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Corporate Social Responsibility: What is it, and why do we need it?

Posted on 1/11/2016

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Most people think that there are two kinds of companies in the world – those who seek to benefit themselves (“for profit” companies) and those whose aim is to help others (“non-profit” organizations). But did you know that it’s possible for a company to do both?

The most forward-thinking companies practice something called “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR), which means having business policies and activities that benefit society.  These activities generally fall into four categories: charitable giving, volunteering to help others, environmental sustainability (sometimes known as “going green”), and ethical labor practices (ensuring fairness in the workplace). 

We often see this as a one-way street, where companies with CSR departments are devoting their money and resources to helping others and improving the world around them without expecting anything in return. But in fact, CSR has proven useful not just to society – it is also beneficial to the companies that practice it, and there are now thousands of companies worldwide who include some form of CSR in their corporate mission. 

MSELECT and CSR

Taking a cue from some of the largest international employers working in the Kurdistan region (such as ExxonMobil and Chevron) who have significant CSR programs, MSELECT established its own CSR department in the summer of 2014, shortly after the invasion of the Islamic State into Mosul.

At that time, tens of thousands of people were fleeing persecution, arriving to Erbil and other nearby areas by the droves. The employees of MSELECT wanted to do something to help them, but there were no organized efforts within the company at that time to guide them. Thus the management decided to form a CSR program – focusing primarily on philanthropy and volunteerism – to address the growing needs of both the newly homeless families in the region and our own staff who wanted to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors.

Some CSR activities in which our staff participated were sponsored walks for charity, Twitter campaigns, and efforts to collect donations of food and blankets for the refugees and displaced families. MSELECT also hosted its own “Charity Art Auction” with artwork donated by local painters and sculptors, which raised nearly $20,000 for the Rwanga and the RISE Foundations, both of whom were assisting refugees in nearby camps.

The SEED Foundation

Since that time, MSELECT’s CSR department has expanded to include a variety of activities. We have developed a particularly close relationship with the SEED Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that promotes social, educational, and economic development in Kurdistan. SEED is a small but growing local NGO providing comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support services to the displaced, with a focus on survivors of sexual and gender based violence. This includes mental health and social work services, recreational activities, livelihoods training and programs, and life skills classes and activities.

MSELECT has partnered with SEED on an ongoing, long-term basis to provide placement and staffing services free of charge, as well as office space and other administrative support. SEED’s staff are also eligible for scholarships to attend our business and NGO training courses, such as Leadership & Management, Human Resources Management, Project Management, and other MSELECT public courses.

A “Win-Win”

At MSELECT, our team has always enjoyed having a chance to give back to the community, and we are extremely proud to be supporting SEED and other local charities in these ways. We believe that CSR is not only the “right” thing to do, it is in fact the “best” thing to do, from both social and business perspectives.

Activities such as those mentioned above do benefit our society, but they also fulfill the needs of our employees who want to help others, thus accomplishing our mission to be of service and making for a happier and more productive workplace. CSR programs also attract new people to our organization – clients, candidates, trainees, partners and more – who want to work with companies that have positive social values.

So CSR is truly a “win-win” for all!