Most companies approach Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as charity work that is not core to their business. CSR is something you do outside business hours, preferably on a weekend, and hopefully something that will not eat too much into the company funds.
However, this understanding of CSR has often misguided, because it says that the sole and core purpose for the business is to make money. The rest is secondary and unimportant. This brings problems when the company mission statement appears to promote a philosophy of improving the world and helping humanity.
Korea based electronics giant LG takes a radically different approach, by uniting its CSR with its vision of Innovation for a Better Life. This means that the goal of making the world a better place through protecting the environment and the health of the community is core to the design of LG’s products.
Moses Marji, the LG Electronics East Africa Marketing Manager, says the company has set an eco-friendly strategy to develop products that reduce environmental impacts throughout the life cycle of the products.
“LG has an established track record of standing by its green principles that goes beyond its lineup of energy efficient products. This is part of our Green 2020 Strategy in which we aggressively respond to climate change, enhance competitiveness through eco-friendly features, promote recycling, and strengthen eco-friendly businesses and to partner with other eco-conscious companies,” he says.
Such commitment to the conservation of the environment and ensuring product users remain healthy is rarely seen in most manufacturing companies.
In Kenya for instance, most companies have environmental policies limited to meeting the limits set by the law through the National Environment Management Act.
This means that the companies only focus on not bypassing the emission thresholds and ensuring that employees are working in safety. However, the design of the product rarely incorporates the priority of user health.
Recently, the social enterprise model of business has gained traction in Kenya. This positive step shows entrepreneurs are increasingly conscious of quality of life and health issues even as they think of consumer products.
However, the fact that the Social Enterprise Society of Kenya (SESOK) was only established last year shows that this is still a very new area of business focus.
Clearly, there are numerous lessons that can be picked from global giants such as LG who may not identify as social enterprises but clearly have a socially conscious approach to product design.