The role of private companies in the development process has received increased attention in recent years. In addition to conducting their own development initiatives as part of internally run programmes, companies’ external partnerships with traditional development agencies can offer alternative sources of funding and support for development projects. Closer relationships with, and understanding of, the work of development agencies can also help companies to develop more relevant programmes that meet shared development goals. Theoretically at least, these benefits should spiral to enhance development outcomes for businesses and societies at large. However this argument has usually been made with reference to development programmes run by western multinationals, and little research has been conducted into the activities of companies in middle- and low-income countries. Using the South Asian country of Sri Lanka as an example, this briefing paper assesses the possible scope, benefits, and risks of partnerships with local privately-owned and public limited companies. As in other countries in the region, locally-owned and -floated companies in Sri Lanka enthusiastically engage with development programmes. Yet reflecting local traditions of charitable giving and social engagement, much of what passes for this is ad hoc, unplanned, and unevaluated, and currently of little developmental impact. The paper suggests that whilst corporate programmes may in the longer term offer effective vehicles and partners for development, important preparatory groundwork must first take place.
Widger, T.; Stirrat, J.; Kabir, S.; Osella, F. Corporate responsibility, philanthropy and development. (2013)