21 November 2007

CSR - Kalbe Farma Style

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a big issue in Indonesia over recent months with the enactment of the new Company Law which now mandates that companies incorporated in Indonesia undertake CSR programs. CSR prior to the changes to the law was voluntary and most companies did some form of CSR generally to promote good will within the communities in which they operated.

However, as part of a recent Jakarta Post supplement there was a report on how PT. Kalbe Farma Tbk. was providing its CSR program to the masses. Kalbe is a pharmaceutical company and has decided to provide free psychological assessments to school children in grades four, five, and six across 20 State-run primary schools in West and South Jakarta. The program is presumably to identify the skills and interests of the children tested. However, the program is really a marketing tool as it also includes a free seminar on child development and intelligence which then endeavors to promote the value of a multivitamin product in a proper diet and education program. The question is this really what the concept of CSR is or is this purely another means of marketing a firms' product with a view to fattening up the bottom line?

What is even more interesting is that Kalbe intends to evaluate whether there has been any positive impact on the children's school performance six months after they have started taking the multivitamin supplements. I am no medical ethicist but this sounds like a medical / medicine trial to me. Where the purpose of the free testing and subsequent seminar is to secure the parents' consent to their child being a part of the trial. If the idea of CSR for pharmaceutical companies is putting their local communities into medical trials then I must have misunderstood and also missed the point of CSR as it is defined in the new company law.

A better CSR option would be Kalbe setting aside funds for the development of free community clinics and then providing medicines to those clinics. Or better still developing local capacity through the granting of education scholarships to those most in need.

Medical trials as fulfilling the obligations for CSR programs - shame on you!

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