Business boosting social support

24/09/2009 - 00:00

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IF prominent businessman Michael Chaney's actions are anything to go by then Western Australia's corporate sector is poised to enhance its social responsibility through the new Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia.

RESPONSIBILITY: MICHAEL CHANEY (RIGHT)W, PETER SHERGOLD AND TRACEY HORTON BELIEVE BUSINESS SCHOOLS HAVE A SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO THE COMMUNITY. PHOTO: GRANT CURRALL

IF prominent businessman Michael Chaney's actions are anything to go by then Western Australia's corporate sector is poised to enhance its social responsibility through the new Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia.

At an event last week launching the CSI - a national network of university business schools across the country that aim for academic excellence for a social purpose - as UWA's chancellor, Mr Chaney literally put his money where his mouth is.

After the opening song by the 'Spirit of the Streets Choir', predominately consisting of homeless vendors of The Big Issue magazine, Mr Chaney was approached by one such seller who was interested in making a sale.

The National Australia Bank and Woodside Petroleum chairman was only too happy to oblige and purchased a copy of the magazine; a simple gesture, but one that is indicative of his stance on the corporate world's social responsibility.

"The most satisfying thing you can do is help other people," Mr Chaney told WA Business News.

And while big business is often attacked for its lack of ethics, especially in light of the global financial crisis, Mr Chaney is adamant the big end of town is providing valuable and largely unheralded community support.

"I think they're [big business] doing a huge amount that you generally don't hear about," he said.

"Almost all large companies have very serious social support programs and they go right across the board through education and health and community welfare generally, and sport as well, and generally it's a light under the bushel."

The CSI mission is to ensure that teaching, research and facilitation contribute to public debate and build cross-sectorial alliances that drive social innovation and entrepreneurship.

Nationally, the CSI is a partnership between the business schools of the University of New South Wales, The University of Melbourne and Swinburne University of Technology and now, UWA.

Headed by Macquarie Group Foundation's Peter Shergold, who was previously the secretary for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra, the CSI works with governments, private sector organisations, community benefit sector organisations and philanthropists to engage with the community.

Professor Shergold said the CSI would inform the development of public policy and UWA would contribute largely through its events, executive programs and action-oriented research.

"This isn't just a matter of good intent," Prof Shergold said.

UWA Business School Dean Tracey Horton said business schools had a special responsibility to educate students in decision-making for the long-term, taking into account social, environmental, economic and commercial impacts.

As such, the university is planning to make it compulsory for every UWA student to take a unit of community service when its new course structure is introduced in 2012.

Mr Chaney will chair an all-star advisory council including WA Council of Social Services' Sue Ash, Wayne Bergmann from the Kimberley Land Council, BHP Billiton's Carl Binning, Peter Conran from the Department of Premier & Cabinet and the Premier's chief of staff, Deidre Willmott.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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