Pandolfino delved into how HSBC is supporting water conservation related campaigns in the community and in schools, also mentioning the bank’s support to the WaterAid project in Ghana. Sonia Toro focused on the Vision 4 Change Sustainability Programme and the CSR in Africa Awards, including the Sustainable Economy Award, the Environment Award and the Social Impact Award. Submissions for these awards consisted of CSR projects that prioritised job creation, workforce improvement and quality sourcing. Ms Toro emphasised that CSR is not philanthropy but a tool to empower people and a return on investment. William Grech spoke of SKOP’s vision to bring together all NGOs operating in the sector of international development. He spoke about the work carried out by SKOP member-NGOs, stating that this mainly concerns infrastructural and human development projects overseas, development education and awareness raising, and empowerment and inclusion services to the migrant community.
In concluding, he proposed to the business community the creation of a common fund contributing to projects that help reach development-related goals. In his concluding remarks, panel chairman André Fenech stated that it is clear that, “Africa is open for business”, and that the continent needs European business expertise and acumen. He said that although problems persist, pro-business governments do exist in Africa and Malta has an opportunity to explore these opportunities further. The business breakfast was organised in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the MBB.