Thursday, September 21, 2006

Corporate Social Responsibility

Ernst & Young
Hewlett Packard
Avenue Securities
HELP University College
The United Nations
The Federal Government of Malaysia
Securities Commission

What do all these names have in common?

These companies and organizations are among the most notable names, and probably the biggesst employers in the Bukit Damansara - Bukit Kiara area, in Kuala Lumpur.

For some historical reasons, Damansara Heights has turned out to be the preferred commercial address for companies that want to be in Kuala Lumpur, yet avoid the downtown area.

Yet, this area is badly served by public transportation. The nearest rail links are those at KL Sentral and Bangsar. Looking at the new Rapid KL routes, only three bus routes serve this area: 617, 634 and T82. There is an odd Triton bus also servicing this area.

Can you imagine the number of workers who have to travel to this part of KL to work every day? At the end of the day, trying to get on a bus here is only the beginning of their nightmare. Buses will be packed and I really understand how these people feel in that packed bus when that bus climbs Jalan Maarof inch by inch.

They then have to join the already packed rail connections at Bangsar and Sentral.
This tacit social contract between the company and its stakeholders requires the company to preserve the environment and to make the community a better place to live in by reducing its operational footprints through socially responsible practices... If integrated into its business strategy, CSR can become a potent toll for the company to realise enhanced reputation and brand value, increased operational efficiency, improved sales and customer loyalty as well as the ability to attract and retain quality workforce.
Zarinah Anwar
Chairperson, Securities Commission

The practice of being a responsible corporate citizen has long ben an integral part of the bank's operations and mission to be the world's leading financial institution.
Zarir J. Cama
Deputy Chairman and CEO, HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd.
This was quoted from the recent supplement from The Edge, entitled "Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing Business with a Conscience".

So I find it strange that with of all this talk of CSR, these companies only like to talk about education, "nation building", the environment and philanthropy.

Here they are, these MNCs and huge-ass government departments, occupying prime property, yet they have done little to improve local transportation services.

Here is why I feel that CSR of these companies should consider public transportation:
  1. Many of their employees, especially clerical and support staff, travel by bus to work. Don't you think that giving them the chance to travel to work and back home in a stress-free environment is good for productivity? And how about them being able to arrive at work on time, or leaving later because they know there will be a reliable service all day?
  2. Many of their employees who drive would rather not drive to work, given a better condition of public transport. Driving can be stressful. Same reasons as above. I would rather be reading than think and worry about how to cut lanes to reach the exit at Jalan Semantan.
  3. Many customers would rather not drive to Damansara. Parking is hell. Have you seen those mega car parks outside HELP and Millenium Tower? The Immigration Services' only KL counter is that in Pusat Bandar Damansara. HELP has thousands of students. People need to fix their HP printers.
  4. Local transport. Suppose you work at CIMB. You think about what you want to have for lunch. And then you realize, there really isn't much choice if I don't drive. We have this "tri-lemma". The Jalan Semantan area has many-many offices, but there is nothing much to eat. Pusat Bandar Damansara has many-many offices, a lot to eat, but getting there is hell. Hartamas and Mont Kiara have no so many offices and a lot to eat. And many workers would rather not drive out to eat at lunch, because this means fighting for lunch time parking and perhaps giving up your precious parking space at the office?
Now, this is some sill case building that I have just done. I am not saying that every business should have a heart, what more a conscience, but I am trying to suggest that supporting public transport is indeed good for business.

How about all of these fellas, sit down together to discuss bus routes with Rapid KL and Bandaraya? How about building bus shelters with some of your profits? How about pouring money so that new routes can also serve this area? HELP, why don't you get these other companies to cross subsidize your local shuttle service and share it with the public?

Now, I suggest and hope that all companies, everywhere will re-think their company policies. Where should they build their offices? How should they help employees get to work? How can customers come easily? These questions are targeted at all, no just the companies of this area (and especially those named above).

I think that supporting public transport not only shows a good heart, it also brings in good business.


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