Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sime Darby and child protection

This morning, I was at the Sime Darby function for their corporate Child Protection Policy launch. The occasion was graced by Her Majesty Raja Permaisuri Agung and Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor with the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Dato' Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in tow.

Sime's policy was conceived with the input of the NGO, P.S. The Children. With this corporate policy, which is an inward-driven corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, Sime is setting a positive benchmark.

I was at the table with the mainstream media journalists and photojournalists. It dawned on me that, as an inverterate blogger, I was regarded as a member of the new media. That realisation gave me a small and cheap thrill, I must admit. There I was rubbing shoulders, in a manner of speaking, with career journalists. "Not bad", I thought to myself, "Not bad at all". The journos from The Star were a good bunch to spin some yarns with.

At the risk of incurring the ire of Shahrizat (what do I care?), I must say that Rosmah gave a better thought out and, more categorically precise speech. Her delivery was far better than Shahrizat's. That's what struck me. But, it wasn't just me. Others at the event that I chatted with thought so too. What gives, Shahrizat? Mere platitudes but no substance? New speechwriters with better research skills are needed, I think.

Rosmah revisited a matter that the politicians have given lip-service to for years, without any substantive forward progress. I'll let NST explain what I mean:

Employers should consider setting up child care centres at workplaces to help reduce stress at work, especially among working mothers, said the Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

She said such centres would not only relieve the mothers to know that their children were well cared for but it would also enable them to be fully committed towards their job. "As for the child, being in a child care centre at the mother's work place will certainly give them a sense of security and comfort, perhaps allowing them to better respond to lessons or learning experiences while they are there," she said. According to her, providing child care facilities to working mothers could help reduce the number of child abuse cases in the country.

Rosmah also spoke about the salutary effect that such child care centres would have on work-life balance issues. The salutary effect that child care centres at workplaces will have on dual-income families who are removed from their extended family network will be tremendous.

Employers need to be sensitised to this. Commercial building owners need to designate premises for child care centres. But, as we know commercial building space, especially in larger cities such as KL, are prohibitively expensive to rent. There lies the problem.

The solution? The Government needs better fiscal incentives. Triple tax deductions (there I go again!) to employers who fund this very basic cost of maintaining and subsidising child care centres.

Anyway, enough pontificating.

I am still wondering why Rosmah gave a better speech than Shahrizat...

10 comments:

donplaypuks® said...

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is basically about profitable GLC's/ MNC's and large public and private corporations and businesses/firms giving something back to society at large.

It is not about these entities providing staff benefits. And it's certainly not about Govt poking it's nose into CSR with its mystifying RM 100 million budget.

It's Petronas, SD, Genting, Berjaya, Maybank, CIMB, Maxis, Proton, MAS, Shearn Delamore etc., forking out money from their Balance Sheet Reserves for good and sound social causes for the general public. But, there is at least 1 Plc which recently asked its staff to buy tickets for its CSR event which involved no outside parties!!?? How misguided can one get?

Thus "Child Protection Policy" in simple english is the provision of CRECHES. If SD does it in-house, that's a staff benefit. If the Govt does it, that's what local councils and State Govt's should be doing.

The idea of creches at work place is at least 20 years past its prime, internationally!

CSR to me is about these businesses sponsoring parks, museums, libraries, cultural centres, the arts, education for the disadvantaged, building homes and shelters for the poor etc.

Let's get the definition right or all that will happen is more staff parties and kenduri's!!


dpp
We are all of 1 race, the Human Race

semuanya OK kot said...

Sharizat can't talk about creches because she already brought this up 5 - 10 years ago - as a me-too, trendy issue. The other person probably got her speech written at your expense and mine. Now, was that so difficult?

The absence of creches as a widespread phenomenon is symptomatic of priorities and malaise. Another is the fact that 2-income families live at a level below single-income ones of 30 years ago.

On CSR, is there any serious initative to examine and ameliorate the impact of each industry? Keep in mind that hot air is a major product.

walla said...

Guess one must start somewhere. Even if it was an idea by a speechwriter cobbled together for a social event.

But it would be better if there is a concerted effort to make CSR a holistic and comprehensive thrust at all forms of modern-day malaise.

Take everything that hits that area from all the ministries and agencies. Pool their budgets, expertise, networks and resources together. Add the same from relevant NGOs. For geographic inputs, invite ideas from the polities as well. Then work out something across the entire wavefront so that you don't cross, overlap, duplicate, emasculate, deviate, or plain miss out anything (and that's because i realize my vocab is really limited)...You need an analytic engine to crunch the size and distribution of each and every problem. Then after doing all the key work, get a national blueprint out, sound it out and get younger and smarter people to be involved. Make it a burning platform.

Take child abuse, for instance. How and where does it occur? In asking these questions, it suddenly enlarges into plantations and kampungs on the one hand, and into how household care services are filtered on the other hand. So in talking about corporations having creches, is the problem being tackled in the right places?

Second, how does one operate a corporate creche? Is the cut-off age 4 and below, with any child above that subject to a sliding scale of space constraint? And what will be the effect on a child for being in a constrained space for ten hours a day, from eight to six?

What about abused women and single mothers? Would drug addiction also fall under CSR? How is the situation on employment of the physically challenged? What about the dispossessed elderly? Are orphanages afloat?

In other words, can resources be deployed in some order of criticality and not just piecemeal? Can efforts be locked into programs whose results can be measured year on year, place by place so that real fine-tuning can be done, and even international inputs made? Can there be a state of the nation report every year on CSR achievements and problems so that the load can be shared, ideas can be developed, more studies by smart uni-students done, and stronger sponsorships solicited in a more methodical and systematic way?

This is worth thinking because unless it is all taken up from the top, things will tend to peter out after the frittering away. And the unfortunates will still suffer.

That is a problem faced worldwide. Think of the possibility that this country will be one of the first to develop a method to holistically and comprehensively attack all social problems in a concerted and intelligent manner by involving the entire population, thereby exploding the solution-finding process beyond the machinery of a public sector.

And we need to do that. Why, you may scoff to ask?

Because when you face the lionhead entrance of Subang Parade Mall, there is a big creche complex to its right down the road which had cost millions of ringgit of public funds and it was quietly built by the previous Selangor state govt for its workers but is now standing fallow and only occasionally used by your local connoisseurs of controlled substances.

walla said...

correction 'Sunway Pyramid Mall'

(been locked in this creche for too long)

donplaypuks® said...

Guys

I don't seem to be getting through.

CSR = CORPORATE Social Responsibility.

Not Fed Govt or State Govt social programmes. We have been paying taxes through our noses for their failure to alleviate poverty, tackle basic welfare issues and ensure a more equitable distribution of national income.

The Fed should not be forking out a cent for CSR. Najib's $100 million budget is another give away to cronies. Have they told us who has been dipping into this budget or how and to who and how much the $60 billion pump priming bailouts were alloted to? Nary a word!!

The way the corporates and Fed Govt have been going about CSR, it will just end up taking yet another chunk out of our reserves. More that that, it will end up just like Six Sigma, Chicken Soup for the CEO and Chopraism- jargon and cliched approach to management and governance!!

dpp
We are all of 1 race, the Human race

walla said...

That's why CSR programs must be inclusive of not just corporates but also the general public, citizen-centric NGOs and smart uni students who still know the value of integrity.

If not that, how else can one avoid the shenanigans of govt in the dispensation of public funds under the guise of social service colored by the cronyism of corporates?

Lest it need to be more explicitly reiterated, the idea was universal inclusiveness. But understandably, when the idea is too big, it can be missed completely.

Too many brains have left this country.

donplaypuks® said...

No Walla, that can't be right.

The Corporates are only accountable to the Govt, general public and NGO's to th extent of filing their (properly audited) accounts and paying their due taxes. Otw, what they do with their excess profits is a matter to be determined by their SHAREHOLDERS (within legal parameters) only, as instructed to their Management.

So, the "inclusiveness" you ask for has no basis in law, nor is it found anywhere in practice. Moral force? Perhaps. NGO's and the public can request for grants and propose worthy CSR projects to the Corporates.

And they must be worthy causes (admittedly easily said, but not so easy to put down in black and white) and not duplicate the Govt's raison de etre. Govt must not enter the realm of CSR other than to encourage it and perhaps bestow de minimis' favoured double and triple tax deductions) and duplicate the Corporates' efforts.

The remit of CSR for Corporates is not that of Govt. We pay taxes and make Govt, PM, Ministers, MPs' and Aduns accountable to us at elections and RCI's.

Where are the legacies of OUR Guggenheims, Harvards, Rockefellars and Bill Gates?

It pisses me off when our Plc's pass off open houses parties held during major festive seasons, undert the guise of fulfilling their CSR obligations!!

dpp
We are all of 1 race, the Human Race

walla said...

I have an old joke.

A physicist and a mathematician are flying cross-country together. Each is
keeping a diary of the trip. They fly over a white horse in Iowa. The physicist writes, 'There is a white horse in Iowa.' The mathematician writes, 'There exists, somewhere in the Midwest, a horse, white on top.'

DPP, whatever we say here isn't going to matter one iota to the prevailing condition of the unfortunates whether they be stressed mothers or single mothers or abandoned children or abused children or.....(we don't have all evening).

That is why a more holistic and comprehensive approach has to be made of which CSR is a minor subset which if properly executed can become something that adds to social conscience. For too long our society has been doing such things on piecemeal and silo basis.

What i have been trying to suggest above is to put all cards and resources together, whether they be from govt or corporate or ngo or individuals, so that everyone knows the real locations of the problems, the resources that are available, the ideas that can be pulled up to solve the problems, even the wherewithal of unused allocations for other social projects that can be rechanneled into priority areas. In other words, a more systematic approach to solving social problems.

Then we can put in the legal aspects, the shareholder interest, the branding as CSR today or plain vanilla 1Save tomorrow. Whatever.

Right now we have someone writing a speech, someone else giving the speech, someone else again calculating how much to cream, someone else further lobbying somewhere for something else. And then the project takes off only to fritter away obscene sums a year later without significant impacts to alleviating suffering.

We need everyone to know all that is already known here and there so that (a) accountability can placed because transparency can be pressurized, so that (b) efficient resource deployment can be made, in order for (c) the nation to sharpen its social conscience, which hopefully will (d) provide sharper and more pragmatic approaches to policy-making.

With this, you would realize i was not talking about what can't, but about what should.

From my first comment, i was going straight for the Big Kahuna.

donplaypuks® said...

Bro Walla

Permit me to end with agreeing we disagree.

To me, CSR is all about corporate money and responsibilty. I don't want Govt or NGO's telling me what to do with my or my company's money!

Govt is there only to encourage the corporates to give more back to society through fiscal breaks; otw, it should stay far, far away (Jupiter would be nice!). For me, the less the Govt involvement in this area, the more we will progress!

dpp
We are all of 1 race, the Human race

walla said...

DPP,

I would go one step further - outsource the entire jingbang rigmarole that is the govt we are having today.

Maybe i should stop commenting in blogs and just move on. Nothing has been particularly productive and it is creeping up that nothing will matter.

We will just find our own level. It doesn't look good.