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CSR Bureau

Selling handicrafts

The Privatization of Poverty Reduction through Sustainable Corporate Social Responsibly: the CSR Bureau

Poor communities have been receiving support from government and non-government agencies for decades and yet the truth remains that these communities continue to live in poverty. How can we help them to not only reduce, but to eradicate poverty?

Why does poverty continue, despite donor-aid?

Some countries have moved away from the perspective that donor funding will result in poverty alleviation, primarily because it has not worked. Donor funding has proven to be an ineffective long term route out of poverty – it increases dependency and does not provide opportunity for people to help themselves. It is time to take a fresh approach to combating poverty and transform efforts from unsustainable donor-funded aid to sustainable communities that adapt to innovative and resource-generating strategies.

If we look at what the rural poor do for a living, we see that they grow vegetables, raise chickens, pick up garbage or used items to sell, sew fabrics – they are engaging in business and are trying to earn a surplus. They remain poor because they lack:

(a) Necessary business skills
(b) Opportunities to receive credit to establish businesses

In recognizing this, PDI-PDA established the Thai Business Initiative in Rural Development (TBIRD) project in 1986, known today as the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Bureau. The focus of the CSR Bureau is to engage companies to provide a route out of poverty not by giving funds alone, but also by providing business skills training to help the poor learn how to conduct income generating activities more effectively. Linking private companies to rural development can take several forms. Some CSR Bureau companies provide resources to meet the basic needs of villagers in water, sanitation or other infrastructure. Other companies provide funds and technical expertise to improve income-generating activities of villagers in agriculture and cottage industries. Several CSR Bureau participants have even set up factories in the villages, producing shoes, textiles and jewelry for domestic and export markets, with PDI-PDA (through its business affiliate PDC) holding an equity stake in some of these ventures. To date, CSR Bureau has involved over 150 companies in 300 projects, bringing over US$50 million in resources to otherwise neglected areas of rural Thailand.

Results have:
- increased income and poverty reduction
- increased women’s independence
- stopped migration by increasing jobs in the community
- increased secondary school enrollment due to increased income

For nearly 20 years, PDI-PDA has helped to partner companies with rural poor communities. At the heart of each partnership is the goal of empowerment through the establishment of business endeavors. Partnerships have included BATA, Swedish Motors, Ltd. (Volvo), the German NGO Agro-Action, 3M, American Express, Ericsson, Bristol Myers-Squibb, IBM, Singer (Thailand), Ltd., Mobil Oil, as well as Thai companies such as Bangkok Glass Industry Co., Ltd., Dusit Thani Hotel, Nakornthon Bank, Thai Farmer’s Bank, Siam Unisys Co., and the Thai Oil Company. Each project varied in commitment and financial support.

Community-level planning


PDI is a 501(C)(3) organization based in the United States committed to eradicating poverty worldwide