Thank you very much for these very good and ample issues on CSR and conflict management.
1.The first question addresses risky operating environments for businesses.This is critical but it also presents moral,legal and strategic issues and in some cases, questions of the sovereignity of the nation state arise as well.
To answer that question, i will use the example of Iraq(now) and some countries during the cold war especially in the continent of Africa.It is obviously very risky to operate business in conflict zones.However, the lure of quick and immoral profits from the so called “war economy” that thrives on booties has always made it possible for coporates to oparate in those climates.This has engendered irresponsibility.In Iraq,the occupation armies of the United States and its allies have hired close to 200,000 mercenaries from countries like Chile and soldiers from the former apartheid regime in South Africa,Eritrea,Ethiopia,Uganda and former soviet bloc countries operating under the pseudonym or euphemism of “private security contractors” to protect crucial oil installations and secure CEOs,engineers, World Bank and IMF Consultants,businessmen and diplomats from attacks.Two well known componies involved in this business are Blackwater Security Services based in North Carolina and Hurliburton Inc.These soldiers have curiously been exempted from Iraqi law in a curious and wierd immunity provision in Iraqi law that guarantees them virtual impunity.There is also a problem with sharing the oil resources and the politicians in tha country cannot agree on an oil law.That is a basis of Corporate Social Irresponsibility.
Elsewhere in Africa,Chinese and western energy firms practise the same malpractices.This is evident for example in Congo DR,Chad,and Sudan where allegations abound of wanton looting of mineral wealth which is smuggled to rich northern markets and recently a UN report exposed how high quality timber was being smuggled through Central African Republic, Chad and Cameroonian dense tropical rain forests and jungles by rebel militias to the Atlantic coast and thence to China where it is processed into expensive furniture.These fuels conflicts and violence over the control of the lucrative “trade routes” for example.The story of Nigeria.Liberia,Sierre Leone and Angola are also well known.The costs of hiring these mercenaries and bribing militias has therefore been used as the excuse to rationalize irresponsibility.The now (in)famous cynical quote by former president of the World Bank and then US Deputy Defense Secretary Pual Wolfowitz that Iraq was so rich in oil that it would finance its own reconstruction if war was waged best sums up this attitude.
2.To promote peace in fragile enviroments, i would propose that Corporations:Adhere to environmental concerns tha can cause conflicts because of degradation or scarcity arising from wanton exploitation,Fully compensate any victims of disasters,invest in eco-friendly concerns that promote alternative and efficient use of energy,hire locals in their investments,pay taxes and support legitimate govermments.In the same way,they should desist from supporting repressive regimes as for example Tamils in London recently demonstrated upto Marks and Spencer shopping malls demanding that it divests from Sri Lanka because it allegedly did business with that government to the detriment of the Tamils.The best medicine of all to invest in development of the areas of their jurisdiction like in infrastructure projects that create jobs.They should also be politically neutral.
3.CSR is indeed an additional cost to business but a neccesary one.It is the same as insurance or advertizing.It is therefore mandatory.These costs can be mitigated if componies invest prudently say in job creation so that sustainable development that results lessens the peoples’ dependance on the industry and boosts the areas economy to ensure it can survive the departure of the business leaving behind a thriving city and not a ghost town.
4.Yes, investing in CSR helps reduce risks.As shown already, if businesses see ahead and are prudent, CSR helps build confidence with stakeholders that would naturally protect a business rather than let it die.For example,if the oil giants mining oil in the volatile Niger Delta in Nigeria could leave the place,how many ethnic Ijaws,Tsekeris or Ogonis,who have suffered from the exploitation of the mineral would regret the departure?It may indeed represent a loss only to the corrupt politicans,bureacrats and oil executives in Abuja.But on the other hand, the absence of a firm CSR regime has resulted into a bigger and very expensive but avoidable risks:The investment in mercenaries to guard the installations from deliberate vandalism and sabotage by militants,bodyguards to protect senior officials,including even the engineers who labour on site under guard,workers, and higher costs of insuarance and medical care to the employees who labour under risky and health threatening conditions,the stupendous costs of lawsuits,loss of corporate image and sometimes money needed to pay for large ransoms whenever hostages are taken,just to mention but a few.So just as reaserches have proved, investing in CSR reduces business risks.
Thank You all,