Thank you for your continued interest in this column and asking such intriguing questions. Please continue to send them to me at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov.
Recently, I read a very interesting article about businesses in Phnom Penh that invest in their communities, which made me think of a recent question I received – “What are the social responsibilities of corporations in communities where they operate?” In the United States and around the world, many businesses genuinely want to give back to the communities in which they operate, so they use a portion of their profits to fund projects and programs that benefit the broader society. We call these types of activities “corporate social responsibility.”
Yes, businesses must make a profit in order to survive, and the goods and services they produce keep the global economic engine running. However, many companies have learned that reinvesting a portion of their profits in the community pays unexpected dividends. These types of reinvestments can include grants to hospitals, partnerships with governments, scholarships, and donating emergency resources, to name just a few.
Here in Cambodia there are many examples of companies engaging in corporate social responsibility. For example, RMA Cambodia/Ford Motor Company – a well-known American brand – supports the “Clean the Beach” campaign, which raises environmental awareness in Sihanoukville, and conducts the annual “Ford Adventure,” which provides food, mosquito nets, blankets, and books to those in need. Similarly, Cambodian Internet provider, EZECOM, provides free Internet services and computer equipment to several schools around the country as part of a program with the Ministry of Education. EZECOM’s program recognizes that Cambodia’s economic future depends on investment in education.
Some skeptics might say, “If a portion of profits is directed away from a company, there must be a payoff.” Of course, such programs help to build a positive public image for the participating companies. But beyond that, businesses have discovered that corporate social responsibility also increases the productivity and loyalty of their workers. Why? Because when employees see the direct, positive results the programs have in their community, it instills a sense of pride and greater meaning in their work. Ultimately, businesses that act as responsible stakeholders within their communities reap the long-term benefits of employee and customer allegiance.
On a different topic, the U.S. Embassy this past week commemorated the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s landmark document freeing American slaves – the Emancipation Proclamation. A Cambodian woman recently asked me, “How does America’s experience with slavery shape its policy toward present-day human trafficking?”
This is a great question, and one that President Obama recently addressed at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. The President noted that more than 20 million people are currently victims of “modern slavery.” He described human trafficking in the United States as “the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker; the man lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen; the teenage girl, beaten, forced to work the streets.” President Obama then pledged that the U.S. government would intensify its fight against human trafficking, both inside the United States and around the world.
To combat human trafficking in the United States, the U.S. government is expanding the number of agencies working on this issue and providing them with more resources to detect trafficking networks and strengthen protections for foreign-born workers. Here in Cambodia, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding a $5.4 million campaign to combat human trafficking through prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership – the “4Ps.” I find the last “P,” partnership, the key because ending modern slavery requires the cooperation and coordination of several actors: civil society, the faith community, the private sector, and committed individuals.
As President Obama said of the millions of trafficking victims, “We see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity. Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it.” As U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, I pledge that the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh will continue to help Cambodia in its own efforts to eradicate this terrible scourge once and for all.
Many thanks for reading this week’s column. I look forward to writing next week’s column, but I need your questions. Please continue to send them to me at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov and remember to follow my blog at http://blogs.usembassy.gov/todd/.
William E. Todd is U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia