Sugar production is Pakistan’s second largest industry, employing over 750,000 people, and sugarcane is one of Pakistan’s most important cash crops. On July 3, 2012, a Pakistan-based organization, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), released a report titled “the state of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Pakistan- an illustrative example of sugar production.” Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Pakistan is an evolving concept. In order for it to fully crystallize in the country, much needs to change legally, culturally, and strategically in terms of business models and practices.
The report’s focus on CSR in Pakistan’s sugar industry demonstrates the following:
1. CSR practices need to be better standardized, while also tailored to Pakistan’s local context.
2. Many consumers of refined sugar are unaware of whether the process of sugar production is fair or not. However, members of the local public are interested in ensuring CSR practice in Pakistan. This suggests that CSR is a marginalized discourse in Pakistan that needs to be widened.
3. Managers of sugar mills are largely unaware of the concept of corporate social responsibility, conflating it with philanthropy, or laws that regulate working hours and child labor. Yet most managers reached a consensus that CSR practices need to be introduced.
4. Numerous barriers to the implementation of CSR into Pakistan exist. Some of these include: political instability, a lack of public awareness of CSR (and by extension- a lack of demand for CSR among consumers), and a lack of mechanisms to monitor or audit practices and the treatment of workers in sugar mills.
5. Currently no laws that are being implemented to ensure ethical practices in sugar mils. For example, if a mill fails to pay a farmer, the farmer can move the Provincial Cane Commissioner against non-payment by the mill, yet no mechanism exists to implement this verdict. If a farmer does manage to move the case to a civil judge or magistrate, by virtue of the proceedings falling under civil suit the matter is prolonged for years. Also, mills regularly delay payments to farmers and no laws exist to regulate or curb the duration of the delay.