Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sugar mills exploiting farmer communities in Pakistan

The country's farming community is being exploited by the sugar mills through irregular practices like low and fixed rates of the crop, illegal deductions, restriction to the market and unjust buying terms and conditions. This was revealed in a report 'Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Studying the Sugar Production Process in Pakistan', launched by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Tuesday. 

According to the report the country's farming community is being crushed by the sugar mills through exploitative practices including low and fixed rates of the crop, illegal deductions, restriction to the market and unjust buying terms and conditions. 

National Sugar Policy 2009-2010 aims at ensuring sugar supply to consumers at a competitive price and providing a fair deal to the producers and growers as well as educating farmers about the new and innovative techniques to enhance productivity. Unfortunately, no awareness session or training workshops have been arranged regarding the sugar policy, the report says. 

It says that very few farmers are loyal to the specific mills, most farmers opt to sell their stock to the mill which offers them easy passageway, prompt payment and better rate. The farmers have battered and bruised feelings due to delay in payment and deductions. Legally, a farmer can move the cane commissioner or provincial cane commissioner against non-payment by a mill. However, no mechanism exists for the implementation of this law. If a factory does not release the payment to the farmer after one year of the order, the commissioner can send the case to civil judge or magistrate after imposing 11 time fine on the outstanding amount against the factory. 

According to the report the farmer community voiced that the government is responsible for their problems and the government is not protecting them from exploitative and unjust policies and action of the sugar mills. The mills are legally bound to start purchasing and crushing from October 1 to November 30. However the millers prefer a delayed start so that cane weight is reduced due to drying, leaving behind high sugar content. 

Jahangir Khan Tareen, a senior politician, Shaista Sohail, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Industries and Production, Shaista Bano, Director, Competition Commission of Pakistan, Shafqat Munir, Co-ordinator Asia Rights in Crisis, Oxfam, Iskander Khan, Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA), Muhammad Imran, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility Centre Pakistan, Dr Abid Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, Qasim Ali Shah, Director Programme Development, SDPI and Anam A Khan, Research Associate, SDPI spoke on the occasion. 

Tareen said that the corporate sector needed to transform itself as socially responsible business entities for pro-poor growth and overall welfare of the society. "Thinking socially and ensuring the well-being of the stakeholders has the potential for a successful business," he said. He also shared the business model of his sugar mill in which he has integrated a business strategy with welfare of sugarcane farmers through micro credit and technical support. He said that he also provided technical agricultural support by providing funds to farmers for deep well turbine pumps, building schools and access roads, establishing eye camps in rural communities and providing artificial limbs for disabled people. 

Anam Anwar Khan, the author of the report, said that the sugar industry was the second largest industry of Pakistan, employing 1.5 million people. Imran Khan informed the participants on the concepts of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility (CRS). He said CSR was the effort undertaken to improve wellbeing of humankind by solving social problems. "CRS is not just to create goodwill but under CRS a company can also conduct energy conservation, protection of environment, protection of child labour and water treatment," he said. 

Iskander Khan urged the Competition Commission of Pakistan to play its role to end exploitation of farmers and consumers by sugar mills. He lamented that the sugar industry was still regulated through sugar management act 1950 and called upon the authorities to come up with a policy intervention to address gross irregularities in the sector. 

Shafqat Munir discussed trilateral approach of CSR involving government, corporate sector and civil society for effective implementation of the concept of corporate social responsibility. He also proposed CSR certification for corporate enterprises. Shaista Bano said that compliance of rules, regulation and law is pre-requisite for companies besides performing social welfare intervention. Conducting social welfare activities on one hand and involvement in hoarding, not paying tax on the other hand is violation of rules and regulations, she said. 

Article from Fazal Shar in the Business Recorder, 4th of July 2012

CSR Pakistan report launched

Politician and entrepreneur Jahangir Khan Tareen chaired a consultation and report launch organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on “The state of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Pakistan – an illustrative example of sugar production” here on Tuesday. He launched two SDPI reports titled “Corporate Conscience: CSR in Pakistan – A study” and “Corporate Social Responsibility: Studying the Sugar Production Process in Pakistan” on the occasion.

While addressing the gathering, Jahangir Khan Tareen said that thinking socially and ensuring the well-being of stakeholders holds the key to a successful and profitable business. He shared the business model of his sugar mill where he integrated the business strategy with welfare of sugarcane farmers through micro-credit and technical support. This, he claimed, had resulted in an unprecedented increase in production and profitability. 

He also mentioned other welfare initiatives such as providing funds to farmers for deep well turbine pumps, building schools and roads, establishing eye camps in rural communities and provision of artificial limbs for disable people. SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Suleri, also present on the occasion, said that philanthropy, benevolence and corporate social responsibility must not be treated as the same, and must be regarded more consciously. 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Challenges in sustainability and CSR, the sugar industry in Bangladesh

The CSR Centre in partnership with Prakruthi has conducted a study title "Challenges in sustainability and CSR, the sugar industry in Bangladesh" in order to identify the challenges to the sustainability of the sugar industry and the scope of CSR to strengthen it.

The launching was held on the 26th of June, 2012 in Dhaka. Ms. Shahamin Zaman, CEO of the CSR Centre welcomed the speakers Ms. Veena Khaleque, Country Director of Practical Action, Mr. Abu Bakr, CEO of United Sugar Mills, Meghna Group of Industries. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Interview with Viraf Mehta in Business Recorder Pakistan

Business Recorder Research: How did you initially get into CSR related activities?

Viraf Mehta: The reason why I wanted to do this was that in the 21st century, businesses are growing and civil society is essential as a partner.

I knew my place would be in a type of place where I would be discussing development with business or the business of development.

I wanted Tata to be doing great in every business that it is in, but at the same time I wanted it to deliver and understand what the socio-ethical and environmental commitments demand.

Having worked with the industry and NGO, it made me able to work with the government very closely, take up different projects with companies, cross sector partnership for the first time in India where the NGOs and companies would work jointly for the social cause.

Read the complete interview here

Friday, 13 April 2012

Interview with Pramod John in Business Recorder Pakistan

Business Recorder: Now Prakruthi is reporting on CSR activities taking place not just in India, but in Pakistan and other countries of the region.

How did this role emerge?

Pramod John: The activities that any company performs have myriad affects on the environment and the society around them. Many companies are cognisant of this impact and many others are not. The understanding and practice of CSR activities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are all at very different levels. Similarly there may be very different levels of compliance for a similar operation, product or service within these countries and across borders.

So we realised that cross border learning in the region can really help all corporations improve their business models in terms of their impact on the environment, the impact on society and the impact on the company's own gains.

Another incentive for us was that we had already started developing expertise in some sectors such as sugar. We realised that sugar is not just a major source of income for many farmers in India but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh. So by sharing these experiences with organisations in other countries we could help people in other countries reaping similar gains.

You can read the complete interview here

Monday, 9 April 2012

Corporate Conscience report in the news

Remember Financial Management 101, back in school - profit maximisation is the sole motive of a typical firm, we were taught. And that we see mostly around, especially when it comes to the SME sector.

Yes, any business is to work on driving maximum economic benefits, rest fall in the domain of philanthropy. Nonetheless, its a myopic view - a short term approach, not sustainable over decades.

For any business to prosper in the long run; it needs to focus on social and environmental returns in addition to economic returns.

You can read the complete article here

Friday, 6 April 2012

SANSAR multi-stakeholder discussion document: Sugar industry in Pakistan

This research aims to understand the dynamics of CSR in the sugar production sector in Pakistan. It examines the sugar arena and attempts to verify the barriers to CSR implementation. The sugar sector plays a vital role in Pakistan's economy. Key stakeholders have been interviewed to understand the value chain and its governance. The sector is analyzed on various levels: structural, environmental and developmental, to establish a framework for understanding the fragile relationship between farmers and millers and the existing policy and governance gap. SDPI will bring together the main stakeholders in the sector to discuss this study and develop a common approach to promote sustainable sugarcane and sugar production in Pakistan.