By Dr Hanningtone Gaya, CEO – The Knowledge Warehouse Kenya
It is impossible these days to pick up any authoritative business publication or newspaper and not be faced with an article addressing some aspect of corporate responsibility (CR) or corporate sustainability (CS).
Numerous scholars and distinguished academics posit that the focus of these initiatives has ranged across wide and diverse landscape of economic, social and ethical challenges, from environmental preservation to the handling of economic crimes. These in turn have led to regulator and non-governmental organization (NGO) pressures raining down on corporate leaders, in addition to the changes that have emerged at both customer and shareholder levels towards an expectation of a more responsible approach to business, not only to guarantee profitability but mainly to ensure business sustainability and hence business survival.
One mis-step, however, is the predicament often created where, instead of appropriate strategies being developed to ensure good principles and practices of corporate responsibility and corporate sustainability, the focus has been and remains to be on urgent compliance, public relations projects and short-term protectionism.
It is also a very clear disconnect between the future planning profiles of corporations focusing on meeting the short-term demands of its owners and share-holders, which is certainly at odds with the medium-term focus of governments trying to ensure the right policies within a limited time span and the reality of developing long-term corporate sustainable investment plans that will give a return on investment (ROI) in less than 15-20 years.
The truth, which seems to get lost in many of these discourses, is that there has to be a balance that recognizes the right of every stakeholder to benefit from corporate actions and profitability. This is as a result that what gets voiced is in fact not rhetoric but plain common sense, and that for the business community to do what is right, there has to be a foundation of commercial interest or return. In essence, the business community creates wealth from which all others have to benefit.
CR and CS is about developing forward-looking strategies that underpin the business objectives and provide profitable platforms on which to reinforce the longer-term aims of the whole community.
This issue celebrates corporate brands that have in place long-term strategic CR and CS embedded in their overall strategies and which are being quietly implemented without the often much sort after publicity for the corporation or its Chief Executive Officer. The shy CR and CS is what we are recognizing, in addition to being webbed inside a beautiful story and public accessibility to the story. It is not the size. Rather, the transformative effect on the lives of ordinary folks, including areas where no corporate would dare: Enter Isuzu, Davis & Shirtliff and Family Bank.
Secondly, we recognize and celebrate new brands that have weathered the harsh economic environment to launch in style while exuding confidence among age old competitors. Here, we honor ABSA and NCBA.
Last, not the least, are brands that are rejuvenating, repositioning and revitalizing in order to regain, retain or grow market share, in unique and innovative ways or struggling to stay relevant in discharging their mandates to the stakeholders: Multichoice, M-PESA and Kenya Railways, in different forms, strategies and structures.