Singapore firms lack CSR focus

A Fuji Xerox survey reveals local companies implement corporate social responsibility programs without taking it seriously and using it to enhance their bottomlines.

SINGAPORE--Few Singapore-based companies are seeing returns from their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs despite many having implemented them, and this is due to them not being serious about such initiatives impacting the organizations' bottomlines, says a Fuji Xerox executive.

According to a study commissioned by Fuji Xerox and released Thursday, 88 percent of respondents polled said CSR is important to their organizations and 53 percent saying they have increased CSR activities and spending over the past 3 years.

However, only 9 percent of businesses see CSR programs contributing to their companies' bottomlines while 6 percent said such activities had boosted its revenue since being introduced, the survey, which polled 200 Singapore companies, noted.

Elaborating on the findings, Daniel Sim, sustainability business consultant at Fuji Xerox Singapore's Sustainability Incubation Hub, told ZDNet Asia in an interview only 44 percent of businesses polled said they are practicing CSR reporting and these are mostly larger enterprises that have the financial resources to publish these reports.

It also discovered that 66 percent of companies spend S$50,000 (US$44,026.4) or less on their CSR programs, with Sim noting that this amount is "nothing" compared to their total revenues. This, he added, indicated that companies are not bothered with the returns of their CSR investments.

Many companies have CSR for CSR's sake, he stated and this mentality will need to change as more consumers become inquisitive  about the products or services they purchase and from which vendor. This is the same with organizations, with 53 percent of respondents saying they will consciously buy products from companies that are socially responsible, he added.

For those still skeptical whether organizations can profit from implementing CSR seriously, the business consultant cited General Electric and eBay as examples.

General Electric, for one, set up its "ecomagination" division, which makes products that are more eco-friendly. The company's initial investment of US$2.3 billion in research and development (R&D) for this division brought it US$21 billion in revenues, and Sim said the U.S. company understood that customers' demand for green products meant it might loss more money in the future if it did not embark on this green initiative.

Similarly, e-commerce operator eBay set up its eBay Green Team in 2007 to focus on eco-friendly products and shopping trends. What started out as a group of 40 employees ballooned into 2,500, and the increase in workforce shows how the business has grown for the company, he noted.

The Fuji Xerox executive thus urged companies to start practicing CSR from within their organizations, and not include it on a superficial level.

This means empowering stakeholders to hold these companies accountable for their CSR investments, which would compel businesses to make their programs measurable and bring in returns, he explained.