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Press Release


2008 will be year in which social innovation brings CSR into mainstream
corporate culture

INDONESIA (11 Jan 2008): Jude Mannion, CEO of Robin Hood Asia — an organization dedicated to helping businesses innovate into poverty — predicts 2008 will be a watershed year for the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement. It will be a year in which social innovation brings CSR into mainstream corporate culture.

According to Mannion, over the past decade, the business community has wrestled with how to define a compelling business case for a more strategic, meaningful engagement in social and environmental issues. For the vast majority of businesses, their 'benevolent' instincts have supported a raft of philanthropic programs and other social initiatives, which have been run out of corporate foundations or CSR or communications departments.

Only now are businesses recognizing that an integrated, strategic approach can deliver huge social benefits while improving a company's bottom line and corporate reputation. Companies can become true change agents for social good by adapting their products, services and business practices to a compelling social stand, but only if these are intrinsically linked to one's underlying business purpose. In so doing, they also create unique social capital for their brands.

In the absence of any input from the business side, a company's social initiatives run the risk of being sidelined or becoming chairman's choice projects that may wither away during management changeovers. Furthermore, the great pool of corporate talent, skills, expertise and creativity often resides within business operations. Engaging these individuals in developing and implementing social initiatives helps to ensure that these projects reach their full potential.

In a recent contribution to The Global Compact's Compact Quarterly (Dec 2007), Patrick Cescau, Group Chief Executive of Unilever, stated: “…for the majority of multinational companies, simply making philanthropic donations in return for intangible corporate reputation benefits is no longer enough. This type of support is neither sustainable nor scalable. Crucially, it fails to capitalize on the specific skills and capabilities that business can bring to bear in working with the public sector to tackle social and environmental challenges.”

Robin Hood Asia is currently working with Unilever in Indonesia to build upon the company's record of success in bridging the traditional gap between business and the social sector.

Mannion says it makes sense that the next social innovations addressing poverty will come from businesses in Asia like Unilever. 2.8 billion Asians earn less than $3,000 a year and 57% earn less than $2 a day. The business case for helping those in poverty is, therefore, compelling. “Those living at the bottom of the economic pyramid represent a multi-trillion dollar market opportunity. It is eminently good business to provide low-income populations with access to basic goods and services and jobs.”

The problem that has hindered progress so far this decade, she claims, is that each actor in the CSR field — whether business or government or NGOs — has a different worldview and their varying experiences and perceptions of how business can address poverty issues often conflict.

Nevertheless, the amount of daily media dialogue highlighting the plight of the poor around the world has created an environment in which business is beginning to address this topic in its mainstream business agenda rather than leaving it sitting on the sidelines of business goals.

Whatever social stand and direction a company chooses, the evidence to date is incontrovertible — true social innovation is good for business.

Robin Hood Asia is based in Indonesia. Both Mr Schlein and Ms Mannion are speakers at the Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility.

For further information:

Jude Mannion


t: +852 8170-0604


Oren Schlein


t: +852 8170-3065


Robin Hood Asia works alongside business in developing innovations to alleviate poverty.

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