One more step in the slow progress of CSR in Central America

03 July 2017
Executive Education INCAE

In June, Costa Rica became the first Central American country to have an approved National Policy for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), one more step in the region's hard work to modernize its sustainability practices and forge synergies between the public and private sectors.

This is the most recent piece of news in the compilation of facts related to CSR, an area in which the region has made small but notable progress in the last 20 years, despite structural difficulties such as the lack of a solid institutional framework and the absence of a demand for responsible behavior on the part of local consumers.

"Companies as agents of economic and social progress in Central America", a recent study prepared by international consultants for ICCO Cooperation, reflects progress in CSR practices in the region, especially in the environment and human rights, although there are also some cases meritorious advances in labor treatment.

The vision of CSR as a space for philanthropy persists or, in better cases, of projects developed outside the business of the companies, but the positive effects generated by the growing internationalization of companies are undeniable. 

"Whether due to pressure from headquarters or possible markets in the northern hemisphere, companies in Central America have been adopting best practices and also infecting other participants in the chains," reaffirms Víctor Umaña, director of the Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS), from INCAE Business School, which brought that discourse to the region in the early 90s.

“We can say that there is a group of internationalized companies that have already been applying CSR concepts for 20 years, and an intermediate group of regional and domestic markets. Finally, the large business fabric of the countries is in very early stages ”, explains Umaña, in accordance with the study carried out by six academics at the Central American University (UCA) for ICCO.

Sira Abenoza, one of the researchers in charge of the study, assures that CSR continues to be an aspiration, something that has not been transformed. However, improvements are focused on sectors such as agriculture and services, especially those connected to international chains.

"There are reasons to remain optimistic," declares Professor Umaña. The new generations of entrepreneurs or managers bring greater sensitivity, a certain ill-reputed agricultural activity is now a leader in the application of CSR and there are incipient impulses of consumer networks that demand better business practices. In addition, the contagion effect of companies that are adding to strategies beyond philanthropy and the attention of the State, a key partner for business lines of action in CSR. An example: This month's with the National CSR Policy in Costa Rica.

Corporate social responsibility

Social responsibility is an essential example within an organization, as it has a direct impact on its profitability. If you haven't looked at it that way, this high-level program will give you a completely different view. 
Next edition: September 18, 2017.

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