Opinion: Corporate Social Responsibility and It’s Role in Climate Justice

Businesses learn about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), promoting social accountability through charitable contributions and safer practices post-Industrial Revolution. Some argue for more climate-focused initiatives.
Aleigha General

One of the first things a person is taught in business class is the acronym, C.S.R. It stands for Corporate Social Responsibility, which is the idea that businesses have a duty to ensure they are held socially accountable to their employees, stakeholders and customers. In the decades following the Industrial Revolution, this idea picked up steam and it soon became mainstream for companies to make donations to various charitable organisations whilst also implementing safer practices in their day-to-day operations. The focus behind CSR is that a workplace or a corporation is not simply a money-making machine that can exploit its workers, destroy the land and ignore the communities they operate in, instead they are entities which have a responsibility to take care of the communities which house their offices and often-times contribute significantly to their revenue earned. In today’s context, this can look like a variety of things. For example, facilitating a company-wide beach clean-up, bringing in professional therapists for employees following a traumatic event and most commonly, donating to charitable organisations. However, it has been argued that more consistent and climate-focused support is needed in Cayman, rather than employee retreats or inhouse activities. 

An example of climate-focused CSR in the Cayman Islands is Royal Bank of Canda’s (RBS) recent donation to the National Trust of the Cayman Islands. In early October, the bank was recognised by the National Trust for donating $15,000 to the Trust’s endeavours and future potential activities. In a comment via the National Trust’s social media page, RBC Area Vice President said “creating a positive social impact is integral to how we do business at RBC”. This raises the question of how are other corporations contributing to positive social impact, particularly within the sphere of environmentalism and activism? What are the standards for corporations to exist in the Cayman Islands and are there any stipulations regarding if they have to give back to the communities they reside in? 

Currently, majority of the corporations in the Cayman Islands have a Corporate Social Responsibility plan and this plan is often divided into various sectors such as community development, sponsorship and environmentalism. The grey area with these plans however, is that they are often self-regulated, meaning that the intentions and objectives are decided by those within the company. The areas which receive the most funding and attention, along with how that attention will be given, is all at the discretion of said company. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave room for performative CSR, where companies will facilitate large fundraisers or events in the name of Corporate Social.

Responsibility whilst still engaging in business endeavours which actively harm or disenfranchise the local community. There is very little research to suggest that Cayman has a mandatory requirement for CSR within corporations wanting to put down roots on any of the three islands. This can be a cause for concern, particularly as a nation which prioritises tourism, the foreign direct investment which comes with it and the boom of development which is often the result. As all three sister-islands begin to grapple with the erosion of the coastlines due to unsafe building practices, putting strict regulations on exactly how corporations protect the environment in which they take up space may be a more necessary future than lawmakers realise. Protecting the coastlines and the wetlands whilst still fostering foreign direct investment is going to be a key part of maintaining Cayman’s stability and prosperity. 

If the corporations which operate in Cayman are not held to specific standards regarding their behaviour and environmental practices, the communities are likely to pay the price, alongside the state of political and social dialogue. 

This story was published by Caymancompass.com with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.


Aleigha General

Aleigha General

Aleigha General is a passionate International Relations student at the University of West London. She is driven by a desire to address pressing social issues in her region. Inspired by her recent experience at COP27, Aleigha is determined to raise awareness about sustainable practices and advocate for a better environment. With her storytelling skills and dedication, she aims to inspire change and become a powerful advocate for climate justice.

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