“Sri Lanka is beginning to practise responsibility through inclusive development based on strategic partnerships, a new holistic sense of purpose and enhanced but ethical competitiveness, responsibility that translates to other contexts such as development and business,” according to Neil Buhne, UNDP Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator. He was making a presentation on ‘United Nations and the Private Sector: A Compact for Responsible Business and Responsible Development” to the UN Association of Sri Lanka under its public lecture series.
Excerpts of his speech:
“Traditionally, the role of business in development has long been limited to a narrowly defined concept of corporate social responsibility which is then mainstreamed into company policy. The danger is that it can sometimes isolate ‘responsibility’ into a few CSR projects run as part of a company’s human resources, legal affairs, marketing and branding or communications departments. The triple bottom line then was about making sure that corporations and the private sector were seen as ‘good’ players and thus enhancing market share or profitability through social responsibility.
The separation between development and business is artificial. Over the last few years these artificial boundaries of separation has become increasingly blurred. There is a growing and positive trend in the private sector and in the concept of responsibility itself. There is a change in how the private sector understands its place within the broader social leadership of the country and within the fabric of the political, economic and social progression of its own environment.
Contributing to the community and sustaining the environment while making profit is all about maintaining integrity in managing resources effectively. It is about self-governance and self-regulation and which increases efficacy and creates harmony with the context within which business operate here. It’s about extending affordable service delivery to as many people as possible which is good for business and good for the people.
Strategic partnerships is not simply outsourcing ones responsibility, but sharing dividends, burdens and risks equitably. It is about mutual development and achieving common goals together.
What is a holistic sense of purpose for a community? It is about social responsibility that is beyond the corporation necessitated by compliance to laws and regulations. It is about realizing that corporations are made up of people that operate within society, again made up of individuals. Therefore, when making business choices, those individuals who are in decision making positions should always be conscious of sustaining the community within which the business is situated.
People, their choices and actions, whether involved in the business or as members of a community, can become the most volatile risk factor to the sustainability of a business. Thus when choices are made with the entire community in mind, risks and opportunities are shared. This in turn will ensure that the community fully supports and promotes the development of business which see as mutually beneficial and ethical ensuring the value-addition for business which enhances its capacity for competition.