Profit margin no longer sole focus for sustained private sector growth: CCC


"Social responsibility and corporate citizenship are here to stay", CEO and Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, (CCC) Harin Malwatte said. Maintaining profit margin is no longer the sole focus of the private sector when looking at long term growth, he added.

Malwatte made these comments as the Best Corporate Citizen Awards organized by the CCC celebrates its 10th year using the theme ‘Decade of Corporate Citizenship’ in November this year."Good corporate practice is related to sharing your business philosophy and business ethics, which will also benefit people, the planet and ultimately, profit," he said.

Companies which looked to take the fast track of development often did not succeed as well as those which thought long term, Malwatte said. More often than not, this was why some companies had dramatic changes in fortune- they had not paid enough attention to an aspect of the triple bottom line (people, the planet and profits).

Malwatte added that the Awards have truly come of age, with the introduction of more complex evaluation criteria. Applicants for the Best Corporate Citizen award must make their mark in environmental management and integration, value addition, employer, customer and community relations, governance and finally financial and economic performance if they are to be contenders for the top awards.

A special panel made up of experts in the field thoroughly examines each area of importance to come up with relevant evaluation criteria, as well as develop application forms for the awards that will enable the applicants to project their achievements. Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Dr. Saman Kelegama spearheaded the evaluation panel for a decade with many reputed experts from the areas considered for evaluation, Malwatte said.

The panel makes their recommendations to an independent judging panel which selects the winners.

To ensure impartiality, the CCC has opted not to request for sponsorships as a fund-raising activity from any of the participating companies.

"Every year, the quality of the applications and the projects has grown in strength," Malwatte commented. While initially the private sector only got involved in these projects for the ‘feel good’ factor, companies are increasingly looking at corporate sustainability as a part of their business philosophy, going to the extent of engaging with their surrounding communities so that the projects they initiate become self-sustaining, he pointed out.

A category has been introduced based on turnover so that smaller companies also have a chance at being recognized for their good practices.

"The Best Corporate Citizen Awards is the biggest contribution the CCC has made towards corporate social responsibility (CSR). In our own way, we have made it possible for companies to showcase what they are doing, as well as share their best practice with other businesses, inspiring them to do the same," the Chamber CEO said.

Apart from involving the community, some companies have also gone the extra mile, involving their employees in their projects or even adding differently-abled people to their workforce, enriching the community in a different way. "We have awards for companies that have contributed towards projects dealing with reconciliation in the North East, in the post conflict environment." Malwatte said.

Despite the many benefits associated with applying for the Corporate Citizen Awards, there are still challenges faced by the CCC. Convincing some companies to apply for the awards can be difficult, as these companies feel that corporate sustainability is already part of their business plans, and their commitment is not driven by formal recognition through awards.

The Best Corporate Citizen Awards is still a much-anticipated event, and it is an honour to be selected for an award, Malwatte said, adding that some of the winners have gone on to find recognition even at the Asia awards, or have propelled them forward to greater success.

"We are the only entity which is doing this in Sri Lanka, and we are happy to do so...We are looking forward to another exciting process that will culminate in Awards night," he said.

The CCC expects the awards to continue to grow in size and complexity in the years to come. Aitken Spence won the Best Corporate Citizen Award at last year’s ceremony, with Ceylon Biscuits Limited being placed runner up.

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