The Irrawaddy

AmCham Urges US Companies to Practice CSR in Burma

A factory worker inspects bottles on a conveyor belt in a new Coca-Cola plant in Rangoon in 2013.

RANGOON—The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Myanmar is currently surveying business practices in order to give annual awards recognizing corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by US companies in Burma.

After AmCham Myanmar was founded in 2013, more than 140 US businesses and local Burmese partners joined the group.

As numbers grew, the organization began surveying adherence to CSR principles and delegating honors to those who they deemed exemplary players in 2015.

“We’re doing a survey for the CSR recognition awards of 2016. The results will be out in November,” said Clara Tang, Burma chapter coordinator for AmCham. In order to receive an award, programs must receive high marks regarding business objectives, societal needs and the creation of sustainable long-term economic and social gains.

The first round of awards one year ago recognized the work of eight companies, including British American Tobacco (BAT), Chevron, Coca-Cola, General Electric (GE) and Procter and Gamble.

Three awardees—BAT Myanmar, GE, and Coca-Cola—have shared information on their “best practices” and experiences with CSR initiatives with other companies already.

“Another five companies will share their experiences in the coming months,” Tang said.

Daw Khine Wai Thwe, head of legal and external affairs at BAT Myanmar, said in a meeting on the topic on Thursday that BAT carried out CSR-related work in Mandalay Division’s Natogyi Township in 2015.

“There were no other local or international non-governmental organizations working for the local community in that area,” she claimed.

BAT Myanmar said they have spent around US$100,000 on outreach activities in five villages in the township and plan to expand their work to at least 12 villages this year. The tobacco company says that up to 6,000 people have benefited from their projects in Mandalay Division.

International tobacco giant BAT has invested US$35 million in Burma since 2013. London and Lucky Strike brand cigarettes are distributed by the company.

More US companies are expected to arrive in Burma, after the White House pledged to lift remaining economic sanctions on the country on Sept. 14, after meeting with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In 2015, US exports to Burma were valued at $227 million and imports at $144 million, according to DICA figures. Since 1988, total approved US investment in Burma has been $248 million.