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CSR and Sustainability

CSR in Africa: How moving beyond window dressing is now strategic

John Dramani Mahama: Fewer CSR stunts please
Guest post by Wayne Dunn
Ghana’s President John Dramani
Mahama recently told mining companies operating in Ghana not to use corporate social
responsibility (CSR) as a populist stunt just to gain public applause. (see article here)
Companies and
industry will be thinking ‘but we are spending tens of millions of
dollars on CSR’.  
Many NGOs will
be thinking ‘it’s about time the Government called them out’.  
Others will be thinking ‘the companies we are working with
are doing well’. 
will be thinking ‘yes, companies need to take care of all these things for us’.
They are all
right. And they are all wrong. CSR is a new phrase with many different faces
and too often little common understanding. 
And the tendency is often to put all of the responsibility on industry
to make it work. 
(My keynote to the U.N. Global Compact Awards Night in Ghana in
Sept 2013 spoke to the need for business, community, government and NGOs to
share responsibility for the success of CSR – you can see it on Slideshare here)
Businesses in Ghana
and globally are generally getting better at being good corporate citizens,
trying to work more collaboratively with communities and support meaningful
local development (of course, there are always some that are not doing good and
this reflects poorly on the rest).  
while they are getting better, many industries, including mining in Ghana, do
not have a good long-term history of CSR. 
And communities where the industry has been active for decades are still
impoverished and living with poorly functioning infrastructure. (there is an
important discussion around where industry’s responsibility ends and government’s
begins but that is for another post)
Images and memories
of years/decades of little or no social investment by industry stick around and
influence thinking, even when industry starts to be much more responsive. 
The mistakes of the past can undermine the good
works of the present.
governments pull back services and budget in areas where industry is active,
leaving a vacuum in the provision of public services and infrastructure.  Often industry is blamed if the vacuum isn’t
Often government and
industry are both spending on public goods like health care, education, roads,
etc.  but are not working together and are
ending up with very sub-optimal impact.
Sometimes advocacy
organizations, industry, governments and communities end up in positional
stances and can’t break through to reach common ground or find ways to
collaborate and maximize social and community value.
But, increasingly
there are good examples (and yes, there are still bad examples too)
Golden Star
Resources, who operate two gold mines in Ghana, recognized that facilitating
non-mining related livelihoods was important for long-term community
development.  It set up an Oil Palm
business development venture, provided several millions in start-up funding ($1.8 million by 2009), committed to ongoing funding of $1.00 for every
ounce of gold produced.  
The venture works
with the community to support and develop local palm oil producers, by providing
capital, infrastructure, training and support. The end result is many families have a sustainable livelihood and the
ongoing investment commitment by Golden Star means that it can keep expanding
and supporting more producers and families.  
In this and in various community health care programs they are working
with the German development organization GIZ, which has a clear and responsive
process for partnering with the private sector to optimize development impacts
from private sector investment and operations.
Responsible mining is becoming more mainstream
Newmont Ghana
recognized the importance of expanding the skills of its employees and engaged
an international training firm (SIAST) to train local workers to an international standard, and to provide
the workers with an internationally recognized welding certificate.  
While less progressive firms may have seen
this as risky (would the internationally certified workers leave to work
elsewhere) Newmont recognized that the overall value created by this project
was good for Newmont, good for the workers and their families and good for
Twenty-three local employees at
the Ahafo Project graduated with an internationally recognized certificate and
an improved ability to contribute to Ghana’s growth and development. Ghana Web Write-up
There are other
examples of successes, and, of course, many examples that didn’t work as well.
Even when businesses
have been spending increasing funds on CSR it has often not spent it with an
eye to creating community and shareholder value.  Too often it is simply throwing money at
social and community issues without strategy, collaboration with governments or
effective management and monitoring of results and impacts.  
I am often amazed that the same businesses,
the same people that are diligent and focused in managing ‘normal’ business
investments and operations; setting up reporting and management systems,
tracking progress, improving efficiency, etc. can forget all of this when it
comes to their CSR investments.  
CSR spending can often be very inefficient in terms of producing results, for
companies or for communities.  Lack of
strategic collaboration with other stakeholders compounds this inefficiency.
Creating value from
CSR, value for communities, value for shareholders and value for governments
doesn’t just happen.  It takes effort and
commitment from all stakeholders.  
Responsibility does not lie solely with business but with all
You can’t tax CSR into
creating value. It takes a strategic and systematic approach that facilitates
collaboration and optimizes value for all stakeholders.
Wayne Dunn is a Professor of Practice in CSR at McGill University in Canada. He is currently the Executive Director of
CSR Training Institute and is developing and delivering Executive Programs around the
world.  He is running an Executive
Program in CSR Strategy and Management in Ghana in April (
more here). He can be reached at
Wayne is also a senior associate and advisory board member at Innovation Forum, the emerging markets publisher and events business founded by Tobias Webb in 2014. The first Innovation Forum event, focusing on Ghana and sustainable investment opportunities, takes place on June 19 in London.

1 Comment

  1. Its so nice how CSR activities has been made mandatory, its a very good step on part of the Government. I was looking for a few articles on CSR activities in India and I came across yours inspiring read.
    The initiative to use social media online platforms to discuss Youth Perspectives on Development could be very handy if it could be nurtured in the right direction. Otherwise it could also end up just like many other discourse that has happened in the past. My views is on Youth and Employment, especially on ''impact of formal and informal education on decent employment.'' When we talk about Indian education scenario, we can easily find that most of the educational institutions emphasize on theoretical aspects of education rather than provide core practical knowledge to the students which is very much essential in the job or labour market. We can say that this is one of the main reason that even after getting good or higher education (Graduation/Post-graduation) people find it difficult to find their first ‘decent job’. If we talk about the ways to find solutions or strengthen the non-formal education then the government should promote vocational education which are truly job oriented in nature. However, one thing is there i.e. interest of people must be considered as at the end of the day their interest will matter the most. Whatever policies or planning will be there in this regard, it must ensure that the target group should be involved to make it effective and also people need to be aware regarding to the initiative or mass awareness programmes must be initiated by the respective State governments to see the impact of these initiatives.