No Charity. No Pity. – Relooking Present Day CSR Programs

by Dr Marceline Lemarie, Chairperson of World Marketing Summit Malaysia 2013 (WMSM 2013)

The first thing that comes to mind whenever we read about a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program is of a multinational corporation extending help to a local community. The big corporations of the world have long realized the intangible benefits of charity tie-ins which includes giving the company’s message much greater power and easier access to target markets.

The total spend on CSR programs in Malaysia in 2012 stood at an estimated RM75 million or less than 0.01% of the total GDP of the country. The majority of this sum came from foreign companies with a presence in Malaysia. The export of periodic aid from multinational companies whose headquarters are based many thousands of kilometers away, while appearing to be commendable, can have serious implications which may even hamper the progress of local communities. Many of these companies may not understand what is really needed on the ground and their efforts may only present short term cures rather than provide long term fixes.

Because these corporations are sometimes detached from on the ground realities, their CSR efforts are sometimes grounded on charity and pity which are not sustainable in the long run. Once the photo opportunity is over, the underlying problems remain.

It is therefore necessary to bring CSR programs and activities closer to home. We have to ask the question why aren’t more local companies socially responsible? Many of these smaller, local companies perceive CSR programs as outside their domain and only to be indulged in by foreign companies or local conglomerates/public listed companies with big budgets leaving many smaller companies very much out of the CSR landscape when they should be very much part of it.

The total number of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia by the end of 2012 was estimated to be close to 1 million accounting for 99.2% of the total number of business establishments and contributing 32% of the country’s GDP and employing 56% of the total workforce. The contribution to GDP is expected to increase to 41% by 2020.

The implications of these figures underscore the potential of local SMEs to contribute to local communities around the country. Their contribution is all the more significant since they are closer to the communities that they are helping and their efforts can be sustained over the longer term and they are able to better monitor and evaluate their contributions.

Taken as a whole, the SME community is a potent force to move CSR in the right direction and play a much larger role than multinational companies in developing local communities.

Having said that because SMEs have not engaged in CSR activities they may not even know how to go about it. The important point to drive home to these companies is that they should not be overwhelmed with the notion that CSR is characterised by huge projects and huge budgets that attempt to change the world. On the contrary we want to emphasise the point that resolving the problem at our doorstep, no matter how small, is key to tackling real and focused socio-economic issues.

One of the key areas that we see local SMEs getting involved in is educating the young especially the underprivileged ones from orphanages as education had been proven over and over again as the key to unlocking and alleviating poverty which is the thrust of United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 1 – Eradicate Extreme Poverty & Hunger and 2 – Achieve Universal Primary Education. We want to work with these SMEs and build collaboration with Sports Associations, Institutions of Higher Learning as well as NGOs to compliment the Government in educating those underprivileged between the ages of 8 – 12 who don’t have access to proper education so that they too will have the same opportunities as those who are more fortunate. The focus need not necessary be just on core subjects of English, Math or Science but will include teaching of values like respect, racism and useful practical skills like first aids.

Only when the younger generation have an equal access to education, will we have a developed nation and Malaysia’s aspiration to become a high income nation by 2020 can be achieved.

Local SMEs will have the tremendous opportunity to develop effective CSR programs catering to their local communities which are sustainable in the long run and not just sit on the sidelines. Most importantly these SMEs will not have to resort to pity or charity as a solution. Instead they will be involved in providing real opportunities and real change. Under our Project 8 BILLION we help SMEs make more profits, help create a differentiation and give back to the society they serve. We plan to launch project 8 BILLION during the World Marketing Summit 2013 (WMS 2013) from 28 – 30 September at Putrajaya International Convention Centre which will witness a powerful group of game-changers and world thinkers coming together to share their thoughts on creating a better world through marketing.

Some of the list of illustrious speakers include:-

  1. Prof. Dr. Philip Kotler – Hailed by Management Centre Europe as “the foremost expert on strategic practice of marketing and widely acclaimed as the Father of Modern Marketing.
  2. Minister Dr. Bernard Kouchner – Household name in France and founder of Doctors Without Borders. The terrible crime of the holocaust perpetrated on the soil of civilized Europe fuelled by sense of personal injustice, makes him what he is today.
  3. Dr. Ashok Khosla – Winner of UNEP SASAKAWA prize (Nobel Prize for Environment) for sustainability and world’s leading experts in environment and sustainable development – inspiring the fostering and delivery of environmentally friendly and commercially viable technologies. Ex-USA Vice President Al Gore is one of his student.
  4. Mr. Bobby Sager – Founder of the Sager Family Travelling Foundation & Roadshow together with his family established their own special brands-on “eyeball-to-eyeball” philanthropy. Working together the Sagers apply their entrepreneurial skills and Rolodex to make impact in areas of conflict and crisis such as Palestine, Rwanda, Afghanistan and Tibet.
  5. H.R.H. Prince Ali Al-Hussein – The youngest elected Vice-President to FIFA, the powerful footballing organization. HRH has great vision of using football to help bring change and improvement to the lifes of many in Asia through Dream Asia and Asian Football Development Project.
  6. Mr. Sanjit “Bunker” Roy – Voted by TIME Magazine as one of the Top 100 world thinkers. He make his life’s goal to debunk all the myths about gender bias, book-learned academia and complexity of science – in his very own humble and infectious way.

These are just a selection of the over 30 internationally acclaimed speakers and 2,500 by invitation delegates who will exchange ideas, interact and network to develop ideas that will create a sustainable community and environment for all of us.

We don’t believe a better world is created through charity and pity. Which is why we are using the marketing platform to teach people to make the right choices and to consume products from local corporations that are helping out communities that are closer to home.

We hope you will join us answer the clarion call to create a better world through marketing at WMS 2013.

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For more information on WMSM 2013, or to register, please visit our website

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