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We first met with Outsized a few months ago. Apart from being a great bunch of people, we instantly believed in their mission – to bring together the best boutique consultants in a way that enables large companies to access unique talent and expertise that they might otherwise struggle to access. Of course we have massive respect for the big consulting firms, there’s no competing with them on research capacity and pure scale of abilities. But there’s a certain value that comes from working with boutique consultancies who can offer high-level expertise in a specific field, a fresh perspective for every client, and plenty of face time with directors and founders.
The problem for companies in hiring a boutique consultancy is finding the right one for their needs and being able to blindly trust in its ability to deliver. That’s where Outsized comes in – by working personally with hundreds of small consultancies and undertaking background checks on previous clients and projects, they are able to offer a suite of pre-vetted options to large clients, specialising in financial services.
We love a bit of innovation and were quick to work out how we could collaborate with the Outsized team. Our founder Laura wrote this piece for their thought-leadership forum in July and we are excited to announce the launch of a bespoke service product in the CSR space. Called “Right Track”, it’s designed for clients who currently don’t have a holistic CSR vision, or want to align their CSR activities more tightly with business objectives.
You can read all about the new “Right Track” service product here.
By Anant Shrivastava & Vrindaa Sharma
In the last couple of months, the CSR world has been buzzing. We're very excited to see people talking about critical topics like the advantages of collaboration in CSR and the role of strategic CSR in enhancing brand value. DOT is working on several collaboration-focused projects and projects focused on aligning CSR with business values and purpose.
Collaboration works for scalable social impact
The idea of collaboration between companies for more effective CSR is hardly new. Even the govt. has suggested that companies can collaborate with one another on CSR initiatives. The benefits of such partnerships cannot be overstated. As this Live Mint article states, advantages range from availability of larger funds to cross functional expertise that can address a broad range of issues to wider geographic presence for increased impact. The article also talks about valid challenges in implementing such partnerships. We at DOT are undertaking just such a coalition on road safety with our partner Shell so we’ll experience first-hand how difficult, but hopefully how successful it can be!
Corporate-Government collaboration on CSR, a challenge!
Collaboration seems to be the flavour of this round-up! According to this DNA article, a proposal by the Maharashtra govt. to work with corporates on CSR has failed to elicit a response. We’re not surprised by the reasons stated by companies – from bureaucratic red-tape to corruption. First of all, the Government shouldn’t really be directing companies on how to spend CSR funds. We’ve argued against this before and will say again that companies should be given the freedom to invest CSR funding in areas they see fit. This is important for effective CSR programmes that utilise the core expertise of companies. Secondly, if the Government does want to work with corporates on CSR for increased impact, it should identify sectors and issues requiring intervention and limit itself to suggesting them to companies. Thirdly, the greatest help from the Government would be to encourage companies to innovate within the space and work with organisations that can truly make a difference through game-changing solutions.
Do corporates have unrealistic expectations from NGOs?
The transparency and accountability of companies towards CSR translates into strict monitoring, evaluation, and reporting requirements for NGOs that implement the projects on ground. As this article states, there is a mismatch between the expectations of companies and NGOs on M&E and reporting. We agree that M&E and quality reporting can be a time-intensive exercise that requires qualified resources. The issue needs to be tackled on two fronts – the companies should understand that M&E and reporting comes at a cost, and be ready to allocate a portion of CSR funding towards them.
The NGOs on the other hand, need to invest time and funding to build their capacity to undertake M&E and deliver quality reporting. They should work towards making quality reporting a standard across all projects for all donors. This would create cost and time efficiencies for M&E and reporting and ensure these vital aspects are executed effectively and skilfully for all projects, not only those funded by CSR funding.
Taxing the 2% - a taxing task!
Even though the govt. has stated that CSR expenditure is not exempt from tax, plenty of ambiguities still exist that allow companies to avail tax benefits on CSR spending, as pointed by this article, The biggest issue is that philanthropic donations or grants to different sectors/causes enjoy different tax exemption rates ranging from 50 to 200 percent. This has a potential downside of companies favouring trusts or organisations that provide higher tax benefits. Thus, the intention of positively impacting society could get lost in an effort to save tax. An effective way to mitigate this risk is to implement a uniform tax treatment on all grants and donations. This has been suggested to the govt. by the MCA’s Baijal Committee but no action has been taken yet. We hope a change, however slow, is underway.
Using strategic CSR to drives brand value
We can’t stress enough on the importance of strategic CSR in not only maximising the social and environmental impact but also positively influencing the brand. A good thing is that smart companies are thinking the same way. Anika Agarwal, head of marketing at Max Bupa talks about adopting a CSR strategy that delivers positive impact on people, planet and your brand. In a time where consumers are influenced by a brand’s social and environmental footprint, CSR can prove to be the determining factor for the brand’s success or failure.
Leveraging CSR for academic research and development
This Forbes article talks about the different ways in which CSR funds can be pumped into academics, research and educational institutions. CSR funding can surely be useful in ensuring development of new technologies and solutions that can solve pressing social issues. While the Companies Act, 2013 specifies that CSR funds can be utilised for supporting research and technology incubators, investment in this area has been poor. Companies seem to stick to traditional grant giving to NGOs instead of looking out for social start-ups and research organisations innovating in the social space. It would be great to see companies stepping up their efforts in finding and supporting organisations that offer new and scalable solutions to existing development challenges.
By Sanya Arora
Sanya is studying Fashion Marketing at the Pearl Academy and is interning with DOT for the summer. Though the primary focus of her internship is on ethical fashion, she is interested in exploring the power of brand to create positive social change. Some great campaigns by great companies!
As consumers have started becoming more aware of the inequities around them, a lot of brands and companies are putting social and environmental sustainability at the heart of their business. They are standing up for something bigger, something good, something which entails more attention than just products and services. This rise in socially conscious consumers has made it essential for brands to nurture an emotional relationship with their customers by championing a cause. Here are some of the best.
Vistara & Salaam Baalak Trust - #FlyTheNewFeeling
Vistara airlines collaborated with a NGO called ‘Salaam Baalak Trust’ which supports street children in Delhi and Mumbai. The airlines invited 12 kids from the NGO to be part of their very first flight. The complete joy of flying for the first time was captured and made into a short film titled ‘Fly the new feeling’. The brand not just marked their new journey but also fulfilled the dreams of 12 kids while connecting with its audience with a promise of ‘Fly the new feeling’. You can watch the film here
Ching’s Secret & Akshay Patra Foundation - ‘India Ke Hunger Ki Bajao’
The premium Chinese brand Ching’s Secret partnered with Akshay Patra Foundation, a non-profit organisation providing mid-Day meals to 1.5 million children in India every year. The aim of the campaign ‘India Ke Hunger Ki Bajao’ is to feed 1 million children across India. The brand has given an actionable voice with the help of its brand ambassador Ranveer Singh who drives this CSR campaign. Ching's strongly feels that by positively contributing to the community with this initiative, they will drive nation towards better future and progress. You can watch the film here.
Paper Boat & Parivaar Ashram #FloatABoat
A beverage brand, Paper Boat, teamed up with Parivaar, a humanitarian service organization, with the vision of improving the life of less fortunate children. Together they rolled out a campaign, ‘Float A Boat’, an initiative which involved making a paper boat, uploading a picture on their website or social media with a hashtag #FloatABoat. For every uploaded picture, the brand donated Rs 20 for children's education. The campaign helped the brand build on its proposition of ‘Drinks & Memories’. You can watch the film here
Dabur’s Sani Fresh - ‘700se7Kadam’
Dabur India for its toilet cleaner brand Sani Fresh, took out a campaign called ‘700se7kadam’ with a motive of taking steps towards creating better sanitation facilities for rural women in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. The campaign featured stories of many rural women in India who walk a great distance to relieve themselves and put their life and dignity at risk. The brand invited all its customers to support the campaign by creating a buzz on social media. For the sale of every product, the brand contributed Re. 1 towards building toilets with a hope to reduce the distance traveled by these women, from 700 steps to only 7 steps. You can watch the film here
Lenovo & YUWA - #PitchToHer
Lenovo in partnership with YUWA, a non-profit organisation that imparts football training to young girls, launched a campaign called ‘Pitch To Her’. The idea was to invite young minds to pitch innovative ideas that can impact the life of girls at YUWA through technology. The most convincing idea was awarded with a month long internship at the YUWA campus. In this way the brand helped the young girls at YUWA to experience the wonders of technology, pushing them towards a smarter and better world. You can watch the film here
Nivea India & Aseema Charitable Trust - ‘Mom’s Touch’
A skin care brand, Nivea, launched a social campaign in association with Aseema Charitable Trust, an organisation that works towards providing education to children from marginalised communities. The campaign touched millions of hearts by depicting stories of extraordinary mothers who go out of their way to make their children’s future secure. The first leg of the campaign was done in municipal schools of Mumbai, where mothers of students with 100% attendance were given 3 months ration as an acknowledgment to their efforts. This helped the brand to build a right image of ‘love and care’ with its customers. You can watch the film here
Lifebuoy- ‘Help A Child Reach Five’
Hindustan Unilever’s soap brand, Lifebuoy, created a unique social campaign to spread awareness about the facts on death of children under 5 due to infections like diarrhoea. This social initiative was done in Thesgora, an Indian village with various hygiene and handwashing education programmes. The campaign titled ‘Help A Child Reach 5’ showed positive impact on handwashing behaviour and health of the people living in that village. Since then the brand has become more ‘preferred’ among its audience. You can watch the film here
We are looking for a smart problem solver who’s excited about using research and data to create social programmes. The role would involve supporting our team of consultants by undertaking desk-based research to feed great knowledge and insights into our projects within affordable housing, ethical manufacturing, and road safety.
You’d be a critical part of the team, your findings would underpin all of our projects and you’d need to be ready to bring your own ideas to the table. You’d also be asked to assist with research for new client meetings, as well as assist with some project implementation.
Currently this is a short-term role with the potential to become a permanent junior consultant.
Initially a three-month role from August to October
Compensation will be discussed with short-listed candidates
Full-time, 9.30-6pm, Monday to Friday with additional time as required Graduate with up to two years of experience
To apply, write to us at email@example.com, with your CV, a cover letter explaining why you are the right person for the job, and answers to the following questions to give us some insight into how awesome you are!
What experience do you have in research and finding insights?
Why would you be interested in working for a consultancy that creates social impact through business?
If you had to create a plan to tackle road safety in India tell us the first three things you would try to find out?
By Sanya Arora
Sanya is studying Fashion Marketing at the Pearl Academy and is interning with DOT for the summer, with a focus on fashion and garment manufacturing. Building on her interest in ethical fashion, she has written an interesting piece on niche, Indian fashion labels in the upcycling space. Great brands that need to be talked about!
How does one add value to the discarded lot? How about using the same which was lost?
Low-cost clothing inspired by high-cost luxury trends has created a mass industry of “fast fashion”. The fast fashion industry is booming where billions of new designs are created and accepted worldwide, which further generates employment opportunity for huge number of skilled and unskilled workers in the Indian textile industry. While the outer face of the industry is all glammed up with stylish products, the internal space needs much consideration and support. The concept of ‘fast fashion’ relies on the model in which clothes only last for a short period of time and are easily replaceable. The result is a wave of over-consumption and over-dumping at a mass level. However there is good news in the form of a new trend for creating an environment of zero waste - the upswing of ‘upcycling’ in fashion industry.
People usually tend to blur the meaning of the two terms ‘upcycling’ and ‘recycling’ but there exists a contrasting difference between the two. Recycling involves breaking down of the product (usually plastic, glass, paper etc.) into raw material form, so that it can be made into a new product. Whereas upcycling is a process in which product is reconstructed or redesigned to make another product. It reduces waste as pre-industrial, pre-consumer and post-consumer waste is not thrown away but simply reworked into a new product. Upcycling is no new concept, it has been a part of our Indian culture since 1930’s and 40’s when our families used to reuse almost everything - but now the old is new again, with some improvements.
Making something new and artistic with something you once believed is useless is true art. A lot of young designers have taken up this trend. Here are some start-up fashion labels that are not only committed to upcycling but are also trying to change the consumer mindset with their ethical and sustainable initiatives, contributing towards making a more environmentally and socially viable world.
Delhi-based fashion clothing brand, Doodlage is strongly dedicated to an ethical idea of upcycling and recycling. They focus on using the untouched, not worn or barely worn clothing of your wardrobes and turning them into nice and trendy upcycled or recycled clothing. They work on recycling, reconstructing and redesigning old vintage collections with added trims and prints. Every garment is unique in its own way, using sustainable fabrics and different cuts and colours.
Jaipur-based brand, Mehera Shaw is an affordable, upcycled and artisanal lifestyle brand producing a number of product categories for environmentally conscious women. Their upcycling project takes into use post-consumer waste like scraps, fabrics, trims and threads to create value-added accessories. Their vision is built on using low impact fabric, fair labor garment production and educating customers about the concept.
Mumbai-based brand, Ka-Sha by Karishma Shahani Khan, strongly focuses on an ethical waste policy for creating her collection. One thing which grabs the intention of many people is her unique way of designing, where everyday textile (cotton or linen) is mixed with a beautiful Indian craft - be it a different dye or an unusual modern silhouette. Her collection has got reasonable attention in many international and domestic publications.
Conserve by Shalabh and Anita Ahuja
Conserve is a great initiative based in Bahadurgarh, Haryana. It was founded by Shalabh and Anita with a focus on using waste in the production of new products. They upcyle plastic bags and reinvent them as fashion accessories. They are socially and environmentally responsible as they employ ragpickers to collect and manage waste, which they refashion into daily lifestyle products. The profit which they make is also spent on social welfare projects.
Delhi-based designer Aneeth Arora’s label, Péro, makes one- of- a- kind products by adding Indian-ness to its entire garment. Péro uses its unique skill of being sustainable for creating upcycled/recycled wearable garments from reusable fabrics. The inspiration is taken from the local people who are stylish and trendy without any effort and hence each product by this label evokes some sense of culture from where it originates.
House of Wandering Silk
Delhi-based social enterprise, House of Wandering Silk works with cooperatives, NGOs and women artisans across Asia to create beautifully designed clothes, accessories and home décor. The label has setup a distinct image for itself by using old saris and reusing them by turning into scarves, shrugs and neckpieces. Each product under this label has a unique story to tell which makes the customer want their ethical products.
Eco wings, founded five years ago, is playful, stylish and India’s finest brand providing upcycled accessories. They are making conscious efforts by adopting each and every possible way to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the environment. They have fashionable and trendy products made out of truck and bike tire tubes, marble slurry, waste cotton cloth, and tin etc.
Jaggery is an independent designer brand that uses industrial waste for making ethical, green products. The brand uses seatbelts and tarpaulins for making bags and other accessories. Along with this, as a part of their social responsibility project ‘oneBagoneTree’, they plant one tree for each purchase made from their website. The brand takes pride in helping reforest the world and hence protecting the environment.
By Anant Shrivastava
In our latest bi-monthly roundup we cover recent CSR circulars and amendments, and interesting reports on employee engagement and Swachh Bharat. Exciting times for India Inc! New financial year, better CSR?
No CSR for tobacco companies?
A circular released by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) on 16 May, 2016 states that CSR activities undertaken by companies cannot prohibit or conflict with any other prevailing laws of the land including Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003. This could mean that tobacco companies are prohibited from undertaking CSR activities as they can be viewed as marketing or promotion of the brand, which is prohibited under COTPA. This essentially allows tobacco companies to escape from any kind of social responsibility. We question whether this circular is a smart move on the Government’s part. While it’s important that tobacco companies are not allowed to promote their brands through CSR, there can be smarter ways to ensure they still undertake CSR activities as mandated by the Companies Act, 2013. Companies can implement CSR activities without promoting individual brands. We hope that the Government issues clear guidelines on the matter and ensures that all companies that fall within the purview of the Act participate in CSR.
Integrating CSR into leadership boosts employee engagement across companies
We’ve always held the view that CSR should be strategically integrated from the top down within organisations. A new study by the Hay Group division at Korn Ferry has found out that including CSR into leadership development results in a higher employee engagement throughout the company and boosts overall performance. While the study provides evidence that leadership programmes with components of social responsibility have delivered high impact, it also points to a huge current gap – only 36% of employees are “highly engaged”. Further, only 59% of the participants felt that their organisation actually included CSR in leadership development. This presents a huge opportunity for companies to get their act right and leverage CSR for business benefits. Such studies serve a useful purpose by providing data-backed proof of the business value of social responsibility!
The Government’s unrealistic expectations on CSR?
Is the Government expecting too much from companies in the form of CSR and deviating from the core purpose of mandatory social responsibility? This Livemint article suggests so. The Government regularly urges private companies to contribute to its own social welfare schemes to “fill in the gap” that it is failing to adequately address. But as the article highlights, the total spending on CSR by companies is miniscule compared with the amount spent by the Government. Further, some Government requests are in clear violation of the Companies Act itself. We think the companies should be allowed freedom to choose and implement their own CSR initiatives that leverage their expertise to deliver maximum impact. The Government should realise that companies are not responsible for supporting its own schemes. The nation stands to benefit more if there is spending in diverse areas than if all the funds are pooled into few Government initiated schemes. We can only hope they are listening.
Proposed FCRA amendment – a boon for companies, NGOs, and controversially, even political parties!
A proposed amendment to the FCRA aims to makes it easier for companies that have more than 50 percent foreign shareholding to spend on CSR activities without the non-profit partners requiring FCRA clearance. If the amendment goes through, it will reduce the burden of additional due diligence warranted in case of FCRA contributions. Many NGOs, especially smaller ones that do not opt for FCRA clearance and therefore miss out on corporate funding, also stand to benefit from this. However, as this article states, the amendment may also help certain political parties get away with FCRA violations. We certainly welcome the proposed amendment if it simplifies giving and receiving of corporate funding for social good but at the same time, it should not be leveraged for political gains.
Treat CSR expenses as non-cost items – Institute of Chartered Accountants of India
ICAI, the apex body of chartered accountants in India, has issued an exposure draft of the guidance note on treatment of CSR costs. The note specifies that companies should not treat CSR expenses, including expenses above the 2% obligation, as business expenses (product or service costs) and should only include them in the profit reconciliation statement, commonly known as the profit loss account. The note also specifies that any income or surplus through CSR activities cannot form part of the business profit and should be adjusted against the CSR expenses to give the actual amount. This note does not have a significant implication for companies. Donations by companies have always been accounted in the profit reconciliation statement and CSR expenses should continue to be treated that way. But it serves a useful purpose of providing clarity on accounting of CSR expenses and ensuring full compliance with the Companies Act, 2013.
The complete exposure draft can be found here.
Has CSR funding helped the Swachh Bharat Mission?
Samhita, in association with the Indian Sanitation Coalition, has released a report that states the contribution of CSR funding in the Swachh Bharat Mission. 90 out of the top 100 BSE companies were involved in the initiative in some way, including public sector companies. It is evident that Swacch Bharat is getting corporate funding. But are companies making efforts with the aim to deliver maximum benefit and actually changing the state of sanitation in India? Consider this: according to the report, 75% of the amount spent was on infrastructure projects i.e. building toilets and only 25% on the other aspects such as community behaviour change programmes, maintenance etc. The majority of the amount was spent in states with heavy industry presence, while states like J&K, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh missed out, despite dire need for sanitation facilities. With just 17 percent of the amount spent on urban areas, companies also largely ignored the requirement of sanitation facilities in poor urban slums.
We feel there is a learning for all the three parties involved in ensuring the mission is a success. The Government needs to shift focus from developing infrastructure to addressing community behaviour around toilet use, something that has been repeatedly asserted by experts in the field. The NGOs working in this sector need to ensure that programmes around behaviour change have robust impact measurement and can show tangible outcomes to corporate donors. Intangible outcomes are a big factor for companies to be disinterested in such initiatives. Finally, companies ought to resist tokenistic participation in the mission and start thinking about the entire lifecycle of a sanitation project. Building toilets is just the start. Equally important is ensuring the community uses them and that they are maintained in the long-run. Corporate India should think about the enduring benefits from this programme rather than the one-time activity it has become!
By Gauri Sharma
Innovative CSR & sustainability managers are raising the bar of “traditional” corporate responsibility by leveraging it to solve pressing business problems, deriving business value while advancing the company’s sustainability performance. Employee engagement – which is vital to building a successful, future-facing company – is one such critical business challenge sustainability managers are learning to address. Good employee engagement strategies have been proven to lower attrition and absenteeism, and improve productivity, efficiency and work quality – creating an energy and reputation that attracts the best, innovative talent.
Now more than ever, it’s imperative to crack the challenge of disengaged employees. India will become the youngest country in the world by 2021, with 64% of its population in the working age group of 20-35, meaning that millennials will constitute the majority of a company’s workforce. Research shows millennials to be more socially conscious than any generation before, looking to work in companies that have a purpose beyond profit and where they can have meaningful impact.
Smart companies and sustainability managers are tapping into this trend by engaging their employees in their social and environmental purpose. It’s great to see how some companies are changing the game by crafting cutting-edge sustainability engagement programmes to make the business more responsible while creating a more engaged, productive and conscious workforce. Here are some of the best.
1. Dashboards – measure and amplify “doing good”
Innovative and easily-accessible dashboards are increasingly being used to spur and measure employee participation in sustainability initiatives. AT&T has been at forefront of this with its voluntary, company-wide portal called Do One Thing (DOT) which encourages employees to commit to regular, measurable actions that positively impact their communities, themselves and the company. From small initiatives such as recycling to edgy initiatives like developing sustainable technologies – AT&T has enabled it all by bringing engaging dashboards for sustainability.
2. Gamification – make sustainability fun
Companies are intelligently applying game techniques to motivate employees to opt for more sustainable practices, fast-tracking their overall sustainability improvements. In 2014, Sony Electronics (SEL) created an online Green Workspace Certification to encourage its employees to adopt more sustainable practices and engage in Sony Group’s larger goal of achieving a zero environmental footprint by 2050. SEL essentially turned sustainability into a fun game with a live stream of projects, team rankings and progress tracking, and divided the certification into four levels: Seed, Leaf, Tree, and Forest.
3. Green appraisal – integrate performance and sustainability
By adding a sustainability criteria to performance evaluation, companies are incentivizing employees to become change makers and actively participate in their sustainability agenda. To achieve its target of 100% employee engagement in CSR & Sustainability by 2020, Campbell Soup Co. assesses every employee’s performance on the basis of contribution to the company’s CSR and sustainability practices and goals. It has also integrated sustainability metrics into its executive compensation calculation. Similarly, in 2008, Intel made a bold move by linking a portion of executive and employee compensation to the achievement of the company’s corporate responsibility metrics.
4. Hackathons – disrupt the sustainability status quo
Hackathons have proven to be a great tool to crack business challenges. Dynamic companies are cross-utilizing them in sustainability by rallying employees to hack and pitch cutting-edge ideas that add social and environmental value to the business. 3M’s Innovation Power Pitch for Sustainability called on its employees across the world to pitch innovative ideas around potential sustainable products. The winning idea was given a research grant bring this product to life. The ever-inspiring Etsy, organized a Hack Day – bringing together 150 team members who came up with 22 ideas ranging from increasing women in leadership roles to a programme that tracks the company’s carbon footprint.
5. Volunteering 2.0 – utilise expertise for good
Companies are crafting smart and more effective employee volunteering strategies that leverage their employees’ knowledge and skill set for good. As a part of Godrej’s volunteering program, its employees capacity-build NGOs and work collaboratively with them to create long-term sustainable models. Pfizer’s Global Health Fellows program enables its employees to work with NGOs in developing countries for up to 6 months, addressing healthcare challenges in under-served communities. Skills-based volunteering not only deepens employee engagement, but also develops leadership, soft skills and professional expertise.
6. Conscious consumption – inspire positive change
Through exciting internal sustainability campaigns and offerings, companies are inspiring positive changes in their employees’ lifestyles. During World Water Week in 2012, Levis’ held a Go Water<Less Challenge asking its employees around the world to wear the same unwashed pair of jeans the entire week. By encouraging employees and even consumers to reduce their environmental footprint by using less water, Levis’ created significant buzz and also brought attention to its Water<Less collection. In 2011 SAP developed TwoGo a cloud-based carpooling app for its employees to reduce its carbon footprint and costs. In 2013, this app was launched externally, enabling other companies to leverage the same benefits. Very recently, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), put up a message in their Bangalore office canteen, with an aim to cut down individual food shortage – “Take all you can eat, but eat all you can take”, tying into TCS’s overall waste reduction policy.
Progressive companies and sustainability managers around the world are aligning and integrating their CSR and sustainability vision with their employee engagement strategies. The result is that critical business challenges are being addressed as the business becomes more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. It’s becoming increasingly evident that commitment to sustainability and CSR is no longer nice-to-have, but actually a great core business strategy.
Gauri Sharma is a Consultant at Do One Thing, a strategy and communications consultancy, driving responsible business in India.
This article was originally published on 25th May 2016 in The CSR Journal
We’re growing and are looking for a creative and enterprising summer intern.
If you’re a college student or recent graduate excited by CSR and responsible business in India – this is the perfect opportunity for you to dive into it! The internship would give you a vast experience, covering business development, communications, knowledge management and client servicing.
We’re looking for someone to join us ASAP by 1st June 2016. To apply, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, with a copy of your CV, telling us why you’re interested in interning at DOT.
(Please note, this is a paid internship - compensation will be disclosed to short-listed candidates)
Our Founder & MD, Laura Quinn, wrote a great opinion piece in the The CSR Journal, titled "Philanthropy To Purpose: India Inc. Is Finding Its Socially Responsible Feet".
The article describes India Inc's journey from corporate & family-led philanthropy, to the introduction of the CSR legislation and how that led to systems and processes being put in place to manage CSR compliance. After two years of the legislation, we are now seeing a surprising but truly encouraging trend - Indian companies integrating "purpose" at the core of the business strategies. Read the full article here
"It was obvious to me that I’d found my passion—and my next professional challenge—so I took the leap and decided to turn that passion into a business. Do One Thing is now over four years old. We’re a consultancy in Delhi that helps great companies find their purpose – through brand positioning, CSR, employee engagement, and communications – enabling them to drive financial value and social impact at the same time."
By Anant Shrivastava
It’s been an exciting couple of months with significant buzz in the world of CSR and sustainability. DOT brings you news from India and beyond with articles ranging from recommended changes to the Companies Act, benefits of impact investing and creating shared value to how luxury brands stepping up their CSR game. It’s becoming increasingly evident that strategic and well-integrated CSR is the way forward and is no longer a nice-to-have!
CLC recommends changes in Section 135 of the Companies Act
The Companies Law Committee (CLC) setup in 2015 to make recommendations to the govt. on issues arising from implementation of the Companies Act, 2013, has recommended several changes to the Act, including Section 135 of the Act pertaining to CSR. Recommendations on CSR have been made after considering the suggestions contained in the High Level Committee on CSR report that came out in October 2015. The complete CLC report can be found here. Recommendations have been made around the following points:
- Information on annual disclosure of companies around CSR should be compiled by MCA and made available in public domain
- The govt. should play no role in monitoring CSR implemented by companies and it will be the companies’ responsibility to systematically monitor their CSR activities
- Composition of CSR committee for companies not required to have independent directors should be prescribed as ‘having two or more directors’
- Clarity on computing net profits for determining whether a company qualifies for mandatory CSR spend
- Specific inclusion of requirement of foreign companies to comply with the CSR obligation
- Areas for CSR listed under Schedule VII to be interpreted as ‘subjects’ rather than specific activities – allowing companies to interpret them liberally
- No carry forward of unspent CSR fund to the next year
- Companies, including PSUs, to be given flexibility for some years to experience the implementation of mandatory CSR before any steps on unspent funds are taken
- Section 8 ‘not for profit’ companies should also implement CSR activities if they cross the financial threshold specified in the Act
The next steps will likely involve these recommendations being presented in the parliament in the form of a bill which could either be passed or rejected.
While some of the above recommendations are indeed helpful for companies in terms of ease of understanding the Act and implementation of CSR activities, this report missed any suggestion on a crucial issue – tax treatment of CSR activities. It’s high time the govt. provided clarity on the same as companies seem to be struggling to understand tax implications of CSR spends in various areas. A uniform tax treatment can prove to be really useful and prohibit a bias for activities that allow more tax benefits than others.
Leveraging social media for effective CSR communication
Social media is ubiquitous. People, companies, even governments use it in some way to communicate. Businesses have been using the power of social media to reach out to all their stakeholders but, according to a study, social media is heavily underused for communicating the social good done by companies. This Economic Times blog explores how firms can utilise social media to effectively communicate about their CSR and the numerous benefits it has to offer. Social media is a powerful but fast evolving tool and companies will need to build expertise if they wish to use it as a communications medium for CSR.
Going beyond CSR – creating shared value
Even though companies are embracing CSR and ensuring they undertake efforts that benefit society and/or the environment, CSR is still viewed as something that’s extra to the business. We’ve stressed before that CSR is beneficial for both the communities and businesses and plenty of studies exist to support that. Maybe, what’s needed to emphasise the point is looking at social responsibility from a different angle. This article, co-authored by one of the co-founders of the Shared Value Initiative India, attempts to do that. Shared value is an essential concept for businesses where they operate with the aim of creating a more equitable world, maximising shareholders’ wealth in the process. The initiative has seen some success in bringing together companies, government, and civil society organisations to adopt and share practices that allow creation of shared value through business. We hope more business leaders are listening and will work to align their firms in this direction.
A short refresher on what makes a good CSR programme
Every few months, we try to highlight articles that show what constitutes an effective CSR initiative. This article by Paroma Roy Chaudhary succinctly captures the essential components of CSR that benefit both the community and the business – alignment with business, brand impact, local relevance, robust monitoring and evaluation, and professional management. Perhaps the one vital component missing is effective communications around CSR. We’ll continue to provide such refreshers in the hope that more companies take note and do good by doing it well!
Impact investing – Need of the hour for India?
Impact investing is often mixed up with philanthropy, CSR, and other similar sounding terms. As a result, its true meaning is often lost. This article defines it from an academic viewpoint and goes on to discuss its benefits especially in the Indian context. Impact investing in microfinance has already benefited millions in India and has provided significant returns to investors. Being a tried and tested model in India’s developing economy, it is high time that companies and individuals focus their attention on it. This could be the answer to the currently limiting CSR legislation because it provides opportunities for innovation in the development space while giving social and financial returns.
Good news – More companies view CSR as a strategic process!
Findings from a survey conducted by FICCI show that an increasing number of companies consider CSR to be a strategic decision making process in the business. Around 150 companies participated in the survey which captured responses on management involvement in CSR, implementation and monitoring of CSR activities, clarity of Section 135 etc. It’s heartening to see companies making efforts in understanding and complying with the Act. However, companies also raised some concerns in terms of clarity of the Act (especially tax related regulations), finding credible NGOs, lack of CSR professionals to manage implementation etc. It’s clear that a collaborative effort by the govt. and corporate sector is needed to mitigate these issues and allow ease of planning, executing, and monitoring of CSR.
Are luxury brands doing their bit of social good?
Although a number of luxury brands across the world have been involved in social initiatives, they’re not synonymous with CSR to an extent that some other sectors are. The luxury sector has so far taken a very traditional approach to benefiting the community, mostly through charity. Strategic CSR is yet to be largely taken up. This may be changing. This article talks about the work that’s being done by brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chopard and while it may not exactly be “strategic CSR”, these brands are going beyond philanthropy and thinking of long-term social initiatives. A good move considering any business that works with customers who are socially conscious and judge companies on their social footprint stands to only gain through social responsibility initiatives!
CSR and sustainability as tools for attracting investment
Indian companies stand to gain in another area through robust CSR and sustainability initiatives – fund raising. This article by Singapore based investment consultancy CSR Works mentions that Indian companies need to step up their CSR disclosures and sustainability reporting if they need to tap in to the $21.4 trillion pool of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds. Sometime back, we’d written about the poor quality of CSR and sustainability reporting by Indian companies and this news highlights how companies are missing out on investments as a result of it. Will firms take up this issue soon? We can only wish as we wait and watch.
Analysing the spend
Since April 2014, India's largest companies have been mandated to spend two percent of their average profit from the last three years on social development activities.
Final reports of the first year of mandatory CSR spending (FY 14-15) came in last summer and the Energy industry (Oil, Gas and Power) had the highest CSR spend obligation at INR 2181 crore. Additionally, ONGC, an O&G public sector company, had the second-largest CSR spend in India with INR 495 crore (the largest being from Reliance Industries). Thus, the sector has a huge impact on shaping CSR as whole in India. DOT works closely with British Gas (BG) India on their social investment and thus, we have a keen interest in understanding trends within the sector. We conducted a study on the Oil & Gas (O&G) Industry’s first year of CSR spend, with a focus on 12 of the top O&G companies in India.
Missed two percent but not by far
On average, the O&G industry spent 1.5% (INR 972.9 crore)* of its net profits on CSR, slightly missing its two percent target of INR 1296.7*. Three O&G companies (India Oil, HPCL and BG India) spent their exact CSR budget whereas Oil India exceeded its budget by 36%. Given the magnitude of funds the sector was obligated to spend, it was a great start, and a clear indication that companies are committed to CSR.
Some observed trends
Within the O&G sector, several key trends emerged regarding how their CSR budgets were spent, much of it in line with India’s top companies across industries.
- Most O&G companies invested in at least one large project aligned with government initiatives, especially Swachh Bharat and Skill India. This gave companies a strong direction, reputational benefit and a good social license to operate driver. However, spending large sums of money on government initiatives under CSR doesn’t seem to be in the true spirit of the law as it shifts accountability of money’s impact from the company to the govt.
- About 90 percent of the CSR expenditure was in four of the ten spend areas of Schedule VII: Education and Vocational Skills; Hunger, Poverty, Healthcare and Sanitation; Environmental Sustainability; and, Rural Development. This made sense since these are the most basic provisions and broadest categories on the list, but also meant investments in tech incubators, sports development, and reducing inequalities were disproportionately low.
- Roughly 60% of the O&G sector’s CSR budget was through implementation agencies rather than direct implementation of CSR activities, working with credible and transparent NGOs and organisations on large projects.
- However, O&G Companies deployed a greater number of projects locally around their areas of operation, meeting the needs of panchayats and local communities. Activities tended to be ad-hoc rather than strategic, focused on driving license to operate in areas of operation. Although some are worthwhile on a small scale it’s questionable whether some are truly compliant with Section 135.
- Overall, the CSR focus of O&G companies leaned towards social development rather than environmental sustainability as the latter tends to be integrated within business operations and covered separately in sustainability strategies and reports.
- Of the companies that didn’t meet their two percent target, many indicated their reasons for underspend were to on-board expertise and focus on creating strategic projects that will have a larger impact on society.
Going beyond compliance
Compliance-wise, FY 2014-15 has definitely been a good start for CSR in India. However, mere compliance doesn’t necessarily make for good quality CSR. On the one hand, it forces companies to spend hurriedly and focus on spend instead of impact. This was clear in some reports where companies clearly interpreted the law liberally, investing their CSR funds in ad hoc or misaligned projects like horse shows or parades.
At the same time, it was evident that companies were struggling to create innovative, long-term, impactful projects for their CSR spend. As such, we hope that in the coming years, the sector will focus on a more strategic approach that will deliver enduring benefits for communities.
Suggestions for improvement
More innovation: There is a great need for companies to create systemic change in the way development is done, rather than simply supporting the programmes that already exist. By combining monetary contribution with the skills and technologies at their disposal, O&G companies can enhance their social impact. For example, apart from spending on building and running vocational centres, companies can also channel their knowledge to come up with standardized mechanisms for impact measurement of these centres – monitoring enrollment, attendance, absenteeism, placement and quality of training. Such innovations can also be scaled across industries, multiplying the impact of the initial CSR investment.
Increased collaboration: There is significant similarity in the social investment initiatives being taken up by the O&G companies. By pooling their expertise and CSR funds, O&G companies can collectively work on more innovative and strategic interventions, potentially resulting in an industry-wide coalition to ensure high impact of the CSR funds in the O&G industry. For example, in 2013, Europe’s fruit juice industry launched the Fruit Juice CSR Platform with the aim of integrating CSR across complex supply chains via a collaborative sector-wide approach.
Beyond mere alignment with government initiatives: Considering a significant number of O&G companies are public sector enterprises, aligning with government initiatives such as Swachh Bharat and Skill India is in-line with expectations. However, if companies go beyond mere fund allocation and work with the government to identify specific gaps that can be filled by CSR funds, the O&G industry’s CSR investment could have a larger, nation-wide impact. For example, companies have spent a significant sum of money on construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat, whereas there is a dire need for investment and expertise in other aspects of Swachh Bharat such as, implementing waste management programs and reforming open-defecation behavioural patterns.
(*Aggregated on the basis of secondary data from the 12 O&G companies in India)
By Gauri Sharma
This week we’ve been lucky enough to have lunch at two beautiful eateries in our hood, Shahpur Jat. Not only has the food and ambience been brilliant but we’ve noticed a new wave of becoming more “conscious” taking over.
We were at the Greenr Store & Café which is one-stop shop for everything organic and sustainable – from jewellery to coffee! On the first floor is a spacious café which has a really soothing vibe. It’s pure vegetarian café that serves you a choice of organic, vegan & gluten-free dishes. Their meal in bowl was absolutely delicious with veggies and a coconut cream sauce. Oh, and it’s also a co-working space for creative and sustainable enterprises. Going ahead, this “conscious” store cum café will be a space to look for, bringing together purposeful small businesses and individuals together.
Earlier this week, we were at our old favourite, Ivy & Bean, and noticed that they’ve added new staff. Much to our surprise, they’ve employed differently abled persons to manage the restaurant and plan to hire some more! Ivy & Bean, you guys are setting such a wonderful example of making a difference through their business – We hope it inspires other restaurants & cafes as well!
It's been an amazing 18 months managing BG India's social investment strategy and programmes - working with numerous advisors from their head office, various CSR Committee members, a handful of incredible NGOs and of course the core team in Delhi and Mumbai. Over the months, we've also had the opportunity to visit a number of project sites and speak to countless men, women and children on BG India's social investment projects and the impact.
This Social Investment report provides a glimpse into the work we've been doing for the company across urban and rural Maharashtra. From local education, health and rural development projects to strategic state-wide initiatives, we're happy to have had a hand in making a positive impact on communities in and around where BG India operates.
We'd encourage you to have a read and are excited for what the next months working with BG brings!
The start of the new year marked the beginning of a new project at DOT headquarters! We are extremely excited to be working with Sterlite Technologies Limited, a leading Telecom and Power products and solutions company based in Pune with a mission of "connecting every home on the planet". If you haven't heard of them, it won't belong before they cross your radar considering their current growth - check out their recent Make in India pledge to start LCD fabrication units across Maharashtra!
Read more about our work with Sterlite on our projects page.
Do One Thing Pvt. Ltd. is a bespoke impact consultancy based in Delhi. At just over four years old, we’re a group of young and energetic professionals with a passion for responsible business.
We believe CSR goes beyond philanthropy and that business comes first. As such, we help companies to identify their purpose and integrate it throughout all business verticals to increase triple bottom lines and have a greater impact on society and the environment. We then communicate that impact to the world, shining a light on the good work that companies do.
We often work in ambiguous spaces and complex corporate structures when achieving this goal. Unchartered territory is our favourite place to be!
As we expand, we are looking for full-time and part-time (roster) consultants to manage several exciting, new clients. In line with the above, you have to be like-minded enough to believe in our mission, and brave enough to work the way we do!
We are specifically looking for people who have mid-level or higher experience in one or all of the following:
- Business integrated sustainability
- Strategic CSR (in-house or consultancy)
- Cause-related brand building and communications
In addition to work experience in the above areas, consultants should have:
- Minimum 5 years work experience, ideally with at least 2-3 years project management
- Experience and success in client pitches and servicing, with a mastery of creating and managing scopes of work, timing plans, internal/external processes, minute taking, and other administrative tasks
- Ability to develop relationships with various stakeholders, from CEOs to internal client teams to rural school children
- Excellent writing and presentation skills, including being able to create briefs, reports and powerful and engaging presentations
- Analytical skills to be able to pull out key insights and develop new strategies
- Understanding of and passion for development and responsible business trends in India, including Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, and globally
Culturally, we’re looking for someone who “gets it” and gets excited by it! As a startup responsible business consultancy we are hard, fast workers who are often working multiple projects in multiple areas at the same time. You’ll need to be organised, committed and flexible enough to wear several different hats, sometimes in areas or topics you are unfamiliar with. If you think brainstorming “out of the box” ideas is fun and you have your finger on the “CSR pulse” you’ll fit right in!
Our ideal colleague is someone who’s worked in both marketing/comms and CSR/sustainability, either in-house or at an agency/consultancy. A bit done with the status quo, s/he is looking for a new challenge that will help shape and define what responsible business in India should mean.
If you believe you fit the above and are excited about an opportunity to drive a new wave of responsible business in India, we’d love to hear from you. Please send the following to email@example.com:
- A short cover letter detailing how you and your experience fit into our needs and culture and what your personal views on responsible business are
- A one-page resume
- Fee range (part-time consultants)
We’d also welcome 2-3 links/attachments of any reports, videos or branding materials you’ve worked on as well as they relate to CSR/sustainability that you believe would strengthen your application.