Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) has over time become one of the standard business practices of profit-making organizations. A company’s commitment to the notion of shared value can be observed and measured by how much it gives back to the community and, ultimately, its people. Globally, companies have adopted CSR as a crucial component of strategy and reputation. To this end, Farmer & Hogue, highlighted that, “in defining CSR programs, shareholders and managers should choose those actions that will maximize the welfare of the community by providing the desired goods and services while minimizing financial, social and environmental costs.”
In Zambia, the concept of CSR can be termed to still be in development stage with most corporates engaged more in philanthropy than social investment whose end goal is to transform situations and lives in a way that makes the recipients sustainable. The goal of CSR in its purest form is not to hand out something for today only but to invest in something that will continue to earn a return for the beneficiary. CSR should be about elevating circumstances, creating and giving opportunities to sustain people into the future, even when that corporate is no longer present. A company’s financial and commercial goals should be able to co-exist with its social goals.
There has been growing concern amongst citizens in Zambia about the responsibilities and commitment of large investment companies such as the mines towards the environment and the welfare of the communities where they operate. Evidence indicates that while mining firms have made significantly large profits, the communities they operate in remain poor, underdeveloped and with a large part of the population, particularly young people, unemployed or without any means of earning a decent income, if at all.
There are companies that have evidently shown a CSR philosophy along the lines earlier stated. The ones that do not only give handouts but also make tangible investment in people, in contrast to the aforementioned approach widely practiced among companies in Zambia today.
Among those less sung heroes of CSR is the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), which has shone as a beacon of light and hope in equitably distributing the resources it generates. It may be known to a large number of citizens that CEC sponsors the Power Dynamos Football Club. What may not be well known is that of all the football clubs on the Copperbelt, only Power Dynamos has enjoyed consistent, high quality sponsorship from its formation in 1971 to date, by the same company. After the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), which gave a lot to sports development in this country, was privatized in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Copperbelt Province experienced a different wave of change through football misfortune as the mine owners did away with putting financial resources into football and sporting facilities. Not so for Power Dynamos – CEC took on the responsibility and has spent millions of dollars (about $10 million in the last 5 years alone) on the club.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the fore what most companies value as their biggest priorities and significantly, the value they place on the community. On 19 May 2020, CEC donated 4,000 test kits and reagents valued at K1.7 million to the Zambian government towards the fight against Covid-19. This is not the only assistance the company has given towards the cause. In deciding to give both at national and localized level, CEC has in addition to the test kits given personal protective equipment and sanitary supplies to frontline healthcare staff and members of the public alike, and has not confined its assistance to its operational areas on the Copperbelt.
In the words of the company, there would be no business if the health of people doing business was compromised. The aforementioned gesture, particularly in these unprecedented Covid-19 times that have shaken financial markets and resulted in most companies focusing on financial survival, undoubtedly showcases CEC’s corporate values and commitment to community involvement and engagement. A testament to the company’s sustainability mission: “We invest in education, health, sport and recreation, environmental stewardship, infrastructure development and young people – all causes and projects that make a difference to the people of Zambia. We recognize and support the passion and drive of our employees to be valued participants in their communities, providing volunteering opportunities.”
It’s worth noting that this reputation goes beyond the recent pandemic. These significant acts of good will and shared value creation amongst stakeholders has been demonstrated for over 6 decades. Examples are plentiful, including a notable recent partnership with the First Lady of Zambia, Mrs. Esther Lungu and her Esther Lungu Foundation Trust aimed at providing medical equipment and supplies to health facilities in the country. It is also significant that the company does not confine its social investments to health and football but covers a broad range of social sectors including the environment, education and infrastructure. Embracing its responsibility to ensure its development projects do not disadvantage communities, CEC has constructed 114 three bedroomed houses in senior chief Sailunga’s area of North-Western Province for people that were displaced from its Kabompo Gorge Hydro Electric power station project site.
CEC has demonstrated its commitment to the Zambian people in numerous ways such as having over 4000 individual Zambians as shareholders and the number increasing when those with indirect shareholding through pension funds are added, being a dependable taxpayer and making extensive social, economic and environmental investments in the community. Evidently, the Company has shown strong desire and consistency in giving back to the communities where it operates and serves, and significantly creating positive impact on these communities.
This is the hallmark and summation of CSR – creating sustainable and meaningful value and opportunities for communities, employees, business owners and other stakeholders.
These efforts amongst many others underline the emphasis and commitment that CEC attaches to its social responsibility towards improving the lives of the people they serve and building communities where they operate and work.
Chewe Fredrik Mulenga is an Atlas Corps Fellow and Chevening Scholar. He is from Kafue and currently lives in Washington DC, USA.