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Coming home yet journeying again: Personal CSR at its finest

Key Takeaway: The 5th Philippine Conference on Research in CSR held last 28 September 2015 was the culmination of a five-part program by the Benita & Catalino Yap Foundation that formally launched the concept of CSR 3.0, or Personal Social Responsibility. In practicing CSR 3.0, we are called to undergo personal transformation and always do more than expected, down to and especially the smallest actions.

It’s always good to be back home.

After a long journey away, when you come home, you feel the warm presence of true comfort and of belonging – albeit one that may have slightly changed¬†due to the things that you picked up or learned while away. It feels both different yet familiar¬†at once – and it’s a good feeling.

This was what I felt when I attended the¬†5th Philippine Conference on Research in CSR, the culmination¬†of the Benita & Catalino Yap Foundation’s five-part, one-a-year program that sought to discuss, take apart, rebuild, and revolutionize a much-misunderstood concept – that of CSR. Formerly called Corporate Social Responsibility (or, in Europe, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility), it is now known – at least in the AIM and BCYF sense – as Citizenship, Sustainability, and Social Responsibility (or slightly differently, Citizenship, Sustainability, and Responsiveness). This was why it was apt that the theme of the Conference be that which our beloved Chair, Mr. Antonio “Tony” S.¬†Yap, has been pushing for for the last three years: CSR 3.0, or Personal CSR. (The theme in full is “CSR 3.0: Personal Social Responsibility” with the subtitle “Changing the Nation Through Personal Transformation.)

After almost half a year completely away from the Foundation, it was very refreshing to hear the discussions that transpired in the Conference, as it was both a) reassuring that I was indeed on the right path (or so it seems); and b) fruitful because I learned so much more. As my very good friend says, even when we learn a lot, we always feel as if it’s never enough. That’s Personal CSR for me: it is so broad and yet so all-important that you can literally spend your life studying it and never really fully understand it – only attempt to live it out as much as you can. But if our goal is to be active cooperators in the saving grace of God, then that is the very description of Christian living: no matter what you do, it is¬†never enough, and only God through Jesus Christ can bridge that gap. Yet it is ever pleasing to him when we strive.

After the usual ceremonies, the Conference, organized in partnership with Isla Lipana & Co. (the operator¬†of PricewaterhouseCooper Philippines) and held at the Far Eastern University, began with the opening remarks by Mr. Yap himself, or Tatay Tony to me. He explained the background of the Conference, as well as his advocacy¬†of Personal CSR. He emphasized the phrase “Personal Transformation”, saying that if we truly want to live our CSR, we should stop making excuses – hence,¬†transformation, or changing for the better – and simply do it. We also need to go¬†beyond expectations, to do¬†more than what we set out to do. In fact, what even schools and the Church do is not CSR, because the things they are doing – though of noblest quality in themselves – are¬†their jobs¬†in the first place. CSR is doing¬†more than their jobs.

Photo copyright 2015 Allister Roy S. Chua

Photo copyright 2015 Allister Roy S. Chua

The first talk of the day was by BCYF’s Experts Group member and Executive Director of the Asian Institute of Management’s (AIM) Ramon V. del Rosario, Sr. (RVR) Center for CSR, Dr. Francisco “Frankie” L. Roman, Jr., D.B.A. – the man who conceptualized the BCYF CSR definition. He discussed a brief history of CSR, and how it evolved here in the Philippines – including the definition he came up with that Mr. Yap – with his permission and credit – adopted for the Foundation, and on a personal level (Roman’s CSR wasn’t necessarily personal yet). According to him, in developing countries, government cannot solve social problems alone, and as such business, in particular big business, are called to serve as their “proxies”. Since Mr. Yap had turned Dr. Roman’s CSR into CSR 3.0, the latter wondered if “CSR 4.0” would be about Social Innovation.

He was succeeded by Atty. Alexander B. Cabrera, CPA, the head of Isla Lipana & Co. He spoke about the role of corporations in CSR education, and believed that anything with vested interest is not CSR Рa nice way of building on what Mr. Yap had said earlier. He mentioned the importance of servant leadership and integrity Рeven more important for big business than small ones Рand that without the spirit of servanthood, one cannot be a leader; and that without integrity, one cannot be trusted.

Dr. Philip E. Juico of the De La Salle University spoke next, about the role of CSR in management and education. He mentioned that the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education (UN-PRME) – the institution¬†where AIM/BCYF’s CSR was born – must always be considered in this case. For him, principles are what keep us going when things get tough, and that education is¬†never¬†value-neutral; it¬†consciously teaches what is and what is not. Poverty is also something that cannot be dealt with by talking about it in the classroom – we need to¬†get out there and actively do something about it.

The last of the plenary speakers was Asec. Luis T. Cruz, the officer in charge of ASEAN affairs at our Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). As one would expect, he talked about CSR in ASEAN integration, the latter of which is a multi-faceted affair: political, security, economic, and socio-cultural. Because of the rich diversity across the ASEAN, he touted CSR as a community of shared values and norms – given that, for him, community integration is the solution to social problems – and that personal CSR is all about a change in mindset, values education, and the four Q’s: IQ, EQ, SQ (Spiritual Quotient), and FLQ (Financial Literacy Quotient). CSR is all about respecting and reconciling our diversity and using these different worldviews as well as the aforementioned shared values and norms to move forward and progress together.

Over lunch, we had the fortune to listen to a panel of reactors to the four plenary speeches, made up of five individuals representing the World Youth Alliance, UNESCO in the Philippines, the country’s national volunteerism association, FEU’s student council, and BCYF itself. The BCYF representative, Ms. Noreen Bautista, was also the moderator. Not only did they give inspiring reactions, but their very careers themselves were more than enough to inspire us to always want to do more for society.

Photo copyright 2015 Allister Roy S. Chua

Photo copyright 2015 Allister Roy S. Chua

Because this was a¬†research conference, the event would not make any sense without any research presentations – and in fact, this¬†raison d’√™tre of the event came next, with the presentations of CSR research conducted across three universities – in northern Luzon, southern Luzon, and Mindanao. The results were both slightly unhappy yet highly inspiring: apparently, CSR is not yet very well-known across schools, but when asked about its principles, they were all excited to see it spread. It was moderated by Dr. Patricia Bustos-Lagunda, now President of Baliuag University – one of BCYF’s partners.

To cap off the Conference and make it relevant outside the academe, inspiring CSR stories from BCYF friends were shared – but sadly, Experts Group member Dr. Raul M. Sunico, Ph.D. of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, who would have talked about CSR and the arts, could not make it due to his flight being delayed. The remaining three speakers were extremely inspiring and certainly left me raring to do something already – through this blog, for instance!

Ms. Chiqui Escareal-Go, President and CEO of Mansmith & Fielders, Inc. and mother of famous blogger Tricia Gosingtian, spoke about CSR for young women, and echoed the Harvard sentiment that this blog aims to channel most effectively: it is all about purpose, and to find your purpose is to find your happiness.

Dr. Cora T. Claudio, a BCYF project coordinator, spoke about the carbon footprint, and how to reduce it. Particularly memorable was her example of her “edible kitchen wall” – one that was almost literally made out of fruits and vegetables. She encouraged us to have our¬†own vision of Sustainable Development, and to act on it. This is crucial, because to have our own vision of it is¬†parallel to living out our own higher purposes.

The last speaker, and I should say one who ended with a bang, was Ms. Mae Paner, better known for her character of Juana Change the activist. She was able to make us laugh every single second of her talk, as well as promote her new book Рone about conversations with taxi drivers. She reminded us that we have to always stay vigilant, especially when it comes to ourselves. We need to be critical of ourselves, and to not be mindful of such is akin to social masturbation Рwhere we think only of ourselves, not of others.

As I walked away from the Conference that proudly wrapped up five years’ worth of discussions for the sake of personal and social development, I took into mind all that I had learned that day – and decided that, indeed, I was on the right path, yet painfully aware that I still have so much to learn. Though I’ve been in BCYF for more than two years now – the last half-year of which I was away – and have been subjected to frequent conversations of wisdom with my BCYFamily, I realize that, as we embark on the road to truly practice CSR 3.0, I am still just starting out. We all are.

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