Does Indian Management truly believe in Corporate Social Responsibility and its ability to do social and financial good? Our brief survey has revealed that senior management personnel swear by CSR in public but are abusive in private. According to an iconic industrialist “CSR is just a fashion statement “. Others have called it ‘hogwash’, and just PR.
In a brief encounter a Fortune 100 executive could not hide his feelings and blurted out: “You do livelihood activities, education, health or anything – everything is termed as CSR which is Bullshit” His company contributes to what it calls CSR and makes a big show out of it.
The problem is ignorance about the content of CSR. Worse is their unwillingness to learn. The real challenge is that we understand individual responses to the plight of the poor, we understand philanthropy and we understand charity. We don’t understand is how a business can leverage business strengths to address these challenges.
Business has been asked to practice CSR but there is little, or no, understanding of the concept or what is encompasses. India has not been able to create a framework for the implementation of CSR for Indian companies. This has resulted in much confusion and debate. Many companies say they would like to give back to society and practice CSR but express ignorance about how to go about it.
There is an acute shortage of manpower aware and knowledgeable about CSR and its practices. In most companies those placed in charge of CSR have not knowledge or inclination towards the responsibilities of the job. Many companies pick up people with social work background and give them responsibilities in CSR. However mere social work background does not help to create and implement the CSR agenda.
India has yet to create institutions which can provide training in the various aspects of Corporate Social Responsibility. B Schools have so far failed to create programmes for teaching Corporate Social Responsibility to those interested n taking up careers in the area. To fill the gap various organizations offer workshops on CSR for industry and NGOs. But even here the response from both industry and civil society has been unhelpful.
Recently an NGO promoting CSR has announced a certificate programme in CSR with the support of an international university. A similarly attempt is being made by the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs which has set up a large Centre near Delhi. Those these are good attempts they are more like putting the cart before the horse. These programmes have failed to click because of the non availability of teachers who are Knowledgeable about CSR and Sustainability.
A haunting question that repeatedly hammers the mind is whether India needs foreign collaboration in creating and teachings programmes on Corporate Social Responsibility. Like management institutions these attempt to teach CSR are looking for foreign linkages to promote CSR training in India.
That raises a question: would learning from foreign experiences in CSR be useful in India? Do Indians need to learn about social welfare from foreigners? CSR has to be local in its focus. We need to give our CSR an Indian flavour.
(Additional reporting by Harsha Mukherjee)