By Maya Quiroga
HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba today, in response to the start of reestablishing diplomatic ties with the US, we’re beginning to talk about the interaction between art, culture and economy in a coherent way.
During the 14th International Meeting about Historic Center Management and Administration, the professor and researcher Rafael Betancourt, from Havana’s San Geronimo University College, presented a thesis on a socially responsible economy and its relevance on the island, from business entrepreneurship, a subject which has evolved recently, the fruit of new theories surrounding the issue of local development.
Betancourt, talked about corporate social responsibility in his presentation, a little-known concept here in Cuba, where many cooperatives are unable to create an integrated business strategy or what today is called “Triple Bottom Line”, that is to say, focussing on the company’s employees, on their external public (the community) and finding a balance between its assets and the environment.
The truth of the matter is that not even managers of many state companies or owners of the majority of private bars and restaurants – who offer their goods at almost unaccessible prices to the ordinary Cuban [who doesn’t receive remittances from abroad] – know the importance of creating an integrated business plan.
Today, there are extremely few state-run or private businesses who after receiving their monthly or annual profits and recovering their initial costs, focus on recycling raw materials, protecting the environment and local heritage or on carrying out activities which result in social benefits for the community where they work.
You just have to walk through the city to see that near the main entrance to some state-owned companies or private artist workshops there is a garbage bin, the pavement hasn’t been tarmacked or there’s a flower bed without any vegetation. Many of these companies’ directors and private businesspeople don’t show the least bit of interest in resolving these problems because they think that’s it not their responsibility to fix this.
Currently, from the Master Plan for Old Havana’s integrated revitilization, new strategies are being tried out for comprehensive development which includes a caring economy as one of the ways to create sustainable human development. In its trial phase, the institution which is overseen by the architect Patricia Rodriguez, approaches socially responsible micro businesses:
“The emerging power of these private small businesses can contribute a lot towards restoring our Historic Center. In fact, they can relieve some of the enormous maintenance burden off of the State. It’s a giant challenge which the whole country will have to face and therefore it’s necessary to be prepared,” says the architect.
For many years now, the Cuban government has taken on the role of the provider of the population’s social needs. In practice, all this has done is create a welfare and sometimes wasteful attitude and mentality in a people used to decades of paternalism.
Although you might not believe it, socially responsible businesses is everybody’s concern. A company will only be truly profitable when it reaches the Triple Bottom Line. Having a lot of personal gain isn’t worth anything if we’re not protecting the environment and our heritage or if we don’t carry out actions that benefit the communities we work in.