About a year ago, we were treated to a unique incident which involved a number of companies and a poor lucky man in one of the polling station in Kenya. As pundits put it, the poor man was somehow at the right place at the right time since his image was taken and used to depict the life and struggles of an ordinary Kenyan voter.
Soon afterward, many companies rushed to his aid and completely took advantage of the publicity created by the local media around the nicknamed 'Githeri Man, all in the name of giving back to the community. On the positive side, the Githeri man's life changed for the better after the incident. On the negative side, however, the action by the giant companies clearly brought out an image of a nation that lacks a detailed understanding of what CSR is all about.
Corporate Social Responsibility or simply CSR is a term used to describe a company's effort to improve the society in which it operates in. These efforts normally vary and are governed by the internal structures, mission, and vision of the company in focus. Ideally, CSR is more than just donating money or simply giving freebies with the intent of promoting one's brand; it is about contributing to the health and welfare of the society in which the company operates.
In Kenya, the laxity of the government to reign in on the operations of different companies and the lack of understanding of what CSR is all about by the citizens has led to the poor formation and implementation of different CSR activities. Basically, the situation is so bad that almost everyone feels that they owe the companies and thus have no right to demand them to make a CSR contribution that will impact their lives in a positive way.
So, what will happen if the CSR initiatives are done right?
In the case of 'Githeri Man,' many companies enjoyed the positive public image for only a short period of time. Soon after the incident, nearly all of them ended up being accused of negligence and taking advantage of the situation to try and sanctify their names and of course, image. However, if this was done right, the positive impact made would still be fresh in our minds today, and most importantly; they would have earned our trust and admiration.
For example, rehabilitation and provision of a reliable income-generating activity afterward would go a long way in helping him and the immediate society he comes from as compared to the provision of a two-day holiday trip or simply, a fancy mobile phone gadget that will force him to spend more in operating it. Ideally, a good CSR activity is one that offers a long term sustainable solution to the society it operates in.