Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reviews: LCF Corporate Social Responsibility Institute Publications

The League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) in the Philippines describes itself as a "network of over seventy operating and grant-making corporate foundations and corporations that promote and enhance the strategic practice of Corporate Social Responsibility among its members and the larger business community, towards sustained national development."

The LCF first caught my attention through their annual CSR Expo event which brings together all their members to share case studies, discuss issues, get training from experts and hold an exhibit where you can learn more about the programs of different foundations and companies. I've always enjoyed going to these corporate do-gooder gatherings to keep myself updated on what's happening in the local 'industry'.

At the side exhibit for the Expo, the LCF's Corporate Social Responsibility Institute (CSRI) was selling some original publications so I grabbed a copy of each one to see what they've been up to.

I have a natural inclination to support and promote organizations that push for research, education and training because I believe  such continuous learning and sharing is what will establish the practice when it's new, and will keep it moving to reach new heights once it's already gained a good following.

About LCF CSR Institute

The CSRI is a division of the LCF that provides capacity development and learning resources for CSR practitioners, the academe and the private sector. Established in July 2007, it was "envisioned to institutionalize the learning process and systematically organize sharing of information, experiences, best practices, and lessons learned primarily among its members and other sectors of the society. The institute also aims to become a strategic partner of academic institutions embedding the essence of CSR in the fabric of basic education."

The CSRI has four major components: (a) academic development, (b) professional development, (c) research and publication, and (d) resource center.

My reaction after reading about he CSRI? I thought it was a great idea. My first local encounters with institutions studying and offering training in CSR were the Asian Institute of Management's RVR Center for Corporate Social Responsibility, and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

I liked the RVR Center because while many companies seemed to be doing corporate philanthropy for PR purposes, here was an institute pushing the triple bottom line perspective and stressing corporate governance as an essential foundation to real CSR. And this was in the late 90's / early 2000's I think.  While the RVR Center had great materials and offered courses - these seemed extremely alienating for a newbie who was only trying to dip her feet into the CSR world. Their courses were designed for top level management, and of course came with a top level management price tag. (I bought a copy of their "Doing Good and Doing Well: Cases on Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia" case book, wrote a review on it back in 2005.)

Then there is PBSP. Friends in CSR circles all pointed to PBSP as the place to go for good training - they had good tools, good clients, great projects. The thing is - I had to work there to get their training. As far as I can tell, their training is offered to their people and their partners, but they don't really have an institute that is out to teach methods to a greater public. However, they always came highly recommended to work with or to work for.

So, with the presence of the LCR CSR Institute, are we getting closer to a point where we get CSR knowledge more openly distributed and training more available to newbies? I hope so. Their Facebook page shows that they've had a few events in 2009, but nothing much since then. So I've decided to take a look at their publications instead.

LCF - CSR Institute Publications

CEO Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility
League of Corporate Foundations (2006)

CEO Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility (2006)

First of all, I'm glad that the LCF undertook this project of studying the perceptions and practice of CSR among Philippine corporations. It's always good to know what the playing field looks like. But having said that, I'd also like to say that a second edition of the study is overdue as this one was done back in 2006. It would be interesting to see a side by side comparison of the 2006 study with a 2011 one to see what's changed in five years.

I liked their methodology - a mixture of CEO surveys and CEO Circle focus group discussions, then referring to supplementary data such as annual reports and press statements from participation corporations. They also had a good mix of different types of corporation sizes and backgrounds. Fertile ground to gather great insights into the CSR world in the Philippines.

While they did have some good findings published in the book, I somehow felt like I was looking for something more.

To be fair, what this book sets out to do is showcase what the different CEOs think, and how their corporations are practicing CSR. And they did achieve that. In fact, it has a good synthesis in the end summarizing the changing context of CSR logic among CEOs in the Philippines, as well as the different roles they see for CSR.

But personally, I was hoping for a deeper analysis and a stronger recommendation. An answer to "Now that we see what the CSR scene looks like and how CEOs view it... what should we do? How far are we from the ideal and how do we get there?" Or perhaps clustering of the different CEO perspectives into two or three major schools of thought in CSR and evaluating the pros and cons of each. Or doing a parallel study of how the CEO's perspective affects the development and practice of CSR in each cluster. Again, this is just a wish list of things I would be interested to know about the local CSR scene, and to see in a future publication. But as far as the "CEO Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility" 2006 publication is concerned, I think it's a good basic read. And it's set at a good price point of Php 100.00.

CSR Casebook
League of Corporate Foundations
CSR Institute (2007)

CSR Casebook (2007)

The CSR Casebook is a collection of real case studies from four organizations: Petron Foundation, Shell Foundation, Splash Foundation and Mirant Foundation. At about an average of 12 pages per case study, I think this book offers people a chance to take a peek at the world behind the press releases and photo ops. The case studies share their CSR journeys, some showcasing conceptual and performance evaluation frameworks, some listing principles and values that guided their programs, and others really detailing partnerships and program mechanics. At Php 200.00, I think this 52-page casebook offers value for money. Kudos to the four foundations that shared valuable information.

In the foreword, Lydia Sarmiento-Enrile, Chair of the CSR Institute, wrote:
"This casebook is just the beginning of many stories. The members of the League of Corporate Foundations, Inc. have expriences spanning decades of CSR practice in various fields of operation. We did not always do it right the first time. t is our hope that by sharing our stories with you that we can impart learnings, as well as the pitfalls for implementing our social responsibility in varying degrees and circumstances."

Indeed, I hope this edition is just the beginning of many other stories to be published. The second edition to this one is something I will be looking out for.

CSR Assessment Workbook
League of Corporate Foundations
CSR Institute (2008)

CSR Assessment Workbook (2008)

To me, this is like a CSR 101 exercise book that's probably a handy companion for a person who is trying to set up a CSR practice in their company. (Or someone who is trying to professionalize and institutionalize existing pseudo-CSR practices their companies are already doing.)

It starts off with a quick note of the history of CSR in the Philippines, then goes on to define CSR and give an overview of the 4P's of CSR Management:

  • Position Strategically, 
  • Plan Purposively, 
  • Pursue Consistently and 
  • Promote Effectively.

The succeeding sections then take you through one P at a time, with worksheets, charts and other tools that help you organize your org information, walk you through logical thinking frameworks, and make decisions from data-based assessment.

In other words -- if you are trying to establish a CSR department in your company, you can schedule a CSR assessment workshop with your organization's upper management and just follow this workbook step by step. It even has blank versions of its charts that would be easy for you to photocopy and hand out to all the participants of your workshop. Or you can simply scan it and flash it on your LCD projector and you can all work on filling the charts up together. They were designed in such a way that it's easy to understand and fill up even if you are not a CSR expert.

At Php 600.00, this is a little bit pricey. But if you think about the fact that it's actually a workshop curriculum in a book, you'll see its value.

Now, as far as commenting on how good and useful the frameworks are... I can't judge as I haven't had the chance to implement them or have other tools to compare them with. (Maybe if I manage to find an actual CSR practitioner willing to analyze it for me, that can be another blogpost?) 

All I can say is that it's a pretty good idea for them to release something like this. And if I can make a request -- how about a crisis management manual, next?

- - - -

All in all, I like what the LCF CSRI is aiming to do, and hopeful that these initial publications are just the first of many more to come. While I will always turn to places like the Stanford Social Innovation Review , Harvard Business School or 3BL Media to find out cutting edge trends and debates in the global CSR scene, at the end of the day we have to face the question of  how to localize and apply things to the Philippine or Asian context. Having the LCF and CSR Institute gives me hope that there is someone willing to take on that essential role of organizing and somehow directing the local scene.

So I say keep the publications coming and revive the events. It'll be a great service to local CSR practitioners, and to the communities they serve.

To purchase these publications, send inquiries by filling up the form here or get in touch with
LCF CSR Institute at:
6/F PDCP Bank Center

L.P. Leviste corner V.A. Rufino Streets
Salcedo Village, Makati City
Tel: +63 2 8925462 local 209 / 206

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