Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Indonesia has experienced a positive evolution in recent years. Businesses have played quite a significant role through their CSR programs. Yet, there are many obstacles that companies are faced with. In today’s interview with Ananta Gondomono – Head of Partnership Building of CCPHI, we wanted to hear his perspectives on the CSR challenges faced by companies as well as the future of CSR in Indonesia. Mr. Gondomono has years of experience working with CSR related departments in multinational companies such as Microsoft, Intel and IBM and in the non profit organization. Recently, he has been working with a coalition of 15 associations to support the Government in achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals commitments and organizing an executive program for private, public and NGOs leaders to promote sustainable development in Indonesia.
1. Could you briefly share with us what CCPHI is doing to promote sustainable development in Indonesia?
CCPHI is a non profit organization which promotes and facilitates multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve healthy and sustainable communities. Our flagship program is the Partnership Forum where participants from the private and NGO sectors can sit together, share lessons learned and find partners for social projects which are contributing to the SDGs. This platform is intended as a learning forum and trust building exercise among our corporate and NGO members. We purposefully exclude government agencies and the media in order for the roundtable discussion to become “a safe haven” for all kinds of ideas and opinions in building and maintaining partnership, as well as understanding the challenges in implementing CSR initiatives in Indonesia.
We also support the government in reporting the SDGs achievements of the whole country. This is done by collecting information from companies and NGOs on their contribution to the SDGs.
2. Great! Being the bridge connecting organizations in different sectors, you must be having some access to the challenges companies face in streamlining CSR. What are those obstacles, from your experiences?
The first challenge is mutual understanding about CSR. Due to different level of awareness, CSR is; in many cases; taken advantage for political and personal purposes rather than for the community.
Second challenge is mismatched expectations between companies and the beneficiaries. Sometimes, the community even doesn’t know what they are in need of. However, there are NGOs in the areas who can advise on that. Therefore, needs assessment before executing social activities is very important.
Third challenge, is the sustainability of social projects. When the company’s budget is exhausted or when they pull out of the areas, how can the beneficiaries sustain themselves? We’ve been reiterating these two questions in our forum. First, what are sustainable social activities? Second, how can we make it long-lasting in the sense that the beneficiary can still receive positive impact with or without companies.
Fourth, is mistrust between NGOs and companies. There is a lack of dialogues between stakeholders. This is the main point that CCPHI would address with our various discussion and learning platforms.
3. Brilliant, Ananta. You’ve touched very burning points: first – level of awareness, second – stakeholder dialogues, third – dependency, fourth – lack of correct accountability system for companies and NGOs. Now let’s think of ways forward. If you were to draw a roadmap forward for companies in Indonesia, how do you see solutions for CSR evolution in the future?
I would like to answer this question in the context of CCPHI. Our role, as you said, is the middle-man or the mediator who aims to create understanding between the government and private sector, or even a safe haven / channel for companies to meet up with other companies, NGOs or academic institutions.
For an example, we set up an executive program for middle management to upper middle management working in public, private and NGO sectors. In this four-month program, participants can learn from experts and each other as well as find a common voice for sustainable development. However, Our limited resources are preventing us from expanding these programs outside of Jakarta.
So the roadmap I imagine for CSR in Indonesia is the expansion of those dialogues and platforms where different stakeholders can build trust and set up partnership for sustainable development in remote areas such as Kalimantan, Java islands and so on. Those remote areas where extractive companies operate are in need of similars forums that CCPHI are working on.
4. When we analyzed sustainability reports of companies in Indonesia, we’ve seen a lot of funding for community development on various issues. However, we are not sure how effective these investments are because assessment data is hardly found in the reports. Ananta, How do you see companies assessing the impact of their community programs?
This is a very important question. From my personal experiences when working on social projects ;such as train the trainer of Microsoft; and from conversations with other CSR managers or CSR practitioners, I think that the weakest point of CSR programs in Indonesia is a lack of evaluation tools. The monitoring process, however, is not a problem as we have academic institutions and agencies to assist with that. However, impact measurement of whatever activities that are implemented for social causes are absent. There are not enough players in this specific area. I believe there are not many companies who have conducted impact measurement of their community programs.
5. To wrap up this interview, what is your hope for CSR development in Indonesia?
Basically, I believe mutual understanding among stakeholders, better regulations which comprise of CSR terminologies to get everyone on the same page as well an evaluation tool for impact measurement are what CSR in Indonesia needs the most right now.