KOLKATA: PPP, an acronym that gained favour in government services and business ventures in Bengal in the mid-1990s, re-emerged on Thursday but in a new avatar. At a symposium to explore opportunities to collaborate on corporate social responsibility, US consul general in Kolkata Helen LaFave called for private-private partnerships (PPP) to maximize the gain from CSR funds. The traditional definition of PPP is public-private partnership in which the government and one or more private sector firms join hand to create a business or service.
“The new corporate legislation in India creates exciting opportunities to tap the power of partnership, not only between USAID and Indian companies and NGOs but among Indian entities themselves,” LaFave said, kicking off an exciting panel discussion before a packed house at the Bengal Chamber for Commerce & Industry. This is the third such seminar following the ones at Mumbai and Hyderabad.
Elaborating on the power of partnerships, USAID India deputy mission director Kathryn Stevens pointed out that though USAID’s resources had shrunk, it was really not about money but about leveraging one another’s strengths to do more for society.
Social responsibility, SREI Equipment Finance joint managing director Sunil Kanoria felt, needed to come from within. “It is ingrained in Indian culture. The vedas and puranas talk of giving a tenth of earnings back to society. When I got into business, there was account called ‘dharmada’ or donation. So I inculcated the spirit of giving. CSR may be a law today but it has to come from within and be sustainable to make a difference,” he said, calling for self-involvement in the social activity and not just cheque book CSR. WWF-India climate change adaptation head Anurag Danda cited several examples of working with both the government and corporates to create sustainable interventions or development strategies for people in the Sunderbans.
“CSR works only if all stakeholders have a shared vision. There’s a thin line between the passion that an NGO partner brings in and irrationality. It is difficult for some corporate partners to handle this kind of passion unless they share the vision,” said Danda.
It was the realization that 85 rich men in the world had assets equalling that of 3.5 billion people that led to ITC embarking on its CSR path with a vision to create a more equitable society in the country.
“India has 17% of the world population but 4% of water and 1% forest cover. ITC being an agricultural company had encountered the fact that climate change is here and now. The activities that range from e-choupal to watershed projects and social forestry touches 40,000 villages and provide livelihood to 7 million people,” said ITC vice-president Nazeeb Arif, adding that a shared vision with 70-odd NGOs had made it possible.
Century Plyboards president (marketing) Anoop Hoon felt the old adage ‘charity begins at home’ still holds true and that one could embark to do good to others only after sensitizing employees within the organization. “Once you build a culture of CSR within, there is a multiplier effect. Practice internal CSR and create champions who can then take up CSR projects for the company,” he said.
Amway vice-president (east) Diptarag Bhattacharjee stressed on the need to engage with society. The American company that actually got into CSR in 1996 before it actually began doing business in India two years later has been working extensively with the visually impaired.
“We believe CSR is just not philanthropy; it does not mean that we donate some books, give some scholarship or organize a day’s meal and we are through with our responsibilities. CSR is not just giving the fish but providing them the fishing rod. Our aim had always been to engage with focused groups and develop some sustainable projects for them,” Bhattacharjee said.
[THE TIMES OF INDIA]