Corporate Social Responsibility

I attended a Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR event for Small to Medium Enterprises, SMEs today. Clare PPN had been invited along so I obliged as it was only down the road in Doolin. I had no intention of blogging about it but given the significance of what I realised I decided to.

There is a national CSR forum and website. It seems like a great idea to streamline how we incorporate good social and environmental responsibility and policy into business. I’m not going to go into the dynamic that is enforcement, or lack, of the scant environmental and social policies that exist.

It was a useful insight into the thinking that is evolving about the businesses role in the employees wellbeing, community and environment. There is little doubt that the hosts, Hotel Doolin, are leading the way in CSR and environmental stewardship. Their ethos around the care of their staff, the community and the environment should be standard across the whole country. The world even.

My focus became the 2 speakers that represented rural Ireland for me – they were both discussing farmers. One was Fergal Smith from Moy Community Farm and the other was a CSR manager at a very large meat chain originating in Ireland, spread to the UK and supplying meat around the world. The CSR manager mentioned that their company are concerned about the isolation and lack of money for rural farmers. There’s no money in farming. Fergal also said that there’s no money in farming and that is a challenge the community farm is working on. However in the absence of a high economic turnover there is an obvious social windfall on the community farm. It was amazing to hear that isolated cattle farmers actually take a day off their own farm to join the volunteers at the community farm.

The CSR manager raised the issue of climate change and emissions. He seemed to think it was a pretty important issue that we should be doing more to address. He mentioned that 90% of the emissions associated with their food were on the farm side of the gate. They have a demonstration sustainable farm at a location in the midlands where they hope the farmers that supply them can visit and learn how to manage their farms more sustainably.

So I asked why, when he thinks climate is so important, he or the industry don’t voice their concerns and encourage a change of practice more publicly? Why don’t they join or initiate the conversation and collaboration? I mentioned how the media like to pit the “environmentalists against the farmers”. Yet here we have someone with purchasing power sitting on the fence cheering on the “environmentalist” while propping up the farmer, even the high emissions farmer fuelling the problem they care so much about, all while saying that they have the solution if only the farmer would bother to learn it by visiting their demonstration farm and reading Teagasc reports!

I spoke to him afterwards and we agreed that Ireland shouldn’t be paying fines for emissions – we should invest now. I suggested he tell government that. I wonder if his company will pay their fair share of the fines and I also wonder how much profit they make and who gets it. Perhaps the farmer should be paid more and the company profit margins could drop – surely that is good CSR. Funnily enough he mentioned high staff turnover too. Lots of questions in there. 

I was pretty annoyed at the obvious lack of real commitment to climate action and rural farmers. He said he cared about both. I question whether he understands either. Effectively the middle man is too busy making money to give a damn about anything else.

Theresa O’Donohoe

November 28th 2017


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