Spotlight on business in Peru – Towards a more socially responsible society

Founded in 1994, Peru 2021 is a non-profit initiative that promotes corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Peru. It has now been embraced by 25 leading companies, mainly multinationals, in the food and beverage industry and the mining sector.

Peru 2021 was first conceived in 1992, but owing to the financial and political instability of the country at that time, it was not founded until two years later. Its name evokes the 200th anniversary of Peru’s independence from Spain in 1821.

During the past decade, Peru has taken a big step forward towards a more socially responsible society. In 1998, with the support of the Kellogg Foundation and AVINA, Peru 2021 started to study CSR in businesses around the country, and an index was created to rank these companies. This ranking provided the basis for the first CSR award, which has done much to generate awareness and a desire to embrace CSR among Peruvian business leaders. The award ceremony takes place every year during Peru 2021’s annual symposium.

A growing interest in CSR

The growing interest in CSR is evidenced in the numerous articles on the subject that appear in the magazines of organizations such as Sociedad Peruana de Comercio Exterior (COMEX), Sociedad Nacional de Mineria (SNMPE), Sociedad Nacional de Industrias (SIN) and Asociacion de Exportadores (ADEX). Henry Day, a past president of Peru 2021, had a weekly column on the subject in the business section of El Comercio, Peru’s main newspaper.

Training is another piece of the puzzle. In 1998, a project called ‘Cadena Productiva’ developed a way to train 40 businesses so they could get the ISO 14000 certification (Environmental Management Systems). This project continues on an ongoing basis thanks to the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Although this training does not focus on making companies socially responsible, it contributes to a better understanding of environmental management.

Between 1999 and 2000, and thanks to the support of a Peru 2021 CSR committee, the Institute of Social Responsibility (IRS) was formed. The IRS consists mainly of business leaders, although the board does include representatives of non-profit organizations and members of the Universidad del Pacífico.

Under the leadership of Enrique Zevallos, Peru 2021 director, the IRS produced a guide to train businesses on strategies for adopting CSR. Two years ago, IRS members formulated a project called ‘Peru al Mundo’ with the support of the Carl Duisenberg Gesellschaft (CDG) Foundation. This project trains entrepreneurs so they can obtain environmental and labour certification and improve their chances of positioning their products in the German market.

Between 2000 and 2001, the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), under the leadership of John Youle, helped strengthen interest in CSR among those associated with the organization.

Overcoming the hurdles

Despite these advances, Peru 2021 still needs to overcome the hurdles that are impeding business leaders – especially those in the informal sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of the market – from making a long-term commitment to CSR, including protection of the environment.

In a country plagued with social and economic ills, there are various reasons why business leaders are often reluctant to commit themselves to CSR. These include scepticism about a favourable outcome for their efforts, the connotations of philanthropy, and the fear that they will need to spend considerable time and effort on this new venture, perhaps risking, they believe, their level of productivity. Likewise, establishing contacts within groups of emerging entrepreneurs in the informal sector has been difficult since these people are not members of the major business associations but rather operate informally outside any organized structure.

Business leaders in Peru are mostly not too familiar with the idea of social responsibility, nor do they have in their business teams people with CSR experience. Those who are more familiar with it, on the other hand, need to further internalize the concept in their organizations. That is why Peru 2021 has signed an alliance with IDB in order to sensitize and train Peruvian leaders during 2004 and 2005.

Media campaigns are undoubtedly another way to help business leaders refrain from thinking in the short term and instead work strategically as a group to build a socially responsible society.

Henri Le Bienvenu is General Manager of Peru 2021. He can be contacted at henrilebienvenu@peru2021.org

Freelance writer Rosana Benites contributed to this article.

http://www.peru2021.org


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