Resource Rich – Language Poor

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Note: Stick with me as I lay into the language vultures who want us to be deceived by what they say rather than what they do. I won’t name names because I’m worried about being ‘downsized’, but I’ll leave a slew of clues if you want verification of who I’m not naming.

One afternoon a Member of Parliament was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop and he got out to investigate.

He asked one man, “Why are you eating grass?”
“We don”t have any money for food,” the poor man replied. “We have to eat grass.”
“Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I’ll feed you,” the MP said.
“But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree.”
“Bring them along,” the MP replied. Turning to the other poor man he said, “You come with us, also.”
The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, “But sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!”
“Bring them all, as well,” the MP answered
They all got in the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine was.
Once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the MP and said, “Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us with you.”
The MP replied, “Glad to do it. You’ll really love my place…the grass is almost a foot high.”

Every so often the Jakarta Daily carries a ‘Supplement’ or ‘Special Issue’ devoted to Corporate Social Responsibility’. These are in fact nothing but advertisements, as anyone prepared to plough through the verbiage can discover.

The implementation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is decidedly on the real or tangible steps of a company that applies good corporate governance (GCG).

“Real” or “tangible”? Tangible means visible, able to be touched etc., i.e. real.

It continues thus: The GCG includes a number of related pillars, namely transparency and accountability by a company’s responsible and professional management as well as its owners for the sake of all concerned stakeholders.The public in general, including consumers who are an inseparable part of a company’s existence, will always demand that a company’s operations are clean and friendly.

This is a glorification of the Singapore-based company’s rehabilitation of “degraded peatland” in South Sumatra.

In 2007, Indonesia was the first country to enact legislation, Law No. 40 of 2007 concerning Limited Liability Companies, making it compulsory for businesses to have CSR written into their practices “because of the lack of understanding of CSR among Indonesian business people – evident by their non-observance of existing laws on the environment.”

Yet, in 2008, PT Lapindo Brantas was awarded a blue ranking “for complying with environmental standards set by the government”? Lapindo, it will be recalled, is generally blamed for the Sidoarjo mudflow which erupted in May 2006, and is still continuing with many victims still awaiting the (presidential) mandated compensation.

Obviously this needed reinforcement, so on 4th April 2012 the Indonesian government promulgated Government Regulation No. 47 of 2012 concerning Social and Environmental Responsibility of Limited Liability Companies (‘GR 47/2012’).

This “stipulates that all companies that manage or utilise natural resources or that impact natural resources are required to bear a social and environmental responsibility which is harmonious and balanced with the surroundings and the local society according to the values, norms and culture of that society. Obligations include the preservation of the function of the environment pursuant to the law along with its implementing regulation regarding natural resources or matters pertaining to natural resources as well as the ethics of running a company. In addition, this regulation also stipulates that CSR is required to be practiced both inside and outside the company.”

So, is CSR just about the environment? Is that why a major tobacco company, whose products I’m addicted to, have a programme to plant trees along Java’s north coast road, rather than finding an alternative crop for their farmer suppliers?

References to CSR in company brochures et al have focussed on the needs of “stakeholders”, employees being excluded, and rare are the mentions of customers.

Yes, they acknowledge environment concerns and realise that local communities have needs. But CSR should not be about planting a few trees which have the company logo affixed or by having a fund containing a nominal amount which is doled out to retiring workers so that they can open a warung selling cigarettes and sachets of shampoo to supplement their meagre pensions, if they get one.

It’s primarily about facing up to one’s responsibilities towards one’s employees and the families they support, about respect for one’s fellows in what is termed the human race. Unfortunately, too many employers understand ‘race’ to mean ‘me first’. Those companies which do practice corporate social responsibility don’t need, and didn’t need legislation telling them what and how they should conduct their businesses.

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Terry Collins is the co-author of Culture Shock! Jakarta and writes the Jakartass blog.


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