Volunteerism and Corporate Social Responsibility

Dear Editor,

On Friday evening the National Coordi-nating Committee for the International Year of Volunteers +10 hosted a lecture on volunteerism and Corporate Social Respon-sibility (CSR) in Guyana. The lecture brought together a diverse group of stakeholders from the private, voluntary and public sectors as well from the diplomatic corps.

The theme of the lecture “Volunteerism as a strategy for social development and achievement of Corporate Social Respon-sibility by the private sector”, was selected in order to generate recommendations for strengthening partnerships, joint planning and programme development in this area. The discussion itself was led by an expert panel that included: (a) the Executive Director of the Private Sector Commission Roubinder Rambarran – who spoke on behalf of the Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo; (b) Entrepreneur and Social Activist Jocelyn Dow and (c) Head of CSR at Scotiabank Jennifer Cipriani-Nelson.

Collectively the wealth of experience represented by the panellists generated enthusiastic and insightful discussion on implementing CSR in Guyana. It was recognised that companies in Guyana are doing a lot of positive work. However to have a greater impact, it was agreed by the panellists that there is room for development, growth and innovation. An example pointed to the need to refocus CSR on community development.

Businesses were encouraged to invest in strategic initiatives that respond to local needs because this is also beneficial to their sustainability and growth.  For companies to thrive, the potential of human and social capital must be cultivated. One way for businesses to achieve this is by collaborating with communities through volunteerism. Volunteerism is recognised internationally as a best practice tool of good corporate social responsibility. Not only does volunteering enable companies to build their relationship with communities, it also provides opportunities for business employees to gain new experiences that can be brought back to the company.

The panel suggested these benefits can be accelerated with the development of a national framework that can support the coordination of volunteerism.

This could provide companies with greater support to implement their CSR activities through structured and sustainable mechanisms. A recommendation made during the question and answer session suggested that strengthening CSR should be one of the activities of the National Volunteer Support Platform, which is currently being developed. The Platform is projected to be an infrastructure that will strengthen volunteerism in Guyana and as such it will also be well placed to facilitate the development of CSR.

One of the central messages from this event was that both voluntary and private sectors need to work together to identify their capacities and shared objectives. The National Coordinating Committee for IYV+10 recognises the opportunities and existing challenges around CSR and calls on both the voluntary and private sectors to come up with innovative plans to expand this paradigm and its contribution to Guyana’s development. Ultimately, it is the country’s development that lies at the heart of each sector.

Yours faithfully,
Thea Shahrokh
VSO Guyana – Volunteerism Advocacy Advisor

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