Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often interpreted as a cynical marketing ploy adopted by brands as a means to amass positive PR through promoting philanthropic efforts, sustainable business practices, and/or environmental awareness programs. But every now and then, you come across an example of genuine good that shakes your inner cynic to the core. I want to talk about one of my own experiences, having witnessed first-hand the positive impact CSR can have on building sustainable communities.
Escaping the cold weather in London, I was very fortunate to be able to spend Christmas in Cambodia. It was a magical, humbling experience that allowed me to become acquainted with the gentle, smiling people of one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries. Anyone who is familiar with the tragic recent history of the Cambodian people will know that it takes a certain resilience of the human spirit to bounce back from such atrocities with grace. Yet with economic prosperity restricted to a handful of industries such as agriculture and tourism, it would also be very easy to maintain a bleak outlook. Despite all the adversity however, one local organization is tackling these issues by spearheading admirable progress through adopting CSR programs.
I stayed at one of the Shinta Mani resorts in Siem Reap, and alongside the commercial operation, had the opportunity to be introduced to the Shinta Mani Foundation. The foundation focuses on community building initiatives, tackling all sorts of challenging agendas including youth unemployment, education, basic healthcare and teaching life skills. They also support their employees by offering a range of development programs that include English language teaching, and vocational skills coaching in areas such as accounting, farming and culinary practices. Most importantly, Shinta Mani’s business philosophy is firmly grounded in championing the next generation of Cambodian hoteliers, investing in local talent through various apprenticeship schemes.
It’s a known fact that employees who are inspired, go on to create positive brand experiences. There’s a reason why visitors have rated Shinta Mani resorts as the top accommodation option in Siem Reap. As a result of investing in employee and community schemes, front-line staff have responded enthusiastically by creating a brand culture that takes pride in delivering customer service excellence. At a time when discerning travellers are becoming more and more aware of their carbon footprint and are seeking brands that practice responsible tourism, I found these principles to be incredibly merit-worthy. In addition to feeling good about having spent my tourist dollars for a worthy cause, I was also reminded that when CSR is done right, it can indeed be life-affirming.
Image credit: Shinta Mani