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Challenges and possibilities of CSR practices in South America

Corporate social responsibility is gaining ground in South America, and with more data collection, analysis, and exchange, CSR initiatives could help greatly impact social change.

Mario Bazan of FORO writes,

It is estimated that ten of the main Latin American companies and foundations that have invested in CSR have mobilized US$337 million in 2005 and more than US$416 million in 2006 (see table). Most of these organizations are from Brazil and are active within their country. Avina is the only regional foundation that appears in this list. One of the main problems to analyze trends is that there is not enough and update information on resources invested in SR.

In general, SR implies that a company voluntarily integrates environmental and social concerns into its operations and interactions with stakeholders, beyond legal and regulatory requirements, in order to achieve goals broader than just profit making in a narrow sense. SR policies became visible through the emergence of partnerships with business associations with shared purposes, and also through certification programs. SR policies are usually self-imposed through adherence to international regulations, pressure from shareholders and investors in their countries of origin, access to financing for socially responsible investment funds, or through the adoption of codes of conduct promoted by unions or national and international associations. Some of the more important associations made up of organizations that promote SR in Latin American and at the global level are World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD), y UN Global Compact.

Implications

CSR practices, with the right support, could address social problems in new ways and problems that other entities don’t have the resources to impact.

Mario Bazan writes,

It is estimated that in the coming years SR initiatives will grow and integrate a larger number of businessmen and organizations. This opens up possibilities for countries to achieve their social objectives, to cover issues that governments cannot address or have overlooked, and also to integrate efforts between government, business, civil society, international cooperation agencies and foundations. At the same time, this presents a challenge and opportunity for foundations and international cooperation agencies, which could take initiatives for identifying, selecting, systematizing and disseminating innovative experiences, best practices and lessons learned, and also for creating spaces for dialogue and the exchange of experiences.

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Sources:

Searchlight Latin America: Trends and Challenges for Development, FORO; pg. 2
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/FORO_Sept2010.pdf#page=2

OECD (2001), Corporate social responsibility: private initiatives and public goals. OECD: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/58/54/35315900.pdf

See: Sagasti and Prada (2010), “La nueva cada de la cooperación al desarrollo: El papel de la cooperación Sur-Sur y la responsabilidad social corporative” (forthcoming as a chapter in a book).