Between human rights and CSR

The issue of human rights and corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown to be a source of concern in Nigeria and the region of West Africa. Most companies that operate in Nigeria and West Africa out rightly violate the norms and convention of human rights when it comes to CSR.While belief in the sanctity of human life has ancient precedents in many religions of the world, the idea of human rights, that is, the notion that a human being has a set of inviolable rights simply on grounds of being human, began during the era of renaissance humanism in the early modern period.  On the other hand, analysts believe that the idea of CSR had it background from the days of struggle where court permitted the piano manufacturer to buy an adjoining tract of land to be used for a church, library, and school for its employees. In this case, the court saw ‘improved employee relations’ as a major benefit accruing to the company. Checks by Daily Times reveal that most companies in Nigeria and across Africa don’t always adhere strictly to the norms and convention of global human rights as it relates to CSR. Further investigation revealed that there are actually three categories of companies involved. They include some Asian transnationals which have little or no respect for human rights or business sustainability principles both in their corporate country of origin as well as in the host country. Another group comprises some (emphasis on some) western multinationals that apply double standards. Which mean, for instance, better employment conditions for their expatriate staff with same qualifications, experience, and productivity level compared with a local employee or when an environmental and waste disposal policies differ between their operations located in Europe or the United States of America and those in Africa. The last category is the large national companies who often do not have any knowledge of CSR and human rights. Speaking on this issue, Mr. Eustace Onuegbu, President of International Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (INCSR) and the CEO of De Bernards Consulting Ltd said: “as a matter of fact, a number of regulatory agencies in Nigeria do not have any CSR/sustainability programme in place. That means that not only the regulatory agency probably is inefficient but also the companies that are being regulated. We are currently working out an intervention programme for one of such organizations in the maritime sector, hoping that the change of administration will facilitate the process.” According to him, “As you can see, there was a need to sensitize the corporate community operating in the region, policymakers who are completely at a loss most times on these serious fundamental human rights issues and global best practices in CSR and the public on their rights. To achieve this, I initiated the international conferences on Business and Human Rights in Africa, which is just the start of a sustained sensitization programme aimed at making Africa a better place to live and work. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

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