Senator Dr Shantal Munro-Knight is concerned about companies exploiting the “corporate social responsibility” umbrella for commercial gain rather than being genuine about philanthropic endeavours.
Speaking during Wednesday’s debate in the Upper House on a resolution to lease land at the Garrison to the Autism Association, the government senator expressed concern that some private sector businesses were using the guise of corporate social responsibility to engage in activities that benefitted them financially.
“When I [worked] at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, we had done a study looking at corporate social responsibility, in Barbados specifically, and what we realised was that we were not having necessarily corporate social responsibility, but that people and the private sector, in particular, were giving to areas in which they saw specific economic benefits.
“So they were giving to sporting teams because they can go and put up a tent and have their logo; they were giving to areas where they can have t-shirts, and t-shirts can have the logo; but very often, the big fundamental and deep development work was not being resourced under this notion of corporate social responsibility because it could not necessarily be seen,” Munro-Knight said.
She added that despite the work done by the Autism Association and other charitable organisations, they were frequently scrutinised in ways that for-profit organisations were not.
“They are also asked to operate in ways that question their transparency and their accountability. While I agree fundamentally that those are important things – the nonprofit sector has to be accountable, it has to be transparent – there is often a different metric that is applied to the nonprofit sector about how they use funds and about how they use public resources that we sometimes don’t see in other [sectors].
“I want us to yes, feel good about the work the Autism Association is doing, the role it’s playing with this particular constituency, but also to recognise that there is a larger context about how organisations like the Autism Association have to function within our particular context, and the enabling environment that needs to be further created,” Munro-Knight said, adding that they must be given recognition and “the space that they need, in order to have the resources to do the work that they need to in the big way that they need to.”
During her contribution, Leader of Government Business Senator Lisa Cummins proposed the creation of a framework in which all charitable entities become registered and have some sort of identity when fundraising.
She noted that over the years, there has been an increase in the number of charity groups seeking to raise funds, and Barbadians generally had no way of determining who was an official representative of a charity.
“There has to be a mechanism that allows us to be able to identify what causes we are genuinely donating to, and who is an authentic representative of that cause because it is so pervasive now – everywhere, everyone is telling you ‘come and give money for this’, but you can’t always verify what you are giving money to.
“I don’t want there to be a scenario where we don’t support things that are genuine causes because we are uncertain as to whether or not they are authentic,” Cummins said. (SB)