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Mauritius first to force CSR
Published on: Tuesday, December 22, 2015
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MAURITIUS: Mauritius was the first country in the world to require businesses to donate a portion of their profits to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or government projects in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).Chairperson of the National CSR Committee, Danielle T.Y. Wong said this had been the country's CSR Policy since 2009 until this year (2015).

She said CSR is community-driven and a matter of connecting the corporate sector to the community.

"In July 2009, the Ministry of Finance introduced the CSR Fund whereby companies need to mandatorily contribute 2pc of their Profit after Tax (PAT) to the Fund.

"It means opportunities for corporations to use CSR as a platform in participating more visibly in the economic development of the country.

"The CSR movement in Mauritius has shown companies that responsibilities do not lie purely in making profits.

What is important is how profits are made," she said at the recent World Sustainability Congress, here.

In her Overview of CSR in Mauritius, Wong said then Minister of Finance had in 2007 established a legal policy for all registered companies to contribute a certain percentage of book profit towards programmes, as approved by the Government, that contribute to social and environmental development of the country.

"That was stipulated in the Financial Budget that year. However, not all the firms were fully adhering to adopt this good corporate citizenship. So this prompted the Ministry of Finance to introduce the CSR Fund in 2009," she explained.

Saying CSR is not new in the history of Mauritius, the National CSR Committee Chairperson said most of the Sugar States in the past did practise CSR "by having the responsibility of taking care of their employees and the community at large in the nearby villages for socio-economic reasons."

"In fact, the introduction of labour law (passed in Parliament in Mauritius) in the late 1940s was linked to CSR of the enterprises. It saw the introduction of sick leave, maternity leave, hours of work, hours of rest and so on. And the community development programme was deductible from tax.

"Work Councils were set up in enterprises to discuss working conditions and promoting the work-life balance at the workplace.

"And in the Trade Unionism Movement, companies were urged to consider the Human Capital as an important factor of production, and the need to humanise their approach," Wong pointed out.

Having said all that, her other take-home message for the Congress delegates was that there is a change in the Mauritius CSR Policy from this year (2015).

"While all existing CSR guidelines have been removed (as announced in the 2015 Budget Speech by the Minister of Finance), all companies are required to submit their annual return to the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA)," she shared.

In this regard, the CSR Programme covers alleviation of poverty, the relief of sickness or disability, and the advancement of education of vulnerable persons, according to the Finance Act 2015.

At this juncture, Wong stressed that what is more important is to consider Prof Dr Michael Hopkins' (Chairman of a Research & Advisory Company on CSR) definition of CSR "as being concerned with treating the stakeholders of the firm ethically or in a responsible manner".

"CSR has become all about shared value. Let us consider his definition that CSR is the Relationship between Corporation and Community with a Triple Bottom line, that is, a combination of financial performance, social performance and environmental performance," she said.

On the role of the National CSR Committee, Wong said it acts as a bridge and adviser between public sector organisations, corporate entities, civil societies and other stakeholders in the context of CSR projects.

Two other functions are to facilitate the introduction of new tools or innovative techniques in the fight against poverty and achievement of sustainable development goals, and to promote best practices among all stakeholders involved in the implementation of CSR projects.

In this respect, the Chairman reminded the delegates to align their respective organisations to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These are No Poverty, No Hunger, Good Health, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Renewable Energy, Good Jobs and Economic Growth, Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption, Climate Action, Life below Water, Life on Land, Peace and Justice, and Partnerships for the Goals.

"Between 2010 and 2013, the CSR Funds disbursed by sector were approved by the CSR Committee. The six sectors – socio-economic development, health, leisure and sports, environment, education and training, and calamities – are in accordance with at least five of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

"These are No Poverty, Good Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Climate Action, and Life on Land," said Wong. For example, CSR Funds disbursed to the six sectors in 2013 totalled RM302,562,367.45.

Currently, the "Lovebridge Project" in Mauritius is a national CSR project with the Government to take care of households.

Her role is to convene a CSR Committee meet to get all the funders together and connect the Committee to all the NGOs that could make a difference.


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