CSR hits India Inc: More they sow, a lot more they reap

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With fiscal indiscipline fuelling the turmoil in the world economy, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has suddenly become the buzz word, reports CNBC-TV18’s Ashmit Kumar. Corporate India is increasingly seeing CSR, not as an added expenditure, but as an investment towards greater and more consistent profits.

Exercises like these were once considered a fashion statement in the corporate world but not any more. A recent Accenture report says that increasingly, companies are seeing both opportunity, and profit, in corporate social responsibility programs.

“Corporate sustainability is success for the long term. And if you are going to be successful, you have to think about the environment you operate in, the society you operate in,” said Charles Tilley, CEO of CIMA.

From being a standalone exercise, some corporate houses have incorporated CSR initiatives into their core business model, making for some profitable social awareness. Ravichandran Venkataraman, vice president, global business operations at HP accounts the movement with the way Britannia has done it. “They found the need to address malnutrition in the form of lower iron. And they decided to sell biscuits with iron in it. And, it made a lot of money for them,” said Venkataraman.

For others, it works as a way to remain competitive and profitable, from revenue generation through technology that will pollute less, to cutting costs through better energy efficiency. Experts say CSR could today make the difference between life and death.

“It’s not only possible but also imperative that when we talk of sustainability, it’s engrained into the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. Sustainability and business and economic success go hand in hand,” said Fali J Hodiwala, principal, Accenture.

While Tony Manwaring, CEO at Tomorrow’s Company believes that there are only short term opportunities to make money without doing all of this. “And if you think you can continue with ‘business as unsual’, you probably can. But increasingly, the road will run out,” he cautions.

Arguments on whether spending on CSR may not work well for investors in the short term are now being brushed aside. “Capital, people, environment and organizational structure are the key factors. There’s multiplicity of resources required to run a business successfully. And the interests of all have to be balanced,” said KA Chaukar, managing director at Tata Industries.

The bottomline is crystal clear, give back to the community, give back to the environment, and the money will eventually find you.

( Source : CNBC-TV18)

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