By Vrindaa Sharma
In this month’s CSR round up we cover a mix of Indian and international news. India Inc.’s CSR performance is improving, with many companies taking CSR beyond the mandate. Several brands are also placing CSR at the heart of their marketing campaigns. In news from around the world, we take a philosophical look at CSR and ponder upon the roles and duties of a sustainability officer.
CSR Review - FY16
We see a lot of positive changes and improvements happening around CSR in the country. There was an increase in the overall allocation of funds for CSR activities and projects, as funding by the top 100 firms listed on NSE went up from Rs. 4,760 crore in 2015 to Rs. 6,033 crore in 2016. Out of these companies, at least 28% have even spent more than 2% of their profits on CSR. The top spenders however remained more or less the same with Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) leading the list. A major increase in CSR spending was most evident among Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), with Govt. schemes and projects becoming a priority. One of the challenges that still persists for companies is finding the right implementation agency to work with. Overall, it has been a successful year for CSR, and we hope it’s only going to get better. Read the article here.
Going above and beyond for CSR.
This article by Live Mint talks about a major attitudinal shift being seen among some Indian companies since the last fiscal year. By going beyond the number of mandated CSR committee members required by the Companies Act, 2013 and bringing more independent directors on board, companies like Mahindra & Mahindra and HDFC Bank are formulating more robust CSR strategies and ensuring proper regulation of CSR projects and activities. This is a good sign as we see companies are truly realizing the importance of being a responsible business and going a step beyond what is required of them, creating a balance between a company’s interests and social impact.
Mind over Money
The Indian government is calling for corporates to focus more on investing their skills and expertise in CSR rather than their funds. This article talks about how companies can engage in effective CSR by providing the talent and manpower in rural projects and many flagship public programs. The rural development ministry has said that they are well equipped in terms of funds, but what they really need is professional help to channelize these funds effectively. By providing professionals and mentors for public programs and rural development projects, the private sector can definitely bring the required mind power that is needed to create more innovative and efficient development sector solutions.
Doing Well and Doing Good
This article is a shout out to five of India’s leading retail brands that have excelled in Cause Related Marketing (CRM). While CSR is purely philanthropic, it is supported by CRM as it promotes CSR activities while eyeing the bottom line. Associating with a cause can help brands acquire goodwill and influence the rational minds and hearts of the customers to buy their products. Tata Tea’s ‘Jaago Re’ campaign is a brilliant example of CRM in India, which created an uprising in the nation, provoking a whole generation to realize their voting rights. It connects the idea of how a cup of tea in the morning can lead to physical, emotional as well as social awakening and immediately catches the eye of the consumer. These brands have effectively linked their sales to charity, so much so that now their customers recall them via their campaigns.
Evolving from Charity to Responsibility
CSR is not exactly a new concept for Indians; it has existed in different forms for many decades now. Starting in late 1800s, the affluent merchants and businessmen used to help the poor during calamities, followed by industrial enterprises setting up education and research trusts. Through this article, we see the evolution from simply donating for a cause, to setting up institutions and programs for development. Many social projects were started by companies much before CSR was mandatory, creating large-scale impact and a positive reputation for the company as a caring and trusted brand. CSR has a huge potential to revolutionize the landscape in terms of sustainability, it’s just a matter of time when all corporates realize this.
Making your business responsible from the start.
Startups are very focused on making fundamental business decisions in the early days of their company and often undervalue the importance of CSR, missing out on the opportunity to make their business socially and environmentally responsible. In this age, CSR can not only contribute to your bottom line, but can also have a positive impact on employee retention. Millennials are drawn to organizations that are more focused on sustainability. This article by Forbes tells you how to grow your business more responsibly, leveraging CSR to increase your sales and retain employees without spending big bucks.
A philosophical look at CSR
Intensive community projects and heavy charitable donations don’t always result in effective CSR if the stakeholders are doubtful of the company’s integrity. Companies need to deliver something more authentic to their customers, and a philosophical approach might just be the answer. As per the argument stated in this article, companies usually take the utilitarian approach, where they look at CSR as a way of gaining a business advantage or recovering from a reputation loss. But to be truly successful in their CSR endeavors, what corporates are missing is an emotional connect, which works as an important mediator. The author of this article wants companies to go the Aristotelian way, to develop a character of virtuousness, which once established and nurtured could result in happy and satisfied stakeholders and better performance.
Tackling the role of a CSR Executive
With the business priorities changing and CSR evolving day-by-day, companies are starting to hire CSR executives with a special type of talent to handle a complex job profile. Their role includes navigating external stakeholders, assessing the opportunities and risks of doing something responsible and most importantly, trying to bring about ‘change’ in the company while facing strong resistance from within. This article by Forbes states some useful pointers to keep in mind for a CSR and sustainability officer that can help bring about that required change, both externally and internally.