A corporate project in the Philippines promotes community empowerment.
By Bodge Calica, HR Director of TELUS International Philippines
The Philippines will host the Global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Awards on April 19th and 20th as part of the 2012 Global CSR Summit. Past years have seen a strong showing for the country, including winners Procter & Gamble Philippines, who won the bronze award in 2011 for Best Workplace Practices and IBM Philippines, who took the bronze award in CSR Leadership in 2011. With multinationals in the country increasingly engaged in CSR initiatives, launching a successful campaign requires an insider’s understanding of the culture and economy.
I have drawn six lessons from my current work in Manila with TELUS International, a global provider of contact center outsourcing operations, and Gawad Kalinga (GK), a non-government organization dedicated to building communities to end poverty.
My projects have involved working with the community to build homes and create a safer environment for the homeless. From my local, grassroots perspective in the Philippines, here’s what really works:
Understand the Culture
An awareness of Pinoy culture is a key component of any campaign. CSR initiatives that capture the concept of “Bayanihan” have the potential to generate immense support.
Bayanihan is a Tagalog word that describes the spirit of communal effort in achieving a particular objective without expecting anything in return. The concept forms an important part of our country’s cultural heritage. While many Filipinos may not have the means to contribute to a cause monetarily, volunteers in the country are abundant. The spirit of volunteerism is a strong testament to the Bayanihan trait.
Get Past the Poverty
As a developing country, a majority of CSR initiatives have typically focused on alleviating poverty, providing good education and improving health care -- areas in which the government cannot adequately sustain funding.
Recently, there has been a call for a change of direction and an increased focus on nation building and self-sufficiency. We are looking past handouts and more to opportunities to help citizens stand on their own feet.
This was a major motivating factor behind our recent housing project in Quezon City. Residents and volunteers built houses as a community. Residents witness the care outsiders dedicate to the project, while volunteers realize the impact they have had on the community.
Focus on the Environment
The Philippines is a country prone to natural disasters and calamities. Many commentators have attributed our recent floods to global warming. Consequently, there has been a rise in environmental protection and conservation efforts sponsored by organizations.
These have involved runs for a cause, clean-up drives and green initiatives, such as efforts to improve carbon footprints. As people become aware of the connection between climate change and an increase in natural disasters, companies that work to improve the environment will find plenty of local support.
Foster Government Relations
In the Philippines, companies, especially large ones, are expected to be involved in society. President Aquino’s government has started efforts to support and become more involved in CSR programs. The president’s sisters have been particularly active - from building schools and classrooms to providing scholarships for the children of fallen journalists.
Companies with good CSR records are often publicly recognized by government agencies, such as the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. Maintaining open dialogue with government agencies and keeping them abreast of your efforts is critical.
Invest in Youth
The future of CSR in the Philippines belongs to the youth. All Filipino students have the potential and capability to initiate projects that can help the country, but only a handful are willing to take the risk.
Our education system produces excellent teachers, business professionals, engineers, and nurses. Too often, however, they look abroad when seeking employment - depriving our country of valuable human resources. The decision to invest human resources locally will have to come from our children.
Find Local Partners
Partnering with a local NGOs can provide your organization with critical local intelligence and ensure that your resources are used effectively. Partnerships will help guide your CSR initiatives, so that they match the needs of the communities in which you operate.
Gawad Kalinga has proven to be an extremely beneficial partner for TELUS International. They share our emphasis on empowering locals through constructive nation building. Over the years, our partnership with GK has resulted in the construction of a total of 55 homes and a three-storey multi-purpose hall in Quezon City.
The right chemistry in providing sustainable and lifetime partnerships are crucial. Partnerships are geared towards providing opportunities to develop ones’ dignity and confidence to be able face the outside world and grow out of poverty.
Looking forward, we see positive growth for CSR in the Philippines. Both corporate and government leaders have begun to see the value of a socially and environmentally engaged business sector. Ensuring that progress is entrenched will fall on the next generation of leaders.
About Bodge Calica
Bodge Calica is the Human Resources director for CSR and Corporate Culture at TELUS International Philippines (TIP). Bodge initiated the first CSR program for TIP in 2005, which has expanded to several partnerships with charitable and non-profit organizations. He is committed to supporting the growing CSR culture for TIP. TIP is a leading Philippines-based provider of contact center and business process outsourcing solutions. It is a subsidiary of TELUS Communications, a national telecommunications company in Canada, with $10.4 billion of annual revenue and 12.7 million customer connections.