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What’s the business of business?

January 12, 2011
Map of Nigeria

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a push by companies to “do well, by doing good”.  Sunil Mittal, the CEO of Airtel reckons doing social good is wired into his company’s DNA (thanks for unleashing the mobile-phone price war and widerrrr coverrrage in Naija).  Mr Mital also argues for a reduction in the tax telcos pay. Hmm.

Kiva, a microfinance institution, was profiled in a new book “Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business.” (read a review here).  Chevron has an ongoing campaign with slogans like “Big oil should support small business. We agree”. IBM Corporate Service Corps is an initiative that mimics the Peace Corps (see story here). Its best and brightest are signing up to serve in Africa and Asia.

Nonetheless, I hold a strong opinion that the first CSR of local and multinational companies in emerging countries like Nigeria is toprovide jobs that pay living wages. There are not enough businesses in Nigeria. Focusing on “CSR projects” is cheap (see Companies aren’t charities).

If government does its bit: public investment in education and health, companies will eventually come round to genuine CSR work. Primarily because their staff will demand it and future employees will consider such things as a criteria for working there — companies will comply in order to attract and retain healthy and well-educated staff.

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