By Veena Cute-ngarmpring
A combination of a global and local conceptual framework
CSR in Thailand is still largely philanthropic. This includes CSR programs that not only give direct financial support to the community, but also provide indirect assistance through community projects that aim to generate long-term local socio-economic development. Practically, the CSR concept has acted as a driving force for many corporations’ development activities, serving as a guideline for initiating and implementing community projects that generate a positive contribution to the society.
What makes CSR in Thailand unique, however, is that it builds strongly on a local development concept called the ‘Sufficiency Economy Philosophy’, which was initiated by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In general, the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy is focused on building a strong economic foundation and self-reliance at a local community level, as the basis for long-term local development. The philosophy contains three main components: moderation, reasonableness and self-immunity, which is supported in turn by two characters – knowledge and integrity.
CSR and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy share many common characteristics, such as community-based development, local networking, stakeholder participation, partnership and collaboration and the importance of community context and local wisdom. Hence, the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy plays a supportive role in strengthening and leveraging the potential of CSR to respond to local conditions, economic activities and a community-based lifestyle.
A case that illustrates that illustrates both the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and a CSR approach is the Green Net Cooperative. The organisation is a social enterprise for marketing and distributing organic agricultural products to domestic and international markets. However, the Green Net Cooperative also works closely with the small-scale farmers in rural areas to give local producers access to knowledge, markets and productivity management.
Furthermore, the Green Net Cooperative has established the Earth Net Foundation for supporting self-reliance among local producers through knowledge sharing projects like ‘Farmer Field School’ and ‘Participatory Technology Development’. Among other things, farmers who are members of the Green Net Cooperative are encouraged to develop their self-sustenance from their own farming activities by not only planting crops for sale, but also growing vegetables, raising livestock and farming fish for their family’s consumption.
To conclude, in Thailand, the key to successful CSR is not the scale of philanthropic expenditure, but rather that development projects be implemented with a proper sensitivity to the locality.