Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Corporate Social Responsibility

“As long that you have a decent job, work hard, law-abide, you can consider yourself fulfilling a role as a good citizen,” there was this CEO trying his best to cajole newbies with his over-simplified motto when I first joined the IT company right after my graduation.

That moment my conscience shot back, “Yeah? How about those who work hard at licensed casinos or at tobacco companies? How about your cars that spit carbon monoxides and contribute to pollution everyday? How about …….?” We all have sinned; the simple mantra for life won’t get you near to any role model example.

Corporate Social Responsibility 
We often heard of the listing regulatory authority emphasizes on the importance of corporate governance and social responsibility. But, when you have the chance to look at the courses constantly offered to the directors, you would realize on how pale the contents really are.  The real purpose of these courses is to urge the directors to protect the minority shareholders’ interests, not the real public’s interests. Indeed, a lot of public listed companies have very little concern of the public, even those who made corporate governance and corporate social responsibility the ‘bible’ in their daily operations. 

The reason is simple. They’re driven by profit, by the greed of ROI. Even when the public companies have tens of thousands of shareholders, the number is still considered minority to the real public. And we have no short of examples where the interests of public companies conflict with the publics.

Take for an example the increase in electricity tariff; the share price rises for the electric power provider, the investors are happy, and they would tend to ignore the inflation and the increase in the cost of living as the after-effects. And the minority shareholders might think, “What can I do about it? Since I couldn’t beat them, it’s better that I suffer less from the side effects and join them.” And believe me, these vultures are well aware of every tactic to lobby the government to work towards their interests, to add bigger profit to their already lucrative monopoly business.

Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia
You may criticize these companies, but would your virtue be strong enough to avoid investing in their stocks that guarantee dividends? We saw the shameless shareholders posted their comments on the Facebook page of Lynas after the company been awarded the temporary license to operate their rare-earth plant that may harm the environment by emitting radioactive Thorium as by-product, despite hundreds of thousands Malaysian demonstrated and staged numerous strong protests against the operation. Where are those social responsibilities at the time of need and when the law permits (not to have one)? And we all know that laws are so easily bent in developing countries.

That is why quite some pharmaceutical companies have their clinical trials on new drugs in developing countries like Kenya, Nicaragua, Cambodia, and Mongolia, because it is much easier to find human guinea pigs, and the loosely regulatory environment in these countries avoid them from the threat of litigation if things went wrong.  

Federal Court dismisses Bukit Koman residents' appeal

When Bukit Koman Anti-Cyanide Committee in Malaysia called for a donation after they lost their legal battle against a gold mining company early this month and the Federal Court ordered them to pay RM15,000 (USD5,000) as legal cost, we donated RM10,000 to inspire more corporations to support civil society movements and underprivileged groups.

To me, charitable activities shouldn’t be just an icing on the cake.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

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