Businesses in Latin America that 'do no harm'

Jim Creskey
Published: Wednesday, 09/14/2005 12:00 am EDT

The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) introduced, with an apology and a disclaimer, a new survey Tuesday about the role Canadian businesses are playing in helping Latin America's poor. "This study doesn't pretend to be comprehensive," said FOCAL director Eduardo del Buey. As a first attempt it clearly wasn't comprehensive. The survey asked Canadian businesses (34 questionnaires were sent out) if they were participating in corporate social responsibility programs in Latin America or the Caribbean. Of the 14 business executives who responded, slightly more than half said they had some kind of social responsibility plan. Although it didn't come up with many answers it did spur a roundtable that began to ask some of the right questions. The discussion on private sector investment in the development sphere took place Tuesday in Ottawa. There were questions about corporate investment, about the controversial role of remittances and about corporate philanthropy: "Philanthropy in Latin America is often the pet project of the CEO's señora," said Audra Jones from the U.S. government's Inter-American Foundation.

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