The sad state of CSR in Malaysia


Businesses dwelling on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are usually apprehensive (bordering to nervousness and being almost-clueless) about their philosophy of balancing social-environmental goals and their favourite topic – Capitalism. Do they really know what they are doing? Or merely it is the fashion to say that one is a socially responsible corporate citizen?

Towards this end, corporations are shooting blanks when it comes to maintain supposedly high standards of integrity based on social-environmental needs. I have not seen many local businesses understanding the issues and concerns of marginalised people (ie homelessness, disabled, streetkids, sex workers, drug users, etc). Realistically, Malaysia’s CSR is still unable to adapt to effective community-building and their business ethics. Are they truly interested to contribute to the well-being of Malaysians, refugees, migrant workers, stateless people and the nation? I don’t think so.

I don’t think many businesses are aware of the many concerns of stateless or homeless people, to name a few vulnerable groups with limited access to their rights as human beings.

Many companies are unable to grasp the basic concept of sustainable development. In many public relation exercises, we see corporate captains delivering a cheque for the sake of the photo-shoot and to dance to the same tune of charity (devoid of empathy). Giving donations with no commitment, no participation & no long-term plan is definitely not even a part of effective CSR. Do these rich money-kissing leaders know about CSR?

Malaysia is still in its infancy when it comes to CSR. It doesn’t know much about the values of a tri-sector partnership, determination, selflessness and how to meet the need of those who are in need. Their failures seep into civil society, where Malaysian NGOs merely nod their heads in a dazed relationship, not wanting to provide constructive criticism for fear of a negative backlash from the CSR masters, the funders. NGOs are nowadays merely pathetic sub-contractors viciously fighting themselves for the pitiful scraps of dog bone.

How will this contribute to the building of a truly successful country? Oh Hell, I don’t think anyone has a clue.


An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at and @bedlamfury

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