Challenges of CSR Professionals in India

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By Harsha Mukherjee

In the recent developments of CSR, India has mandated CSR in Lok Sabha and is waiting for the Bill to be passed by the Rajya Sabha. In this process, a new economy of CSR professionals, consultants, and social ventures has cropped up. The consultants are either independent or companies or even NPOs claiming to provide CSR Solutions.

Harsha MukherjeeInspite of so many competing entities, the challenges of CSR professionals are still not overcome. I believe it’s the need of the hour to create services with more focused approach beyond providing credible consultations or conducting conferences.

Below mentioned are a few most common concerns of CSR professionals in India:

Developing astakeholder matrix and engagement model

Most of the companies believe that the only stakeholders are the employees, but every department has its own share of stakeholders. For example: For the sales department, it’s the direct customers; for the Procurement department, it’s the supply chain. Mapping the entire matrix of stakeholders is a persistent challenge.

Saharsh David of Sandisk Pvt Ltd clearly mentioned its requirement,along with the need for “Financial governance of CSR, having inputs from an Independent Director, CSR education and define CSR guidelines for the company”.He further added that personal interest of the promoter is fulfilled by CSR.

Venkat Rolla of RPG restated the requirement of the Stakeholder Engagement model even if it is constrained to the employees in a common set of activities.A need to engage employees in on-going CSR activities or initiating events for similar services is much desired.

Another reason given by Subhash Bhaskar of MMTC was that CSR is treated as a cost centre and employees feel it is unjustified to shell out money for community activities rather than spend it on staff welfare. Thus most of the employees aren’t enthusiastic towards CSR activities.

I believe that an incentive based model needs to be introduced for the employees. Corporates should also be incentivized for performing CSR activities.

Sustainable Projects

It is time that we realize that even philanthropic projects should be sustainable. According to the latest developments, companies enter a social project with an exit strategy in place so that they are self-sustainable and can manage on their ownafter a stipulated time frame.

Apart from philanthropy, many social ventures exist that are in the nascent stage and for Grass root products such as biomass gasifier, food processing machine, onion transplanter, milking machine, coconut tree climber, sanitary napkin machine etc. need to be marketed well and they lack resources for that. These sustainable ventures need to connect with the right consultant organizations or corporations with the requisite CSR focus.

Brigadier Rajiv Williams Corporate Head CSR JSL voiced the need for sustainable projects. He also mentioned that employee skills should be utilized for volunteering activities.

Knowledge Exchange

CSR Heads in most of the companies would like to learn what their counterparts are doing or their approach towards various issues using CSR and how much they are spending on it.

Ketan Kulkarni, VP, Blue Dart cited the need for this information and although we have the below mentioned media active, there are still many gaps to be filled, In India,

IndiaCSR (www.indiacsr.in)– Foremost and the largest CSR News Database online.
CSR Vision
CSR Today
Sustenance
CSR Digest, CSR Good Book

Milind Sarwate, CFO Marico observed that there is a lack of awareness within the companies itselfabout CSR activities. He pointed out the need for CSR Communications.

CSR Education

A CSR Professional in a Company is not just a MSW graduate but needs to know much more about business in multiple domains for being able to justify his role. He needs to be educated about the market conditions, products, strategy, and operational processes of his business to provide relevant input. CSR Professional also needs to learn about Reporting, Measuring, PR and related fields of CSR activities.

RS Sharat, CSR Group Head from Lanco Group stated that he has observed few companies discriminating against CSR Professionals in the form of Salary Packages and other activities.

As the time is passing, the number of CSR Consultants isburgeoning but their credibility, skillset and qualifications are still prevalent questions for practising CSR activities.

The IICA CEO, Bhaskar Chatterjee has stated this in a number of recent conferences that “India doesn’t have a single CSR certified professional” this statement raises a millions of questions on current practising professionals in the companies and the consultants. To this statement a known industrialist wittingly responded that “In this situation, blind is showing the way to blind” which is undeniable. It’s time that either India develops its own CSR curriculum or adopts it from renowned CSR Consultants such as http://www.csrfi.com/.

Internal buy – in
This is a strong banal term by all the people practicing CSR in companies.

Mohini Daljeet Singh – CEO Max India mentioned that internal buy-in from Senior Management is a considerable task. In listed private companies it is the senior management who take the final decision andif one department is confused then decision is procrastinated endlessly. Apart from that, employee engagement, finding credible implementation partner and funds are other concerns.

Paresh Tewary- Sustainability Head of Jindal Steel & Power Ltd stated that after building Stakeholder Matrix it is important to have management buy-in.

Ideally, the new Independent Director of CSR or CSR Consultant would take the charge of management buy-in by brainstorming and regular follow-ups to accelerate the process which will add incredible value to the Corporates.

The crux of the problem also lies in the treatment of CSR as a discretionary activity and not an imbibed part of the DNA of the companies which is clearly visible by the Trusts and Foundations of the Corporates performing CSR and Sustainability activities on behalf of the Companies. The Government of Indiais opening up a new economy by making CSR mandatory.  How Far would it survive is yet to be seen.

Harsha Mukherjee is an Entrepreneur.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed by the author in this article are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of INDIACSR.

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