Holistic Giving by Corporate Sector for Social Transformation

The article, in the first part, presents a summary of the ways of corporate giving through the ages. And, in the second part it provides a set of recommendation on how corporate sector can play a transformative role in current social situation through their meaningful giving.

Himansu Shekhar and Rusen Kumar. Photo: India CSR Network

By Himanshu Sekhar Panigrahi & Rusen Kumar

Since time immemorial our societies have been witnessing “giving”, in one form or the other, by companies or industries located within. This giving, say “corporate giving”, have emanated from different types of mindset possessed by the owners or top management bodies of the companies. It will not be wrong to say that these kinds of mindset might have been influenced by different contemporary social theories. And, at the same time these thoughts of giving by the companies have formed several theories that later on have influenced many such givers. In this way the driving force as well as the method of corporate giving has experienced a kind of metamorphosis over the decades.

A short peep into the history of corporate giving finds that it all has begun with the attitude of “a magnanimous big brother”. In the earliest days of such practice, family-run business houses out of their generous spirit and family values were being engaged, though not in a regular manner, in several charities for poor and needy people in their localities. They used to donate, in cash and kind, to meet various needs of poor households in the communities. These acts of kindness were being driven by heart. Gradually this sympathetic act of these forerunners ignited social expectation.

And, this expectation, coupled with the sense of giving back to society, created a sense of social obligation among business owners whose regular act in response was termed “corporate philanthropy”. This period of philanthropic activities marked by monetary donations and aid to communities heralded the initiation phase of CSR. Nevertheless, this philanthropy was not so systematic.

Next, the real age of CSR began when companies understood that “business cannot succeed in a society that fails”. Hence, they started orienting their approach towards community-based development. And, in a gradual and ideal way business bodies adopted strategic approach in community development activities, and integrated social and environmental responsibilities into their business strategies. Here the intent remained to align the needs of the communities with the business interest.

As the history reveals and as the current scenario is, contribution of corporate houses to the society through their “giving” can never be underrated. Nevertheless, there are adequate space and innumerable means for a better way of corporate giving. Further, in the ever-changing socio-economic situation the countries experience it becomes imperative to tweak the modus operandi as appropriate.

The genuine motive of corporate giving – like that of any other giving of fundamental nature- must be to support any group or individual in such a way that they transform themselves sustainably. By giving back to the society the corporate sector validates a sense of justice for its use of the resources i.e. human, natural, finance, etc. of the society in an organized manner. The giving should benefit the triple bottom line- social, economic and environmental. Hence, it needs to be strategic and impactful. Only “cheque book giving” never serves the long-term interest of the company as well as of the community.

If any company seeks to function in a prosperous society so that it can continue doing well, the company should see that the society is empowered and aspiring. Remaining a part of the broader society business bodies must strive to improve the “social capital” which strengthens the development factors and creates space for inclusive growth. Companies, having their diverse sets of expertise and experience, can go for “holistic giving” aside from providing financial resources. Knowledge and skill are the two resources which can be imparted to the next generation desirous of making a change for the better.

Corporate sector has the potential for encouraging and supporting innovations that may provide solutions to everyday problems, big or small. The recent trend of accelerator programmes initiated by big companies to support start-ups for realizing their innovative ideas is a great sign of meaningful corporate giving. Further, on a brighter note, corporate giving should not only meet the expectations of the stakeholders but also create aspirations within them. It will never be an overstatement to say that every corporate house is a public property and the communities are its trustees as stakeholders. Hence, each corporate body needs to give back unceasingly to its communities in a genuine spirit of giving.

Authors: Himanshu Sekhar Panigrahi works with Hindustan Copper Limited as Dy. Manager-CSR. Rusen Kumar is founder of India CSR Network, India’s Largest CSR Network.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors in this feature are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR Network and its Editor.