Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a cross-cutting theme. CSR is ‘a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders’ [1]. As such CSR has been one of the appraisal criteria for the projects under the G4AW programme. A focus on CSR has been placed on both the project as organisational levels. Standards for social responsibility are provided in ISO 26000 [2]. This includes several core areas of focus: organizational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development.

Understanding the impact that G4AW projects have, includes monitoring of different aspects, especially the social and environmental baseline and new situation. Local surveys are an important component of the environmental and social impact assessments. Remote sensing can play an important role in assessing the environmental impact, as well as the impact projects have on increasing food production. Practical information and other useful resources on how to improve CSR within a company is provided in the Corporate Social Responsibility Passport [3]. Corporate social responsibility is strongly linked to the different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [4]

G4AW focus on CSR

On project level general guidelines were translated into a checklist with a number of indicators such as: Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts (conduction of environmental and social impact assessment), Labour and Working Conditions (child labour, of human rights, working conditions and terms). Resource Efficiency and Pollution Prevention, Community Health, Safety and Security, Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement, Resource efficiency (no increase harmful emissions to soil, water or air or increased waste production), Indigenous People and Cultural Heritage [5]. There has been an obligation to update the CSR results in the annual and final reports.

At organisational level, a CSR policy document has been requested in the G4AW Facility. A distinction between SME’s and lager enterprises is applicable. All organizations have provided this CRS policy.

Data policy

The focus on data protection and privacy has significantly increased since start of the G4AW programme in 2013. For many products developed in G4AW projects, use of personal data provides clear benefits for accuracy of services. It is also an important aspect of the business proposition, as it helps companies to understand their market. So far there is no clear global guidance on use of digital data. As soon as a certain app and the related data can be accessed in a certain country, the national or regional framework becomes relevant. As many apps can be accessed from a variety of countries, different legal frameworks have to be considered (even if the app is not practically relevant in a country). For the EU, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016 [6] is a legal guidance.

The guideline should be that everybody is owner of his own data. For this reason the data flows should be transparent, so that data is not becoming used without the consent of the users. It is difficult but necessary to understand and adhere to the relevant data-protection laws: more than 120 data protection laws focused on appropriate use of customer data in financial services exist around the world [7]. The scope of each law and the enforcement mechanism varies, making it difficult to fully understand the criteria that have to be met. In addition to this, many data providers or computing platforms have an own legal framework (licence), which has to be considered when creating services.

The increase in use of big data and AI is also creating new challenges for the existing legal frameworks [8]. The complexity of (international) data flows [9] in the creation and delivery of geodata services, in combination with the difficulty to position cloud-based computing in legal frameworks, (expecting all personal data to be physically stored in a country) [10] has created challenges in some G4AW projects. The amount of steps in which data is captured (from contact with people, by phone or through remote-sensing), makes it difficult to manage for companies who are new to this challenge.

The Farmer Data Reality.
Source: https://www.ictworks.org/the-reality-of-farmer-data-privacy-and-security-in-a-hyper-digital-age/

Data protection

Data protection is increasingly seen as an important component of CSR [11] and is already taken into consideration by most of the business owners in the G4AW programme, as they already have some experience with the GDPR. The relevance of the GDPR extends beyond the European Union, as any business that provides a service that can be accessed by people currently residing in the EU must comply with the GDPR. This is regardless of whether or not a business has a presence in the European Union: it must be GDPR compliant if it has customers/clients who reside there [12].

Except for protection of data related to individuals, the bigger picture of data privacy, when working with satellite data, is what rights countries have to be excluded from the analyses that result from the big (EO) data revolution [13]. The same sensors that can collect data that can provide benefits for large groups in a country, can also provide information about military movements. In some cases countries demand blurring of military areas [14], which complicates the work of service providers. Use of (space) big data and AI can provide significant benefits for farmers by increasing access to finance [15], but also call for additional focus on integrating/streamlining data protection in CSR policies.

More information and useful links on corporate social responsibility:

  1. What is CSR?
  2. ISO 26000 online documentation (English)
  3. https://www.government.nl/documents/publications/2014/12/08/corporate-social-responsibility-passport
  4. https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/special_issues/CSR_SDGs
  5. Model Form – Annex 5. CSR Analysis Update.
  6. Complete guide to GDPR compliance.
  7. The Appropriate Use of Customer Data in Financial Services.
  8. The law and big data.
  9. Data protection regulations and international data flows: Implications for trade and development.
  10. Data Sovereignty and the GDPR; Do You Know Where Your Data Is?
  11. Data protection as a corporate social responsibility.
  12. GDPR Compliance in Africa.
  13. From Space Big Data to Big Space Brother: do States have a right to privacy? (Part I)
  14. From Space Big Data to Big Space Brother: do States have a right to privacy? (Part II)
  15. Solving the Credit Impasse: How Big Data and AI are Generating Funding Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers in Africa.