An inside look at the numbers and strategies behind the successful CSR initiatives entered into A Better Tomorrow™ CSR Awards.
Md Zulfiker Haider, director of the Department of Social Services.
"A lot of companies that provide social services have already registered with us but in the future, whenever a new organisation will apply for registration, we will ask them to focus on a particular area of the country's sustainable development goals (SDGs),"
Parveen Mahmud FCA, chairman of the Underprivileged Children's Education Programmes (UCEP)
Bangladesh is a global role model in terms of sustainable development. "But when it comes to fulfilling our SDGs with a view to leave no one behind, we still have a lot of work to do and it is here that CSR activities could play an important role," As Bangladesh is now seen as a lower-middle income country, international donors are no longer investing in the same capacity as before. "Therefore, going forward, we have to look to cross-subsidies, social enterprises, CSR and public-private partnerships to continue our sustainable development efforts,"
Major General Sheikh Md Monirul Islam (retd), the Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer of bKash Limited.
"Ever since the beginning of its journey back in July 2011, bKash has aimed to work in the education sector. That is why bKash focused on getting students between the ages of 12 and 18 interested in reading books other than just textbooks. If the students read books outside their school reading materials, they could gain multi-dimensional knowledge and become enlightened individuals," "As the education sector was our focus, bKash partnered with the organization which was well-known in this field. Therefore, bKash started working with Bishwo Shahitto Kendro from 2014. Since then, we have provided over two lakhs seventy thousand books to libraries of 2900 schools and colleges across the country,"
Dr Shamsul Alam, the state minister for planning
"The whole-of-society approach needs to be adopted so that all vested quarters can work together to benefit society. Establishing a single organisation or federation to facilitate greater cooperation between relevant parties could help the country go a long way in this regard. "Maybe this could be organised by the Department of Social Services as a yearly conference. What we need is a collaborative effort between all sectors for social welfare and to raise awareness in society about the work being done by all of these organisations,"
Mubina Asaf, Head of Legal and External Affairs at BAT Bangladesh
"All of our CSR programmes are working in conjunction with the government's SDGs plan. In our afforestation project, Bonayon, we have around 30,000 beneficiaries, and each year we distribute around 50 lac saplings," As for the company's water project, Probaho, it has established around 110 water filtration plants in 20 districts, delivering clean water to over 2.7 lakh people every day. Besides, it is not possible for the government to realise its SDGs without support from the corporate sector.
Mohammed Showket Iqbal, general manager for CSR and admin of human resources at Epyllion Group
"We try to ensure that our efforts reach the maximum number of people. Our CSR interventions focus is aligned with the country's SDGs," he said.
For example, under Epyllion Group's Kheya programme, the company provides education for its employees and their children through stipends.
Probhash Amin, head of news at ATN News
the issue is that the media believes good stories do not always make for good news.
"However, this is a backdated ideology and our perception is slowly changing," he said. Nowadays, positive stories are becoming more prevalent in the media and nowhere in the world do people live in equal social and economic situations. "Therefore, it is the duty of those living comfortably to support those who are worse off. We all have a responsibility to do this, not just corporations,"
AHM Faisal Ahmed, Chief Executive of Sylhet Jubo Academy
"The problem is that local stakeholders and beneficiaries are not always aware of these initiatives. Therefore, the visibility of their CSR projects should be increased. It's always challenging for local NGOs to contact and get the attention of big corporations working with CSR funds. So, I would recommend we establish a platform or forum where we can regularly discuss these issues. This will also help corporations determine the modality of CSR and for local NGOs and organisations to understand exactly what kind of issues the corporations want to work with."
Samir Mahmud, General Secretary of Sylhet District Press Club
"A challenge is that we are not always informed about the CSR projects in our areas. We only receive such information when the companies send us a press release. However, these press releases are often only sent to the national media. As a result, local news media cannot report on these CSR projects. The local media can play an important role here, and that is why I suggest that the corporate sector partner with local media whenever they launch a new CSR project."
AHM Hasinul Quddus (Rusho), Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Daraz
"Daraz is working with a variety of NGOs for the implementation of our CSR and Sustainable projects. We have a few potential projects in Sylhet that we are working towards, and we understand the importance of leveraging the local media to raise awareness about these projects. I would recommend that local NGOs and youth organizations create a platform through which they can jointly identify the most crucial issues being faced by the division. This will help to shortlist the most important issues that corporates can address through their CSR and Sustainable projects. Through this platform, corporates can reach out to these local NGOs and resolve the subsisting social issues."
Tanzina Tarique, Manager- Corporate Communications and CSV, Corporate Affairs at Nestle Bangladesh
"In Nestlé we perform our corporate social responsibilities through creating shared value (CSV) initiatives. As such visibility of all such CSV initiatives under different projects is very much required to foster awareness. To increase this visibility, we feel it is necessary to update the journalists regularly through an appropriate communication medium. The frequency of our CSV activities has been increased primarily due to the success of such efforts. The idea of creating a CSR Forum in newspapers is a great idea. It will allow all the different companies working with CSR to showcase their work. This type of forum can also encourage companies to participate in CSR activities"
MD Abdur Rafique, Deputy Director, Department of Social Services, Sylhet Division
"It is important to ensure that all CSR activities include the participation of the local people. Specifically, we want to encourage the participation of the youth, as they are the future of the country. The current registration procedure for social welfare organisations is difficult, mostly in obtaining the National Security Intelligence (NSI) verification. The new rules for the registration process are currently being evaluated, and we hope to make the registration process simpler in the future."
Md Alauddin Khan, Executive Director, National Development Programme
When a corporate entity approaches us to provide CSR funds, the overall task of setting up a CSR project becomes much easier. They provide us with a clear idea of what they want, so there is very little back and forth with project proposals. However, the task becomes much more complicated when the NGOs have to approach the corporate entities. Usually, the Request for Proposal (RFP) that is advertised does not contain all of the information an NGO requires to write a good proposal. The deadlines are also short, preventing us from communicating with the companies for more details," "We also need more platforms like CSR Summit and CSR Dialogue to promote the work done by various local NGOs and grassroots organisations,"
Tareq Islam Shuvo, Head of Strategy, Brand and Corporate Communication, IPDC Finance Limited
"Since a majority of the large corporations have their head offices in Dhaka, their CSR ideas are Dhaka-based, leading to inflated expectations about their CSR projects. Therefore, the corporate sector should fully understand the situation in the Upazila they want to work in before forming any plan. At IPDC, we use our social media platforms to disseminate information about our CSR projects. Simultaneously, we scout social media for local NGOs and youth organisations from whichever area we want to work in,"
Saidur Rahman, President, Rajshahi Press Club
"Due to a lack of training, young journalists cannot effectively report on issues plaguing their local areas. Without quality reporting on local concerns, we cannot gain the attention of the corporate sector. Consequently, local projects are unable to capture CSR funds. Veteran journalists should train the younger generation of journalists to write more compelling reports to ensure that the corporate sector has easy access to information about different crises in the various Upazilas."
Shamima Akhter, Head of Corporate Affairs, Partnerships and Communications, Unilever Bangladesh Limited
"Corporate social responsibility is a term that focuses on social responsibility. A corporate's role is to develop a sustainable society in alignment with Global and National development vision and strategy."
Dr Md Humayun Kabir, Additional Secretary & Divisional Commissioner of Rajshahi
"We have seen the impact CSR projects have had when addressing natural disasters and crises. However, it is time to shift the focus from a reactionary model to a more proactive model. An economy relies on multiple facets for smooth operation, one of them being the corporate sector. So, we should be planning our CSR projects with long-term development targets in mind."
Syed Mahbub Ali, Head of Trade & Planning, British American Tobacco (BAT) Bangladesh
"We aim to continue assisting the government in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Our 'Bonayan' project has been in operation since 1980 and has distributed over 110 million saplings till date. The 'Probaho' initiative has been working on ensuring availability of clean drinking water in rural areas since 2009. The 'Deepto' initiative has been in operation since 2011 and has set up over 2500 solar home systems in the Chattogram Hill Tracts."
"We have worked alongside the Honourable Mayor of Rajshahi to support and preserve the green city. When it comes to the agriculture business, be it in Rajshahi or elsewhere, we always try to support the farmers through different measures, from distributing alternative crops to ensuring the social welfare of their families."
Fazle Hossain Badsha, Member of Parliament, Rajshahi Division
"It is the utmost duty of the corporate sector to be more responsible with their CSR initiatives. Instead of waiting for NGOs to approach them with project proposals, they should take the initiative to approach local NGOs, youth organisations, political leaders and citizens. They should evaluate by themselves the needs of the area where they want to work instead of waiting for ideal projects to be delivered to them when they release their RFPs."
AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, Honourable Mayor, Rajshahi City Corporation
"We try our best to accommodate the corporate sector with their CSR initiatives. However, as most of these corporate agencies are located in Dhaka, it takes time for new CSR projects to be deployed in Rajshahi. If these corporations established branches in Rajshahi, it would make the process of procuring funds for CSR easier, while also creating more jobs in the city."
Rahima Sultana Kazal, Executive Director, AVAS,
"During the pandemic, Barishal has been dependent on its neighbouring cities and villages for food supply. CSR initiatives should be used to help cities like Barishal that are suffering the most. Only a few companies are conducting CSR activities in Barishal. Many of these organisations choose to start their own sister-concern for their CSR activities. A few local businesses directly donate instead of working in the framework of CSR. The CSR model helps achieve sustainable development, as the projects that work with such funds are designed with the aim of long-term solutions and development in mind."
Kishor Kumar from Dhrubotara Youth Development Foundation (DYDF)
"Youth organisations understand the local scene better than Dhaka-based companies. We can address the unique challenges of working in Barishal better than a project from outside the city. Therefore, we would be the ideal candidate for such projects. However, for some companies, there is a factor of branding involved in their CSR activities. This, coupled with their expectations from project proposals, makes it hard for youth from Barishal to apply for such funds."
Saifur Rahman Miron, President, Journalists' Union of Barishal
"A common issue with CSR is that big companies do not want to focus on small villages and upazilas. It is usually more beneficial for them to focus on big cities and villages and areas where their business activities take place. These companies should leverage local newspapers to disseminate information regarding the availability of funds, requirements for project proposals and other organisational requirements to the grassroots-level organisations. The newspapers would become responsible for holding the projects and organisations working with CSR funds accountable in the process. They would also provide the companies with publicity."
Jane Alam Romel, Group Chief Marketing Officer, IDLC Finance Ltd.
"IDLC has been working in districts and upazilas outside of Dhaka, which desperately need CSR funds. It has a project in Barishal that is being implemented by OBHIZATRIK Foundation. The organisation is based in Dhaka but has employed some locals of Barishal in their project team. While it is important to have a good understanding of the local region where such projects are being implemented, local organisations and youth groups do not always have the capacity required to implement the types of projects big companies require. These local organisations need capacity building training to improve their ability to propose and implement the kinds of projects big corporations want,"
Prashanta Kumar Das, Additional Deputy Commissioner, DC Office, Barishal,
"On behalf of the DC Office of Barishal, I would like to extend any form of support required to the companies that are looking to start their CSR initiatives in Barishal. We have already received offers from some companies looking to invest through CSR, and we encourage more companies to come and work with us directly."
Prof Dr Md Sadequl Arefin, Vice-Chancellor, University of Barishal
"We want to include capacity building training in our curriculums. Our local youth should have the necessary skills to set up an organisation and apply for projects just like Dhaka youths."
Syeda Rubina Mira, MP, Member of Standing Committee on Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism
"Barishal is ignored in the bigger picture of CSR. I believe there are enough funds from CSR to not only help the people of Barishal but also to help with critical issues in the city, like river protection. Corporations should become more aware of where their CSR funds are going, and if they are actually going to people in desperate need."
Md Saifullah Al Azad, Head of CSR, Olympic Industries Limited,
"CSR in Bangladesh is currently too heavily focused on the philanthropic dimension, with a great deal of emphasis on media coverage. Our focus should instead be on the results generated by individual projects. It is important for NGOs to adequately address risk assessment, background analysis, area and demographic analysis, future impact assessment, etc., in such project proposals. Otherwise, obtaining long-term CSR funds would not be feasible. Private companies should also focus on specific development fields within which they want to operate. For example, Olympic Industries Limited is working in health and nutrition, education and environmental impact. If companies set their CSR targets in advance, then it is easier to find quality projects that do meaningful work”
Sheikh Shabab Ahmed, Head of External Affairs, British American Tobacco (BAT) Bangladesh
"We are working with both private and government entities using our CSR initiatives. Our plan for this year is to address the huge drinking water crisis in Khulna by setting up water treatment plants in areas that are vulnerable to unsafe drinking water. Another one of our projects, Bonayan is working with afforestation, and for that, we are providing saplings free of cost to beneficiaries and institutions for creating a greener Bangladesh."
Narayan Chandra Chanda MP, a parliamentarian from Khulna
“The local projects in Khulna had played a crucial role in helping address some of the shortcomings of the public sector during the pandemic. When our public healthcare facilities were flooded with patients during the peak of the pandemic, young organisations helped provide them with blood and oxygen cylinders. The corporate offices of most companies engaging in CSR are located in Dhaka, which is why they cannot address such issues that occur at a district or upazila level. In this case, the government should inform the companies engaging in CSR activities of the challenges and shortcomings in different districts, so that they can plan their activities to address these problems,"
Saidul Karim Mintu, Mayor, Jhenaidah Municipality
"We developed the low-cost housing model which is now being implemented throughout the country by the government. If corporations participated in funding such low-cost housing, many poor people would have shelter. However, sometimes, these companies are too focused on their own benefits. Some of them are yet to start operating in my municipality because of issues around taxation. If we truly want to use CSR funds to benefit society and not just corporations, then we must change this mentality."
Swapan Guha, Executive Director, Rupantar
“If we can improve the public healthcare facilities for people, especially those who cannot afford private healthcare, then we can ensure they can continue to be economically active. CSR projects should work at the upazila level to not only solve social problems but also to create employment opportunities for the locals. Another critical point would be to increase youth involvement, as they are our future. Many youth organisations are already working in the development field, and we hope that companies engaging in CSR activities will work with such organisations,"
Sadikur Rahman Khan, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Khulna
“Companies could target long-term economic growth through their CSR activities by using the government's knowledge about the economic situation in different districts. At the government level, we are aware of the different district level areas where the local economies need to be developed. However, it is not always possible for the government to address all these underdeveloped areas due to limited funding. The big corporations and industries that engage in CSR activities should focus on working with the government to ensure this gap is filled,"
Antu Kumar Roy, a member of Dhrubotora Youth Development Fund (DYDF)
"Currently, all of our foundation's activities are funded by our members. It puts a burden on us, which is why CSR funds should be made available for us. If the corporate sector is not happy with our project proposals or lack of experience, we request that they provide us with an avenue to make up for this deficiency. I would also like to request more experienced NGOs to partner with us to help us become a more skilled and professional organisation."
Arifur Rahman, Chief Executive, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA)
"Smaller, local organisations struggle to avail CSR funds as their project proposals are usually not up to the mark due to a lack of experience. There are many youth organisations in Chattogram that are also suffering because of this issue. I hope that the corporate sector will allow them to avail these funds and thereby provide them with an important learning opportunity. YPSA looks forward to helping youth organisations such as DYDF gain more experience and knowledge regarding CSR."
Khairul Basher, Head of Communication, Grameenphone (GP)
"GP has been primarily working with SDG 10 for its CSR programmes, which focuses on reducing inequality. Apart from our regular social responses such as Child Online Safety drives and timely disaster response we have established platforms such as our accelerator programme for anyone who wants to set up their own start-up or organisation. The GP Explorer initiative provides a platform for the youth to develop important skills required for professional improvement. I would highly recommend smaller youth organisations to take a look at the facilities from these two initiatives to improve their capacity so that they can work with CSR in the future."
Farid Chowdhury, Secretary General of Chattogram Press Club,
"When big companies like GP and BSRM want to start any CSR initiative, they should use newspapers, especially local newspapers, to engage potential implementing organisations. We will also allocate space in our newspapers to showcase the work of local youth organisations, as this can help them gain attention from big companies that might consider giving them access to some CSR funds."
Ruhi Murshid, Advisor, BSRM Ltd.
"The current issue is that the corporate sector has to pay tax on the CSR funds that they spend. Such taxes severely discourage them from continuing to work with CSR. I would request the government to exempt CSR funds from taxation," she said.
Dr Badiul Alam, Deputy Director Local Government (DDLG), Chattogram Deputy Commissioner (DC) Office
"Many small businesses donate funds instead of working in the CSR framework. If we could establish a joint CSR fund where all these businesses could donate, the impact would be more meaningful. We also encourage small NGOs and youth organisations that are working locally to approach the DC office for any kind of support."
Aroma Dutta, MP, Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Welfare
"As Bangladesh approaches graduation, it will no longer be in the least developed country (LDC) category. As a result, foreign donors will slowly reduce investment in our development sector. To ensure that we are prepared for this scenario, we need to become self-sufficient. The government should incentivise the corporate sector's CSR activities so that it can become a sustainable form of social investment. They can do so by allowing the corporate sector to use a market systems development approach in their CSR projects. With the participation of the government, corporate sector and civil society, we can establish a self-sufficient development sector that will continue to thrive and strengthen our country. The corporate sector should also encourage the participation of youth organisations in their projects, as with a little bit of working experience, these youth organisations can become an asset for the corporate sector."
K M Ali Samrat, Executive Director, Participatory Advancement Social Service
"The major problems facing Rangpur are drug use, trafficking, violence against women and children, child marriage and unemployment. People who do not own land here tend to migrate to Dhaka to become rickshaw pullers. The economic situation is dire, so such issues should be the focus of any company that wants to set up its CSR programme in Rangpur. We should do our best to increase mass awareness about CSR opportunities so that more people can approach the existing programmes for support."
Rafiqul Islam Sarker, General Secretary, Rangpur Press Club
"Not many locals are aware of the different CSR projects taking place here, and a lot of them are not even aware of the concept of CSR. We try our best to publish news about CSR initiatives whenever it is provided to us. However, actively trying to find the information ourselves isn't always possible. The idea of establishing a CSR Forum within newspapers is an interesting concept, so hopefully, it can be implemented in partnership with the corporate sector."
Velayet Ali Ahsan, Divisional Leaf Manager, BAT Bangladesh
"We must ensure that our CSR activities are sustainable, as that is one of the ways we can support the development of Bangladesh. When working with our flagship forestry project 'Bonayan', we witnessed the impact it can have on people's lives. To date, we have distributed over 11 crore saplings free of cost and have seen how it inspires people when they comprehend the improvement that has taken place in their neighbourhoods. We must take these kinds of projects to the national level and encourage collaboration among the relevant sectors. Raising awareness about these types of initiatives is important, as it inspires others to also set up similar projects."
Christabel L. Randolph, Director, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Marico Bangladesh Ltd.
"Marico's flagship CSR programme, 'Strengthening Women's Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO)', started in Kurigram and Satkhira. The project began in 2018 and focuses on working with ultra-poor women. The modality involves collaboration between the government, UNDP and Marico Bangladesh. Collaboration is the key to ensuring that our CSR efforts continue to become more sustainable. When we started SWAPNO in 2018, we chose not to promote it actively. Instead, we focused on running the project for 18 months and analysing its impact. After seeing the positive results, we decided to promote the programme publicly. While it's understandable that companies want some form of promotion from CSR, I think it's easier to promote your project once its success has been established."
Adnan Imtiaz Halim, Co-founder and CEO, Sheba Platform Ltd.
"The guidelines for CSR usually vary from company to company. In many cases, companies want to work with specific issues only. When starting a collaboration with multiple companies, it's important to ensure that along with a shared objective, clear communication is maintained throughout. Transparency in reporting and fund management is crucial to ensuring a successful collaboration."
M A Matin, Member of Parliament, Kurigram-3, Ulipur
"As members of society, it is our duty to be socially responsible. The number of companies participating in CSR has been increasing, but many companies have still not stepped forward. I would encourage all corporate entities to start a CSR initiative, as they can play a great role in social development. The government has tried its best to collaborate with the companies working with CSR, but more companies and social organisations should come forward to work in collaboration to ensure our efforts are sustainable. We should also focus on using CSR for the capacity building of marginalised people so that they can become economically empowered."
Khandoker Faruque Ahamed, Executive Director, Trinamool Unnayan Sangstha
"In Mymensingh, many companies engage in CSR activities on their own. But if they want to address the local issues they should work in partnership with the local NGOs. In Bangladesh, NGOs have been dependent on funds from donor organisations. Nowadays, the number of donors is decreasing. Therefore, NGOs should partner with the corporate sector to procure the funds for running their projects."
Sharfuddin Bhuiyan Shamol, Head of Marketing, Transcom Beverages Limited
"Since most of the corporate entities are located in Dhaka, they are not aware of the grassroots problems or who they can reach out to for this information. Hence, I feel that the local administration and NGOs should take the initiative to reach out to the corporate sector. If we are made aware of the problems in areas outside Dhaka, then we will try our best to help them through CSR. Establishing a platform to bridge this gap would definitely make our CSR interventions more effective. Additionally, I feel the involvement of the government allows the corporate sector to have more trust when partnering with NGOs. So, I would encourage the involvement of government institutions such as the DC office and other local administrators to generate better CSR plan & on-ground execution."
Fakhrul Imam, Member of Parliament from Mymensingh-8
"Companies should first establish a comprehensive budget for their annual CSR. Then the budget can be distributed among the districts they want to work in. The budget allocation should be declared publicly so that all the stakeholders have access to it. Once the information is available, it will allow NGOs, the corporate sector and the government to make more sustainable plans around this budget. There should be a platform through which all CSR-related information could be disseminated among relevant stakeholders.”
Afser Nurul, Head of Corporate Brands, Pran-RFL Group
"It is always easier when we are approached by the government or NGOs to work on certain social issues. In these situations, they are the ones who link us up with the target group. This ensures that our funds are reaching the people who need them the most. I know that sometimes it is said that the corporate sector works with big NGOs only. However, we are ready to work with any local NGO who has a good proposal. This proposal should highlight the issues their area is facing, and also include a comprehensive plan on addressing those issues."
Ankit Sureka, Head of Corporate Communications & Sustainability, Banglalink
"Companies want to work on CSR projects that reflect their own visions. The objective of our CSR projects is to go beyond philanthropic works and empowering communities through technology. As part of this objective, we launched several programs such as IT Incubator, which is designed for startups. Since some of these startups have become sustainable and are creating employment opportunities for others, we believe that this is a sustainable form of CSR. When we talk about collaboration, it doesn't always mean a partnership between the corporate sector and NGOs. Companies can directly partner with the Government and other types of organizations with a common purpose for their CSR initiatives."
Jahangir Alam, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mymensingh DC Office
"CSR activities should be aligned with our SDGs. The government is working to achieve SDGs, but there are still some limitations. Therefore, we should use CSR funds to support the government to overcome these limitations. This will enable us to achieve our SDGs even quicker. Since the government publicly declares the national budget every year, I think the corporate sector should also disclose a yearly budget for their CSR. They can include district specific allocations along with the type of issues they want to address. This will ensure transparency and smooth collaboration among all the stakeholders."