September 13, 2007


I had the opportunity to attend a Regional Seminar held in Trinidad, September 10-12, 2007on the theme “Promoting Social Responsibility in Small and Medium Sized Businesses in the Caribbean”. The Seminar was organized by the Organisation of American States (OAS), Young Americas Business Trust (YATB), the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the Organisation of American States (SEDI/OAS) with the support of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean UN-ECLAC and the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC). The importance of the Seminar could be noted from the organizations that supported the initiative.

On the second day of the Seminar, the Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza of the OAS addressed participants. He drew attention to poverty and crime and lamented on the ills of society. He noted that one out of every four young persons in Latin America and the Caribbean not going to school or not working. Young people between the ages of 15 – 29 who went overseas at tender ages and become first time offenders are being deported back to the countries of their birth for simple misdemeanours after being incarcerated with hardened criminals. The UN and the OAS are committed to CSR.

St. Lucia was represented by five persons drawn from the private and public sectors. Other participants were drawn from Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica. There were some concerns by participants as to why the Seminar targeted Small and Medium Enterprises but two positions were advanced. 1. That large businesses are already practicing CSR and 2. That SMEs are the largest group of employers, employing over 60 percent of the work force.

It was noted that CSR gives businesses a social conscience and improves corporate image. Generally CSR when effectively applied will make a significant difference to the bottom line. CSR is seen as one standard that every business can apply some aspect of it to its core business.

It is recommended that Businesspersons begin the process of learning and applying CSR by visiting and become a part of this transforming standard that promotes giving back to your community. Businesses can change the world while increasing their bottom line with the effective application of CSR. A regional seminar will be held in Barbados in November as the process of informing and training persons that are committed to the life changing effects of CSR so that they can become ambassadors to spread the CSR doctrine.

The standard is about Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) and will be available to the business sector within months. It will be guided by ISO 26000 which comes into effect by 2009. What is CSR? A definition provided by the promoters is “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a business approach that views respect for ethics, people, communities and the environment, as an integral strategy that increases value added and thus improves the competitive position of a firm”.

Already some large and small companies are practicing some form of CSR especially in the area of philanthropy. Until now there is no measurement of what benefits are being derived from the ad hoc philanthropic support that is given to communities in the region. CSR as a standard will measure the impact of all aspects of Corporate Social Responsible endeavours.

This is one standard that seems to be a natural. You will discover that many of the areas of activity you identify to undertake you should have been doing them a long time ago. The shocker is you would have been so much more advanced in your business. Remember it is in giving that you receive and the interesting part is that in many instances organization/effective management takes the place of money. I am committed to pursuing CSR and ask that you join the St. Lucia CSR team as they collaborate with the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards to introduce CSR to businesses in St. Lucia.

Keep the Faith, God is in Charge, Expect Miracles in 2007.

Edward A. Harris

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