Whenever one reads about CSR in countries such as Bangladesh, we get a rather different slant on the role of business compared with elsewhere. Not surprisingly one of the issues increasingly being pushed forward is the private sector's involvement in poverty alleviation. There is of course a good reason for companies to think about this since poverty alleviation is important in maintaining the economic growth of countries and companies. But this article
argues that "corporate contributions through social initiatives, targeting the disadvantaged or the marginalised, remain minimal". So what is the role for companies operating outside of the least developed countries to get involved in poverty alleviation projects? I often point out to companies in places like Hong Kong, that they could do a lot more with their financial and non-financial resources if they redirected some of their CSR efforts out of a rich economy and into a poorer neighbour. But many are reluctant to do that and remind me that the core business case for CSR is their brand and reputation (which is linked to Hong Kong and not Bangladesh). But in fact, I think they are missing the point. I rather think that any company based in a developed country can do a lot to enhance its brand, reputation and trust in demonstrating that is can make a difference where the business case might not be so obvious. I for one would love to see a Hong Kong based company (for example) showing me how they have impacted on development in Cambodia or Laos or Bangladesh. Let's not forget that another key part of the business case for CSR is differentiation. Differentiate yourself by starting a community based project on poverty alleviation is my advice.