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Grameenphone Report

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Executive Summary

This report looks at the corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and activities undertaken by Grameenphone. CSR is becoming increasingly popular as well as necessary in Bangladesh as the country becomes more and more integrated into the global economy. The importance which organizations, particularly multinational companies, have given to social responsibility is pervading the Bangladesh economy. Grameenphone is one of the pioneers in this field, and it has made some noteworthy contributions to the development of the nation.

This report examines some of these efforts and initiatives, including Grameenphone’s commitment to assisting Bangladesh achieve four of the eight the Millennium Development Goals, which are: • Poverty alleviation • Healthcare • Empowerment • Education

This report also looks at Grameenphone’s CSR efforts in the areas of environmental awareness and responsibility in the workplace. In addition, it provides a brief overview of the company. Secondary data collection methods were used to collect the data for this report.

It can be concluded that Grameenphone’s numerous CSR activities are sufficient and befitting an organization of its size, and its drive to continuously improve its activities is laudatory.

Brief Overview of Grameenphone

Grameenphone is a telecommunication organization which has been providing its services in Bangladesh since 1997. It is a joint venture enterprise between Norway’s telecommunication giant, Telenor, and a non-profit sister concern of Grameen Bank, the Grameen Telecom Corporation. It is the leading telecommunications service provider in Bangladesh, with over 28.7 million subscribers.

Grameenphone’s mission statement is “Grameenphone Ltd. aims at providing reliable, widespread, convenient mobile and cost effective telephone services to the people in Bangladesh irrespective of where they live.” Its vision is “To be leading provider of telecommunication services all over Bangladesh with satisfied customers and shareholders, and enthusiastic employees.”

One of the company’s most praiseworthy endeavors is its commitment to being socially responsible, i.e. the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of the company. CSR is seen as a “a ‘complementary' combination of ethical and responsible corporate behavior, as well as a commitment towards generating greater good for the society by addressing the development needs of the country.”

Grameenphone has so far invested more than BDT 15,260 crore to build the network infrastructure since its inception in 1997. Grameenphone is also one the largest taxpayers in the country, having contributed more than BDT 16,600 crore in direct and indirect taxes to the Government Exchequer over the years. Since its inception in March 1997, Grameenphone has built the largest cellular network in the country with over 12,000 base stations in more than 6000 locations.
Grameenphone has generated direct and indirect employment for a large number of people over the years. The company presently has more than 4500 full and temporary employees. Another 150,000 people are directly dependent on Grameenphone for their livelihood, working for the Grameenphone dealers, retailers, scratch card outlets, suppliers, vendors, contractors and others.

The primary objective of this report is to look at the steps Grameenphone has taken to be socially responsible and assess whether it is doing enough as a large multinational company with abundant resources to help the less fortunate. However, it must be acknowledged that there are some limitations to this assessment, as the Annual Reports analyzed did not contain sector specific CSR expenditure in the income statement.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Multinational companies are generally seen as ruthless corporate giants with little, if any regard to the impact their activities have on the environment or society as a whole. Despite having the resources to implement, for example, eco-friendly modes of production or waste management, they often choose to maximize profits by ignoring these issues. Recently, however, this sort of behavior has been condemned by societies around the world. Companies which have been socially or environmentally irresponsible or negligent have received a lot of negative media attention, which has hurt their corporate image and thus adversely affected their profits. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a sort of antidote to this form of exploitative behavior.

CSR is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. Ideally, CSR policy would function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business would monitor and ensure its support to law, ethical standards, and international norms. Consequently, business would embrace responsibility for the impact of its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere. Furthermore, CSR-focused businesses would proactively promote the public interest by encouraging community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminating practices that harm the public sphere, regardless of legality. Essentially, CSR is the deliberate inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making, and the honoring of a triple bottom line: people, planet, profit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_social_responsibility).

Multinationals often carry out CSR to improve their corporate image. Economic gain is one of the main motives to carry out CSR, as while promoting a societal or environmental cause, the company benefits from good publicity and thus is able to increase its own sales and profits. Many companies donate to charities, sponsor events, or carry out anti-pollution campaigns. Other more subtle but important forms of CSR are providing safe working conditions to employees and carrying out proper and environmentally-friendly waste disposal methods.

Corporate Social Responsibility at Grameenphone

CSR is relatively new—but rapidly escalating in importance—in Bangladesh, and Grameenphone has been one of its pioneers. Although many businesses regularly donate to particular charities, given the Islamic practice of “zakat” is prevalent the nation, it is often done informally. However, given the fact that Bangladesh is becoming more and more involved with trade with First-world countries, the importance of CSR is evident. There has been increasing pressure on national and multinational corporations in Bangladesh to consider the social implications of their actions (Belal, 2001). Grameenphone has been among the first to consider the social implications of its activities and has made significant contributions to facilitating economic as well as social improvement across Bangladesh.

The CSR policy of Grameenphone states “At Grameenphone, we live by the statement ‘Development is a journey, not a destination.’ Our work is not just about ensuring connectivity; it is about connecting with people and building relationships, based on trust, with our subscribers, business partners, employees, shareholders, as well as the wider community. We have always believed that good development is good business. While we maintain our business focus, taking the nation forward remains our top priority. Thus our relationship with Bangladesh is built on a partnership which strives to achieve common economic and social goals….. Our core strategy in this area is to be Bangladesh's partner in developing the country, particularly in its promise, as a United Nations Millennium Declaration signatory, to meet the eight targets known as the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We have consolidated our social investment initiatives in four core areas related to the Millennium Development Goals namely, • Poverty alleviation, • Healthcare, • Empowerment • Education.”

Poverty Alleviation

Grameenphone attempts to alleviate poverty through connectivity, or as it proudly states “progress through connectivity”. The philosophy behind this statement is that when a member of the rural community, for example a farmer, purchases a SIM card, he or she has “purchased more than just a means of communication” but opened up “a gateway of hope and possibilities….. that can steer him out of poverty”. It believes that through connectivity, a significantly larger number of people—over 20 million, to be precise—are able to access information. This generates significant business opportunities, thus facilitating development. It also reduces the need for middlemen, and assists people in making informed business decisions.
The village phone brings “both social and economic empowerment to the rural women as they take center stage in earning a living and setting an inspiring example.” The setting up of Community Information Centers (CICs) motivates people to invest in technology and “bridge the digital divide”. Cellbazaar, which is an electronic marketplace, contributes towards business growth by providing traders with the necessary market information.

Empowerment

Grameenphone views empowerment as a key constituent toward poverty reduction and a key driver for sustainable development in a country where 50% of the total population lives below the poverty line (defined as an income of less than $1 a day). Bangladesh ranks 137th among 177 countries in the human development index according to the UNDP HDI report of 2006. The lack of access to resources and information, and inadequate infrastructure are seen as major obstacles to the alleviation of poverty in Bangladesh. Grameenphone has taken an active approach to empowering the underprivileged in Bangladesh in several ways. IT has sponsored the Special Olympics Team of Bangladesh, which has won 71 medals in the Special Olympics Games 2007 in Beijing. Its CSR partnership with Ashokti Punorbshon Nibash (APON) supports the treatment and rehabilitation of the economically-disadvantaged drug addicts. The Information Boat project it launched in collaboration with Care Bangladesh aims to provide rural areas with internet access and more “digitized livelihood contents”. Furthermore, six acid survivors have been given employment opportunities in Grameenphone.

Education

Education is considered to be one of the primary CSR activities of the firm. It provides scholarships to over a 100 talented but underprivileged students annually, in collaboration with “Grameen Shikka” (an organization of the Grameen Bank family) through a scholarship fund. It also provides educational support to several special schools, such as the Tauri Foundation, HANS, CDC, and SEID Trust, in order to assist the academic achievements of some of the gifted children in the nation. Grameenphone is also a proud partner of the Enrichment Program of Bishsho Shahitto Kendro through which free books are distributed. It has recently initiated a CSR project to publish and distribute illustrated publications on the Liberation War for school-going children, with the objective to inspire them with the heroics of the freedom-fighters.

Healthcare and Environment

Grameenphone has carried out several other community and environment care initiatives across the nation as well. It has launched the “Grameenphone Safe Motherhood and Infant Care Project”, providing comprehensive services to all economically disadvantages mothers and their infants for free nationwide. In another initiative, Grameenphone launched a partnership with the Dhaka Ahsania Mission, a national non-government organization, to provide health services to the poor. Through this partnership, it has provided financial assistance to establish five wards and an operation theatre to provide cancer treatment to those at the very bottom of the economic ladder. It has also carried out mass-media campaigns to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS (collaborating with
UNAIDS to initiate the Asia Pacific Leadership Campaign on HIV/AIDS in
Bangladesh), promotion of tree plantation, preservation of ecosystems, and campaigned against counterfeit drugs, to name just a few of its noteworthy endeavors.

Responsibility at the Workplace

Grameenphone also strives to provide a secure work place. It regularly undertakes awareness and training programs regarding various Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) issues, to minimize accidents at the workplace and at project sites, for both the employees of Grameenphone as well as the vendors/suppliers. Despite the fact that the employees of the vendors are not directly employed by the company, Grameenphone relentlessly tries to ensure safe and secure working conditions for them as well. The majority of the victims of accidents at Grameenphone have been the employees of such vendors, and thus Grameenphone has commissioned a team to inspect factory premises as well as educate the vendors and suppliers on the HSE issues.

Conclusion

It can be concluded from this study that Grameenphone is committed to its CSR activities. It has launched a wide array of CSR initiatives, notably those related to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of poverty alleviation, empowerment of the less fortunate, provision of basic healthcare, and education, as well as the drive to raising environmental awareness and being responsible at the workplace. Grameenphone has most certainly used its resources to assist the less fortunate. Further research should be done to more fully assess the organization’s CSR, i.e. accurate amounts allocated for CSR should be examined and analyzed to figure out whether the amount being spent is proportional or sufficiently sizeable to the profits being made. Nonetheless, Grameenphone’s numerous CSR activities are sufficient and befitting an organization of its size, and its drive to continuously improve its activities is indeed laudatory.

Recommendations

Bibliography

Alam, S. M. Shafiul, Hoque, Shah Md. Safiul and Hosen, Md. Zakir , Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of MNCs in Bangladesh: A Case Study on GrameenPhone Ltd. (July 13, 2010). Journal of Potuakhali University of Science and Technology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1639570
Belal, A.T. 2001. A study of corporate social disclosures in Bangladesh. Management Auditing Journal 16 (5), 274-289.

Nimalathasan, B., Social Responsibility of Business: A Case Study of Grameen Phone in Bangladesh / Annals of Universityof Bucharest, Economic and Administrative Series, Nr. 3 (2009) 227-236

www.grameenphone.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_social_responsibility

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