The government, the private sector and charitable organisations should work together to ensure that corporate social responsibility funds are spent efficiently so as to support communities as well as the economy, said experts yesterday.
“At the end of the day, we have to ensure the value for money,” said Prof M Abu Eusuf, chairman of the development studies department at Dhaka University (DU).
He was addressing a discussion, “Dialogue on CSR Guideline in Bangladesh”, organised jointly by the Centre on Budget and Policy of DU and the Asia Foundation at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka.
CSR spending by banks has more than doubled in the last seven years. It was Tk 232 crore in 2010 and rose to Tk 555 crore last year, said Prof Eusuf in a presentation.
But the amount was only Tk 50 crore in 2009, said Manoj Kumar Biswas, general manager of the sustainable finance department of the central bank.
In the first half of 2017, banks spent Tk 326 crore in CSR and it would be more than Tk 600 crore at the end of the year, said the central banker.
Sara L Taylor, country representative of the Asia Foundation, said there were lots of CSR funds and these funds can be used more efficiently.
Shahamin S Zaman, chief executive officer of the CSR Centre, said a guideline on CSR finalised in consultation with the private sector has been sent to the planning division and would be launched next month.
She said the CSR activities should be voluntary, not mandatory so that more and more people join the efforts.
Prof Shamsul Alam, a member of the general economics division of the planning commission, said the CSR guideline should be approved by the cabinet or the National Economic Council so it becomes a national document.
MA Mannan, state minister for finance and planning, backed voluntarism in CSR spending. The government should not interfere and should only ensure whether the funds are being used properly.
MA Yousuf Khan, a former deputy managing director of Mercantile Bank and a board member of Buro Bangladesh, said his experiences in the banking sector show that the money spent as CSR was not free of bias.
“NGOs also don't spend the money in a disciplined manner,” he said.
Hasibur Rahman Mukur, executive director of the Management and Resources Development Initiative, stressed the efficient spending of CSR funds. “Our experience shows that corporate efficiency in CSR spending can be as high as 90 percent.”
Syed A Al-Muti, associate director for economic development of the Asia Foundation, said that the private sector uses the CSR funds to support their growth as well as the economy has to be ensured.
Debashis Roy, general manager for corporate responsibility of Grameenphone, said Telenor, the parent company of the mobile phone operator, has already committed to the “Sustainable Development Goal 10” to reduce inequality. Kh Rashedul Ahsan, a board member of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said more CSR funds should be channeled to the health sector to prevent child mortality and raise healthy babies so they can drive the development of the country.
Bazlul Huque Khandaker, a professor of economics at Dhaka University, Irum Iqbal, corporate affairs and CSR manager of British American Tobacco Bangladesh, and Asif Mohammad Shahan, assistant professor of the development studies department of DU, also spoke.