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Corporate Contribution in the Health Sector: The Case of Bangladeshi Banking Companies

Dewan Mahboob Hossain (1)
Nurazzura Mohamad Diah (2)

(1) Associate Professor
Department of Accounting & Information Systems
University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
(2) Head, Department of Sociology & Anthropology
International Islamic University Malaysia

Dewan Mahboob Hossain
Associate Professor
Department of Accounting & Information Systems
University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Email: dewanmahboob@univdhaka.edu


This study examines the contribution of the corporate sector in the healthcare sector of a developing economy - Bangladesh. In order to fulfil this objective, the researchers focused on the contribution of the banking sector through six case studies. The annual reports of the banks were taken as the sources of data. Content analysis of these annual reports was conducted. It was seen that in many ways, the companies in the banking sector of Bangladesh are trying to contribute to the healthcare sector of Bangladesh. From the context of a poor country, these attempts can be considered as praiseworthy.

Key words: corporate contribution, health sector, Bangladesh

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not anymore a new term in the business world. These days, corporations all over the world are taking this issue seriously. On one hand this kind of activity helps to build corporate image and on the other hand society benefits from these activities. There is no doubt that nowadays the whole world is facing a good number of social problems. Some of the significant problems that we are facing these days are the problems of poverty, environmental degradation, social inequality, health and illness, drugs, crime and terrorism and some others. In order to deal with these problems the society needs a combined effort. Government, NGOs, businesses, activists and individuals - all should be aware of these problems and try to make a contribution to minimize all these.

This paper is concerned with the social problem of health and illness. All over the globe a good number of people suffer from many diseases. Some of these diseases are still regarded as non-curable. In many cases, treatments are becoming expensive. Poor people, mainly in the developing economies are not being able to afford the needed treatment. Moreover, the lifestyles of the rich people are making them sick and ill. According to Henslin (2011), over-industrialization has created affluence and that has resulted in rich food consumption and less physical exercise. Moreover, in these over ambitious industrial societies, stress has become a common matter in the lives of the people. All these factors are resulting in more disease.

People all over the world are gradually becoming concerned about health issues. Both governmental and non-governmental sectors are getting involved in solving these problems. Media is also creating social awareness about many diseases. The corporate sector is also trying to contribute in the health sector as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility activities. This paper highlights the contribution of the corporate sector in the healthcare sector in a developing economy - Bangladesh. Bangladesh is considered as one of the poorest economies in the world. Healthcare facilities are not up to the mark. In many cases the poor people of the country do not get enough healthcare facilities. Every year many people die of diseases like diarrhoea, malaria, dengue, kidney disorder, cancer and others. Malnutrition is common in this country. Moreover, the poor people (mostly uneducated) are very much unaware of health related issues. In many cases, because of their lack of awareness, they do not even understand that they have become sick. Medical facilities are not greatly available in the rural areas. Also there is a huge problem of availing emergency medical services.

As Bangladesh is a poor country, the Government alone cannot afford to perform all necessary activities related to the progress of healthcare situations. That is why, many international organizations, along with the NGOs are offering their assistance in the health sector. As mentioned earlier, the corporate sector is also contributing in this sector these days. This paper mainly focuses on the banking sector of Bangladesh and its contribution to the health sector. The banking sector of Bangladesh is renowned for CSR activities. Especially some of the local banks are considering their CSR issues seriously.

Theoretical Framework
There are many theories that explain why corporate houses go for CSR activities. Two of these theories that got immense popularity from the researchers are the stakeholder theory and the legitimacy theory (Hossain, 2010).

The stakeholder theory emphasizes on the fact that these days businesses have to deal with many parties other than the shareholders. In the past it was thought that shareholders are the only party (or stakeholder) to whom a business should be accountable. These days it is thought that a business operates in a multi-stakeholder environment. Other than the shareholders, there are other important parties like labour, managers, government, customers, social activists, media, researchers and in a way, the whole society. Business has a symbiotic relationship with the society. All these stakeholders in many ways are dependent on the business and business is also dependent on them. A business has to deal in a society. That is why it should be careful about the interest and welfare of the different stakeholders in a society. As business is operating in a society and generating profit, it should not do anything that is proved to be harmful to the society. These days it is also expected that other than generating profit, a business should also contribute to the welfare of the society by performing some voluntary welfare activities that contribute to these multiple stakeholders. Stakeholder theory highlights that in performing their activities, the corporate houses should look after the needs and demands of these multiple stakeholders.

Another important theory that explains why companies perform CSR activities is legitimacy theory (Deegan and Unerman, 2006). This theory highlights that if an organization wants to survive in a society, it has to legitimize its activities in the eyes of the society. In order to deal in the society an organization must ensure that its activities do not become harmful for the society. In other words, the people in the society must have a perception that the organization is not doing anything harmful to them. That is why organizations always try to manage the perception of the people in the society. Organizations try to ensure that the society thinks that the activities of the organization are legitimate. If the business organization cannot manage this perception there will be a legitimacy gap. This legitimacy gap is dangerous for the organization because it might result in some sort of penalties from the part of the society. If the people in the society think that the activities of the organization are harmful for them they may start rejecting the products, there may be negative media coverage, the organization may have to face lawsuits and thus lose goodwill in the market. So, legitimacy is important for the survival of the organization in the society. CSR is one of the impression management tools that can create a good perception about the organization. By showing that they are doing something good for the society and contributing in minimizing social problems, businesses can legitimize their existence and operation. Thus, CSR activities, by creating a good perception among the people of the society, can legitimize the existence and operations of the business organization.

The Banking sector is a highly regulated and a closely monitored sector of Bangladesh. Because of its high public visibility the organizations of this sector needs to work at managing their impression. They have to be responsible and accountable to multiple stakeholders. CSR activities, by contributing to the mitigation of social problems, can help in creating a good perception among the stakeholders about the organization.

This research is qualitative in nature. This research follows a case study method. Six Bangladeshi banks were selected for study. The contents of their annual reports were analyzed. These banks are public limited companies and thus they have to produce annual reports at the end of each financial year. In most of the annual reports, CSR activities are presented in a narrative form. In this research, these narratives were analyzed in order to find out the nature of contribution of these banks to the healthcare sector of Bangladesh. The contents of the annual reports of the year 2012 were analyzed. The banks were selected on a random basis.

This section of the article presents the descriptions of the selected cases. The contributions of the sample banks in the healthcare activities are narrated here.

Case 1: Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited
Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) is one of the most renowned banks that performs a good number of CSR activities for the community. In their annual report of 2012 they mentioned various CSR activities that they performed for the whole year. From their report it can be found that in this particular year they have contributed in medical infrastructure development, operation of cataract and treatment of cleft-lip. Other than these items they also provided individual donations to people who were in need of treatment.

In terms of infrastructure development they contributed to several projects. Firstly they donated 320 computers for a project called 'Surjer Hashi' (Smiling Sun). This project provided an online MIS system that deals with real time medical data. This project mainly targeted the hill tracts and the rural areas. Secondly, they donated money to one of the most prominent hospitals of Bangladesh for modernizing equipment for liver transplantation, kidney transplantation and cardiac surgeries. Thirdly, they donated money to a blood bank for purchasing cell separators. Fourthly, the bank donated an ambulance to a sea beach management committee that provides emergency support to the tourists. Fifthly, they donated another ambulance to a Diabetic hospital for supporting the diabetic patients in emergency.

Other than these efforts of infrastructure development, they donated money and conducted cataract operations with the help of several hospitals for the under privileged visually impaired people. In 2012 they conducted around 1200 cataract operations in seven areas of the country. This bank has been conducting this kind of operation since 2008 and up to 2012, 3,505 operations have been completed.

They also arranged operations for cleft-lip patients (especially children). They launched a program called 'Smile Brighter'. In 2012 they conducted 218 cleft-lip operations for underprivileged boys and girls. They are conducting this program from 2003 and up to 2012 they have conducted 5,073 operations in different parts of the country.
Other than all these programs the bank also donated money to individual persons suffering from different diseases as they needed money for treatment and surgery.

Case 2: Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited
Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL) is the first Islamic bank in Bangladesh. Their activities are guided by various religious factors.

They try to contribute in the health sector in two ways. First, they themselves invest in the health sector by establishing hospitals and other infrastructures; second, they contribute to other organizations for the development of their healthcare services.

Over the years, IBBL has established six hospitals that are under their ownership. Other than this they have also established seven community hospitals. IBBL also helps those people who run charitable dispensaries in several communities. According to the data provided in the 2012 annual report of this bank, on an average two hundred thousand patients get services from these dispensaries every year.

Case 3: Bank Asia
In 2012, Bank Asia, in collaboration with Bangladesh Eye Hospital conducted ophthalmological operation of cataract affected children. According to the information in their annual report, the bank has been conducting this kind of CSR activity in collaboration with Bangladesh Eye Hospital since 2005. Moreover, with the help of a local NGO, the bank arranged year-long school eye camps. Almost 10,400 school children could check their eye sight and many of them took treatment.

Other than this, the bank donated money to two of the hospitals for their infrastructure development.

Case 4: Mercantile Bank Limited
Though, in their annual report this bank did not mention their contribution to the health sector in details, they mentioned that they provided both institutional and individual support.

In terms of institutional support they donated money to the Liver Foundation of Bangladesh for buying the needed equipment for the treatment of patients. Other than this, they donated money to Rawnok Diabetic Sangstha and National Heart Foundation. They also donated money to two hospitals for establishing dialysis and eye units.

Case 5: Dhaka Bank Limited

Dhaka Bank Limited (DBL) has mainly contributed to two institutions in the year 2012. They donated money to Glaucoma Research and Eye Hospital for the people affected by Glaucoma and other eye diseases. In addition, to support the autistic children, the bank donated money to Proyash - an organization working with autistic and disabled children.

Case 6: Eastern Bank Limited
According to the annual report of 2012 Eastern Bank Limited (EBL) mainly provides institutional support rather than contributing to individual patients.

EBL contributed in the treatment of Thalassemia patients. EBL supports Bangladesh Thalassemia Foundation in their different efforts. In the year 2012, EBL donated a Refrigerated Centrifuge to this foundation.

This bank also supports Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organization (BERDO) - an organization that deals with the physically and mentally disabled people in Bangladesh. In 2012 the bank donated five computers for the education of visually impaired students. EBL also donated computers to Proyash - an institution working for the people with various disabilities.

Analysis and Conclusion
If these cases are analysed, certain features of corporate contribution in the health sector in relation to the banking companies of Bangladesh can be identified.

Firstly, the sample banks taken as cases contribute in the healthcare sector mainly in three ways:
a. Some of these banks donated funds for the infrastructure development of several hospitals and other medical centres.
b. Some of these banks contributed to the society by joining hands with some other institutions like NGOs.
c. Some of these banks went for individual donations.

Secondly, various diseases along with physical and mental disabilities got importance from these banks. If these cases can be analysed it can be seen that the banks have donated for eye treatment, liver treatment, kidney treatment, thalassemia treatment and some others. Other than these, autism also got importance from one of these banks. Thirdly, other than just donating for treatment, banks invested in medical camps. One of the banks donated money for educating disabled people. Fourthly, these banks mainly tried to help the poor people who require financial assistance for their health related problems.

According to legitimacy theory, business organizations must manage the perceptions of the stakeholders in order to legitimize their actions. There is no doubt that the CSR activities are performed with a motivation to manage the impressions of the stakeholders. There are two advantages of CSR activities. Firstly, the companies can develop goodwill that helps them to survive in the market. Shareholders get benefit from this. Secondly, the community/society gets the benefits of these CSR activities. Some other stakeholders than the shareholders get benefit.

In a country like Bangladesh where the population is huge and poverty is massive, Government alone cannot solve all the social problems. Healthcare is a basic requirement for humankind. That is why these corporate initiatives in relation to healthcare facilities can be considered as praiseworthy.

Deegan, C. and Unerman, J. (2006). Financial Accounting Theory (European edition). London: The Mc-Graw-Hill Companies.
Henslin, J. M. (2011). Social Problems A Down to Earth Approach (10th edition). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Hossain, D.M. (2010). Social Responsibility Practices of Business Organizations: Bangladesh Perspective. In Williams, G. (ed.), Responsible Management in Asia Perspectives on CSR, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.