INDUSTRIALISTS have said funding challenges are crippling their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes meant to fill in developmental gaps by addressing human needs and challenges within communities.
The current economic crisis that is characterised by liquidity challenges has left only a few corporates being able to launch CSR projects.
Implementation of CSR projects has also not been properly monitored, resulting in poor results.
In the mining sector, for instance, companies mining diamonds in the Marange area in Manicaland province have, together with the government, initiated plans to relocate villagers living around the mines to ensure smooth operations, security at the mines, as well as safety of the villagers.
But while it remains noble for companies to take responsibility for families affected by their operations, there are tales of worsening poverty, neglect and disappointment among families that were relocated from Chiadzwa to Arda Transau.
The Marange relocation is one rare long-term CSR initiative as most projects remain short-term. Some of the activities which companies have been jostling to partake in include donating sports uniforms and giving small handouts.
In an interview, with NewsDay, Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) director general Eve Gadzikwa said, although most companies had robust CSR programmes that were being operated and integrated into the business models in Zimbabwe, the quality of their work needed to be improved.
Gadzikwa said CSR policy function remained a self-regulatory mechanism whereby a business monitored and ensured active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards and national or international norms and standards without emphasis on quality.
“A few listed companies are now implementing integrated reporting as part of their sustainability disclosure to their shareholders and investors who make use of this information in their investment decisions,” Gadzikwa said.
“Countries like Zimbabwe, with the greatest demographic opportunity for development, are those entering a period in which the working age population has good health, quality education, decent employment and a lower proportion of young dependents. When this happens, the national economic payoff can be substantial.”
She said the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by Zimbabwe stipulate that the country should, among other things, incorporate in a balanced way the dimensions of sustainable development to achieve poverty reduction, food security, sustainable social and economic infrastructure and health equity.
“A major stumbling block to achieving SDGs in Zimbabwe remains developmental financing from private and public investments,” Gadzikwa said.
A stockbroker with Invictus Securities and a cluster committee member for Corporate Social Responsibility Network Zimbabwe (CSRNZ), Wellington Mapedzamombe said the CSR initiative in Zimbabwe should enable corporates to make a difference in the communities in which they operate.
“While this can be viewed as one way of giving back to communities, there is an ethical understanding that the public does not want to invest in businesses that have potential negative impact,” Mapedzamombe said.
“Corporates who observe and take care of the communities they operate from register good growth and manage sustainability risk by capturing sustainability opportunities. CSR initiatives should be inclusive starting with buy in from employees, their families and communities through partnering and supporting social causes.”
He said corporates should realise that CSR initiatives were not promotional activities that you can change as and when you feel like.
Mapedzamombe said CSRs should be about sustainability and one way to achieve continuity is to set up sustainability teams within the organisation, then secure adequate resources or budgetary support which involves consistent top management support.
“Once this is in place, corporates need to reach out to the entire staff, maintain the employees’ interest in the initiatives and the employees will reach out by involving families and the communities they leave in or where such initiatives are being realised,” he said
As efforts to address the current trend on CSR activities, the country will next month host its first conference on corporate social responsibility which seeks to provide a platform to companies involved in CSR to touch base on responsible sustainability CSR best practices.