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