There isn’t a singular, universally accepted definition of CSR, but every definition so far revolves around the impact that a business has on the society as well as the societal expectations of them. The New Companies Act 2013 introduced a new Section on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Section 135, making CSR mandatory for all companies operating in India. The companies should use CSR to integrate economic, environmental and social objectives with the company’s operations and its growth. 2% CSR spending would be computed as 2% of the average net profits made by a company during the preceding three financial years.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a lot more than just a clause in the corporate law book and as the work progresses, there’s a lot you learn on the job. Discovering challenges and ways to collaborate will happen as part of the cycle. The organization and the teams should be passionate and believe in their ability to make a difference and also in building a culture of volunteering.
A well-defined CSR strategy and effective implementation can bring a business a number of benefits, including:
- License to operate: In India, apart from the investors, customers and government, a fourth and increasingly important stakeholder is the community. Many companies have started realizing that the ‘license to operate’ is no longer granted by governments alone, but by communities that are impacted by a company’s business operations.
- Attracting and retaining employees: Several HR studies have linked a company’s ability to attract, retain and motivate employees with their CSR commitments. Interventions that encourage and enable employees to participate are shown to increase employee morale and a sense of belonging to the company.
- Communities as suppliers: There are certain innovative CSR initiatives emerging, wherein companies have invested in enhancing community livelihood by incorporating them into their supply chain. This has benefitted communities and increased their income levels, while providing these companies with an additional and secure supply chain.
- Enhancing corporate reputation: The traditional benefit of generating goodwill, creating a positive image and branding benefits continue to exist for companies that operate effective CSR programs. This allows companies to position themselves as responsible corporate citizens.
Apart from the benefits mentioned above, CSR initiatives also help a firm win new business, increase customer retention while enhancing relationships with suppliers and networks. A well designed CSR program will focus on areas that are at the core of the values of the organization and will support the ethos of the company. There is so much to be done and forging the CSR – CSO/NGO partnerships with engagement and dedication to the cause will produce valuable results. When it comes to CSR, First Advantage has a strong philosophy and a well thought out strategy plan.
First Advantage envisions the creation of an equitable and sustainable society of empowered equals who are self-reliant, socially conscious and effective participants in nation building. The CSR initiatives undertaken by First Advantage is aimed at tackling critical social, economic, environmental and humanitarian needs of the marginalized and underprivileged sections of society. In accordance with the requirements of the Companies Act 2013, the key strategic focus areas that First Advantage intends to pursue, among others are Sushiksha, Samruddhi, Prakruthi & I Volunteer.
Sushiksha: Towards an Educated and Empowered Tomorrow. First Advantage recognizes the necessity of creating an educated and empowered human capital. Sushiksha is a program conceived to realize this objective in rural and semi-urban localities by promoting education including special education, non-formal education, digital literacy and creation of an effective learning environment, through necessary infrastructure support, to cater to the specific needs of the target audience. Samavesh addresses the concerns of the differently abled, through various interventions aimed at special education, empowerment and employability, to realize an inclusive society of equals.
Samruddhi: Creating Sustainable Rural Ecosystems. Sustainable rural ecosystems have the potential to serve as the cornerstone for creation of equitable societies. Samruddhi envisions the creation of such ecosystems or model villages in rural India through the installation of Basic/Primary Infrastructure in the form of housing facilities, accessibility, power, safe and hygienic drinking water facilities, toilets, renewable sources of energy etc. It also seeks to promote healthcare through specific programs such as medical camps, screenings, awareness programs and promotion of sanitation.
Prakruthi: Environmental Sustainability. In a rapidly degrading ecosystem that is witnessing the extinction of many species of flora and fauna, First Advantage intends to do its part towards environmental sustainability through Prakruthi, a green initiative aimed at restoring ecological balance through the conservation and enhancement of the green cover through plantation & maintenance drives, while also nurturing and promoting a culture of “reduce, reuse & recycle” through various awareness programs and ‘Go-Green’ initiatives.
I Volunteer: Celebrating the power of volunteerism In an attempt to sustain and nurture a socially conscious ethos in the organization, CSR at First Advantage will strive to promote the philanthropic nature of employees through ‘Volunteerism’ and bring about a participatory model of engagement involving all stakeholders in its various initiatives. The CSR department at First Advantage also occasionally undertakes special projects from time to time, which are aligned to the mission and vision of its CSR philosophy and in compliance with the general spirit of the activities listed in Schedule VII of the Companies Act 2013.
Sustainable social impact can be created with a simple, open, well-defined approach to CSR and ensuring the partners a company works with are aligned to its ideals. First, set goals and visions that have an impact in the long run and ensure that the executives are committed to the cause. With this vision in place, a system of constantly monitoring and listening to the needs of the communities where you do business and determining the most suitable approach to address their social issues, is the next step. Companies must leverage social media to encourage user participation, while promoting the brand’s initiatives. Once you have built your CSR strategy, it is important to raise awareness about what you are doing with your CSR initiatives.
(Purushotam Savlani is the Managing Director and Vice President at First Advantage)
The views are personal.
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