AmCham-uniRSE Corporate Social Responsibility

Remarks by Ambassador Dogu
March 20, 2017

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this event. I am very pleased to be with these distinguished organizations and firms to highlight the importance of corporate social responsibility for sustainable development. I am certain that this event will be very useful for me to learn from you all more about the opportunities and the challenges which need to be addressed in order to increase sustainable development in Nicaragua.

A business cannot succeed in a community that fails because a firm and the business climate in which it operates are inherently linked. You have to keep in mind that the laborers, the consumers, the suppliers, the laws and the regulations are all vital elements for the firm, but are outside its direct control. So the health of the community is fundamental for the health of the company. CSR is not charity. It is an investment into the community which is fundamental for the success of the business. It has the benefit of making people’s lives better.

We are all here because we are engaged in the communities in which we work. We are always thinking about how better to invest in our firms and the communities in which we operate. Maybe you are wondering what more you can or should be doing. Let me highlight a few items to help stimulate our creativity, and from there we will find the answer.

First of all, as many of you know, U.S. firms are among the global leaders in CSR. U.S. firms are widely recognized for their commitment to respecting the rule of law, engaging in fair play, and strengthening local communities through long-term investments and corporate social responsibility programs. Therefore, it is natural that the AmCham has a large role in promoting CSR in Nicaragua and highlighting best practices by U.S. firms. The AmCham’s mission is to promote trade and investment between the United States of America and Nicaragua. A key factor in building and maintaining these bilateral economic links is the business climate in which US firms operate. We are pleased the AmCham continues to encourage strong independent institutions as an important factor for establishing a business climate which will withstand the rigors of time.

What do we mean by sustainable development and how do we get there? Fortunately, uniRSE has been working on this issue for years and is leading the charge in Nicaragua on the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. These are the 17 goals agreed to by 193 countries, including the United States and Nicaragua to achieve sustainable development. The goal is to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve, including eradicating poverty. We all read the reports that the greatest concern of Nicaraguans is economic. We are pleased to support uniRSE’s efforts to address this concern and encourage you to support them as well.

The U.S. government plays a leadership role on CSR by working with the business community, civil society, laborers and other stakeholders. One way the USG promotes CSR is by highlighting U.S. companies that stand out as CSR leaders. The annual Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence recognizes U.S. firms that uphold the highest standards of responsible business conduct in their global operations. Established in 1999, the award seeks to highlight ways in which U.S. companies represent American values in the way they do business, in line with international best practices.

We are proud that one of the winners of this global award in 2011, Sahlman Seafoods, is here to share their story. Sahlman Seafoods has worked closely with the Nicaraguan ministries of agriculture and environment to protect the aquaculture near its shrimp farms. They have also used innovative equipment, and work with the local community – all of which has helped it open up new markets for its products. We believe the recognition of Sahlman Seafoods demonstrates that firms of any size can contribute to their community through CSR. We are also pleased that Cargill and Walmart, which have also been locally recognized by Embassies around the world for their best practices, will do the same. These three U.S. firms are going beyond minimum standards required by law and are investing in what is best for their business and their community. This includes programs and initiatives related to local procurement and salaries, investments in health and education, and innovative training and capacity building.

Additionally, the United Stated Agency for International Development engages and collaborates with the private sector and companies to create public-private partnerships in order to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty. In Nicaragua, we have launched several public-private partnerships with a focus on workforce development, employability, and entrepreneurship. These public-private partnerships offer a way to direct your CSR investments in partnership with the U.S. government’s investment in Nicaragua.

But there is a gap – some firms still think that CSR costs money but does not improve business. Furthermore, some still see that CSR is reduced to charitable activities, mainly directed towards the outside of a business. But CSR is much more than this. We must see it as a necessary momentum for the economic growth of businesses, as a way to improve the business environment. CSR shouldn’t be known as an expense, but instead as a true investment that builds a better company, a successful company. We fully agree with uniRSE, that CSR shouldn’t be considered a separate strategy, but instead should be an integral part of your business strategy.

But as I am sure these companies will tell you today – social responsibility pays. Time and again companies report that CSR is not an expense, it is an investment. That is what I want to emphasize today – by strengthening the communities where employees live, where customers live, you create a stronger base. So when you ask yourself, “What is My CSR?” you must first think about how your corporate goals align with your community’s needs.

Does your business need information about the local, regional, and global economy to make good decisions about the future? Of course it does. Everyone does. Then I encourage you to consider making your CSR investment in one of the excellent Nicaraguan organizations which conduct this research such as Fundacion Nicaraguense para el Desarrollo Economico y Social (FUNIDES), Asociación de Productores y Exportadores de Nicaragua (APEN), Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas (IEEPP), and Fundación Internacional para el Desafío Económico Global (FIDEG).

What about protecting the environment? Is protecting the environment important for your firm because you want more tourists to visit this beautiful country or because you need sustainable forests or want to be able to continue to cultivate your crops? Then your CSR investment could be with FUNDENIC-SOS, chaired by Dr. Jaime Incer, who promotes an exemplary water neutrality program with local businesses to preserve water sources; or with Paso Pacifico, whose mission is to restore and conserve the natural ecosystems of Central America’s Pacific slope; or with Centro Humboldt, whose mission is to promote territorial development and environmental management.

Do you want to buy more local produce, or products made by micro businesses, or those owned by women? Then possibly your CSR investment could be to support and collaborate with entrepreneurship development organizations such as Agora, Consejo Nicaragüense de la Micro, Pequeña y Mediana Empresa (CONIMIPYME), or Red Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) who could all link you with the suppliers you have been looking for and wanting to develop.

Would you like to be able to hire more trained, qualified employees with greater technical capacity? Maybe your CSR investment could be to develop Nicaragua’s labor force. In addition to Instituto Nacional Tecnológico (INATEC), your CSR could be with members of the Nicaraguan Network of Technical Education (RENET) managed by the Camara de Industrias de Nicaragua (CADIN) such as Centro Juvenil Don Bosco and Fundación Samuel which provide technical training.

Those are just a few ideas for how to invest in sustainable development in Nicaragua through CSR. In closing, I again encourage you to ask yourself: “What Is My CSR?” during the event today. Only you know the type of world that you want to live in and the challenges and opportunities for creating that world. It is up to you to take the steps to move Nicaragua in that direction.

Thank you.