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Tracking Corporate Social Responsibility Internationally

ICT Agriculture AfricaCorporate social responsibility efforts, in which businesses of all types take on initiatives to mitigate their environmental impact, ensure the local communities they operate in are supported, and monitor the wellbeing of employees, have taken off in the past few years, and this is especially the case for international businesses. Sectors ranging from food, to technology production, to natural resource mining, have become increasingly aware of their business practices as workers’ rights issues and environmental concerns continue to make headline news. Because of this, corporations are dedicating more resources to local partnerships, environmental and social due diligence, sustainability efforts, and ensuring good working conditions at all points in the supply chain.

However, it is often difficult for businesses to effectively evaluate the value of their CSR initiatives when working internationally, especially when headquarters are so far removed from the communities and workers at the end of their supply chain. Raw materials including tea, cocoa, and precious metals originate in countries such as Kenya, Ivory Coast, and DR Congo that are often difficult to access, and connecting the last mile of corporations and communities is a challenge. While the best CSR initiatives recognize the synergy that can come with corporations and societies collaborating, without having the chance to give proper feedback, societies can come to resent the efforts of corporations. If a CSR project isn’t built with input from all sides, it can easily go too far down the wrong road, and end up being a wasted effort for all parties.

Reach specific populations using mobile phones

In order to ensure CSR initiatives will be valuable to everyone in the long-term, input must be solicited from those on-the-ground – including those farming or mining materials and the communities surrounding them. While this can seem like a difficult task, the growth in mobile phone penetration around the world has made it possible for corporations to connect with the individuals that work for and are impacted by them. For example, voice or text-message surveys can be sent to the known phone numbers of workers, or if phone numbers are not known (as often is the case at the end of the supply chain), workers can be identified from a larger mobile phone database through a series of screening questions. Radio and print advertisements that direct people to call a hotline or text in a keyword can also advertise the call for feedback.

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GeoPoll has successfully used the above methods in the past to reach such specific populations as miners working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who confirmed the prevalence of children working in mines. We have also used our large database of mobile respondents to reach smallholder farmers in Kenya and ask about their farming practices and pressing needs. For a pilot of Sainsbury’s Fairly Traded tea initiative, which aims to drive transparency and sustainability among tea farmers in Malawi and Rwanda, GeoPoll leveraged both SMS messages and CATI voice surveys to enable farmers to voice their opinions through an anonymous channel.

As corporations continue to look for ways to launch new markets, products, and business lines in a sustainable and socially responsible way, building and tracking CSR initiatives will become even more valuable. To learn more about GeoPoll’s mobile connectivity and experience in the CSR space, please contact us today.