July 7, 2008

Going Beyond the Ringgit

By Rozana Sani

Among information and communications technology circles, ICT multinationals are no laggards as corporate citizens. Many are leveraging on their innovative technologies and market reach to tackle societal issues in ways they know best. Rozana Sani talks to four industry players for some insights into their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

* Eric Wong, marketing director, IBM Malaysia

Corporate citizenship is in our DNA. IBM has societal priorities in corporate community relations, environmental affairs in product and safety, employee well-being, governmental programmes, and extensive academic initiatives, all integrated across the business.

When we take on personal responsibility for a corporate citizenship project, we do not just donate cash or equipment. Instead, we provide the community that we're helping with holistic solutions to tackle some of the world's toughest societal issues.

In Malaysia, IBM has many CSR programmes that have been ongoing for years in partnership such as the KidSmart early learning programme for pre-schools with the Education Ministry, and the accessibilityWorks programme for senior citizens with the National Council of Senior Citizens Organisation Malaysia.

The most recent development is the IBM Corporate Service Corps programme, where 100 IBM employees, including 35 from the Asia- Pacific, from 33 countries were selected to take part in. It is part of the Global Citizen's Portfolio initiative announced by IBM's CEO (chief executive officer) Sam Palmisano to develop leadership skills while addressing socio-economic challenges in emerging markets. It is also aimed at involving IBMers who can contribute valuable and much-needed talent and capabilities in emerging markets to pursue engaging, stimulating and creative projects in partnership with these countries and selected NGOs (non-governmental organisations).

* Norazman Nordin, head, Unlimited Potential Group, Microsoft Malaysia

Our citizenship efforts are focused on mobilising our resources across the company and creating opportunities in the communities we do business with. They are divided into three main thrusts: enabling jobs and opportunities, fostering local innovation, and transforming education.

Our ongoing citizenship outreach includes Unlimited Potential - Community Technology Skills Programme, Unlimited Potential Grants, Community Software Donation Programme, Community Learning Curriculum and Microsoft Authorized Refurbishers.

To date, we have invested more than RM200 million towards the realisation of the three thrusts to combine innovative technologies, partnerships and programmes to help create a better Malaysia.

Through our citizenship outreach, we have reached out to six million people around the globe. Over the next five years, we aim to bring the benefits of relevant, accessible and affordable technologies to five billion more people, with an initial milestone of reaching the next one billion by 2015.

Here in Malaysia, it is about empowering the 20-odd million who have yet to be fully integrated into ICT.

* Chong Soon Cheong, marketing director Asia South, Sun Microsystems

Our take on CSR is a comprehensive approach. It includes being ecoresponsible, ensuring proper business practices, global citizenship, and fostering a global workforce aligned to the company's eco and social responsibility goals.

Sun's business and social responsibilities are closely aligned. Our goal, consistent with our business interests, is to enable more people to join and participate in the network. We are 100 per cent committed to developing and adhering to principles that guide our actions in business and social conduct.

As a player in open source, Sun shares its technologies with the global community to increase accessibility and participation and to eliminate the digital divide.

As part of an ongoing corporate responsibility effort in Asia South, we launched the Java Jive Challenge across the region earlier this year, giving students an opportunity to work with industry players to develop applications that are marketed to commercial developers.

From innovating in the creation of responsible and sustainable solutions, to participating with communities and organisations to enable the sharing of knowledge and technology for positive social and environmental impact, we strive to deliver positive results for our customers, employees, shareholders, partners and communities.

* Dr Rajah Kumar, chairman and CEO, Philips Group of Companies Malaysia

For Philips, our people-centric focus comes in two-fold - through the employees, and the CSR programmes themselves.

For instance, we organised a research which concluded that children who did not receive pre-school education, especially in rural areas, have a tendency to drop out of school by the time they enter Standard Five or Six. We also organised the Philips Young Inventor Challenge to encourage tertiary students to be innovative and creative in hopes of producing Malaysia's first Nobel Prize winner.

Since 2007, we have been partnering the Center of Training, Education and Research for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency via a mobile showhome, which travelled to rural areas in its first phase. Lately, we launched the second phase with primary schools.

A lot of the programmes which we run are long term in perspective, so we do not have set targets, but we look at them as investments into the building of society and playing a part towards enabling a knowledge-based society in anticipation of a developed Malaysia. After all, this is very much in line with our mission statement to improve the lives of people with meaningful technology and solutions.

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