GE, PepsiCo praised for CSR in emerging markets

10 September 2010

NEW DELHI: General Electric and PepsiCo are among the multinational companies that have displayed the most impressive corporate social responsibility credentials in emerging markets.

The US Department of State named 12 American firms championing "corporate citizenship, innovation and democratic principles" in regions such as Asia and Latin America.

It received 78 nominations from ambassadors worldwide for the annual Award for Corporate excellence, previous winners of which include General Motors, Motorola and Xerox.

General Electric's Indian arm is a contender this year, having built local partnerships, backed a range of health, educational and innovation drives, and demonstrated "exemplary employment practices."

In a bid to strengthen its position in the country, GE has established a stand-alone organisation, and rolled out a variety of high-tech, but comparatively low-cost, products.

"Because of their huge populations, sustainability problems are especially urgent for countries like China and India," Jeff Immelt, GEs ceo, wrote in a Harvard Business Review article earlier this year.

"Because of this, they're likely to tackle many environmental issues years or even decades before the developed world."

PepsiCo's Indian unit was lauded for supporting rural communities, implementing inclusive staffing policies and devoting considerable effort to water conservation.

"Around one billion people are without access to clean drinking water, making the world water crisis one of the most pressing challenges of our time," Indra Nooyi, the firm's chairman/ceo, said this week.

Elsewhere, wireless technology group Qualcomm was credited for improving well-being and economic conditions in some of China's poorest regions, alongside encouraging entrepreneurship.

Recently, it allied with app developer Xian Kingtone, mobile operator China Telecom and the China Children and Teenagers' Foundation to offer health information to 21 clinics in Hebei on 3G handsets and PCs.

"Providing adequate health care services to widespread rural populations is a challenge in many countries," said Jing Wang, evp of Qualcomm Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

"3G wireless technology has proven to be effective in overcoming many of these challenges."

Coca-Cola's activity is Swaziland was also recognised, having made a $1.5m donation of healthcare equipment in 2010, and worked to replace all the water it uses during the manufacturing process.

Alta Ventures has adopted a pioneering approach in Mexico, attempting to raise over $150m from investors to boost indigenous innovation covering areas like clean technology, IT and education.

"Some people may think that now is not the best time to be making such a bold move as to start a venture fund in Mexico," Paul Ahlstrom, its founder, said last year.

"But entrepreneurs follow the road less travelled, and a time of crisis can be a good time to invest and is always a good time to make a change."

Other corporations which featured on the shortlist included Cisco in Israel and Palestine, Intel in Costa Rica and Mars in Ghana.

In each case, these organisations were argued to be running initiatives helping local people and building sustainable growth in a challenging climate.

"All the finalists ... have demonstrated that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive," said Bob Hormats, undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs.

"When companies treat their communities as well as their customers, we are all enriched."

Data sourced from US Department of State; additional content by Warc staff