Social innovations are required and can be extended to developing social enterprises, feels Dr. Ananda Das Gupta

Interview with Dr. Ananda Das Gupta for India CSR Leadership Series with Nayan Mitra

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BANGALORE: We often get fixated by stereotypes. But, today, in this edition of the CSR Leadership Series, we have with us Dr. Ananda Das Gupta, who has long back broken various barriers of stereotypes to research on CSR and present it on an international platform. Here is a bare-all insight of his thoughts and research on CSR. Edited Excerpts:

What does CSR mean to you?

It means distributive justice to all the stakeholders in the society.

As an International CSR leader, what do you think are the various opportunities and challenges of CSR in India as an emerging economy vis-a-vis other developed countries?

As India is an emerging economy, it is having tremendous scope for implementing CSR in all respects: health and Hygiene, Education, Sanitation, Housing, Improvement in livelihood and opportunities for employment.

While guidelines regarding Corporate Social Responsibility from international bodies such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the Institute of Social and Ethical Accountability provide broad directions, CSR practices vary from country to country and even from company to company. CSR targets a wide array of causes around the world, from religious groups to education programmes to research institutions. However, in India, the definition of CSR is tapered and specifically directed towards helping the underprivileged. It is a unique approach, carefully combining both conventional philanthropy and strategy.

Globally, definitions and guidelines on CSR emphasise the need for synergy between a company’s core business and its philanthropic efforts. The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) integrates the two in its definition: “Strategic philanthropy seeks to combine a corporation’s core competencies with its charitable efforts….”The European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, defines CSR as, “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society.” Such broad descriptions give countries and companies the wiggle room they need to do CSR in a manner that is aligned with their expertise.

For example, Google arranges technology and innovation initiatives and Johnson & Johnson focuses on societal and environmental health. France, Denmark, South Africa, and China have all implemented various CSR reporting laws to aid companies in standardising the way they report CSR but not the way they practice it.

What is your take on the CSR mandate under the Companies Act, 2013 in India?

CSR activities should be subjective rather than mandatory. However our Government has taken a positive step towards a good initiative. CSR research is gaining prominence in India.

Why is it so, so suddenly?

Because it is relevant and an emerging issue to address. You started your journey into CSR research much before the hype over CSR now.

What compelled you to do so?

As a student of Strategic Human Resource Management, I thought of extending the concept towards socially responsible initiatives for the millions of unknown faces.

You, in one of your published papers have mentioned that the future of CSR in India is Social Enterprises. Do you really think so? Why?

Because I think social innovations are required and can be extended to developing social enterprises.

What are the various challenges of CSR implementation in the plantation industry? How can one overcome it/them?

The Indian tea industry has a composite value chain comprising workers and small growers in the lower end, large plantations and brokers in the middle and brands in the upper end. In the new trade regime, there are significant divergences in the interests of various stakeholders in the value chain. While wages and prices are the concerns of the workers and small growers, others are concerned with market access, quality and hygiene. On top, there is a changing trend in the consumer behaviour worldwide with regard to the product they consume.

Consumers are increasingly concerned with the conditions in which the products they consume are produced. For the tea industry, this is specific to product quality, and environmental and social concerns. In this milieu, in which differences of priorities and interests exist among various stakeholders and consumer preferences, there is an observed need to develop a common Code of Conduct (CoC) pertaining to the social, economic and environmental standards for the Indian tea industry.

The concept of CSR is a relatively new and an evolving one. CSR has a multi-stakeholder dimension and is composed of agents such as the civil society, consumers, retailers, host communities, employees, trade unions, producers, suppliers, investors and the government.

There are certain specific Codes of Conduct outside the tea industry in India. Private independent agencies have developed some of these codes whereas the manufacturers themselves, governments, NGOs or trade unions or a combination of these bodies have developed others. These Codes of Conduct talk about various issues pertaining to human rights, labour practices, environment and anti-corruption.

The major Codes of Conduct outside the tea industry are as follows:

  • Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000)
  • The FTSE4Good Index
  • The United Nations Global Compact
  • The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

Implementation refers to a whole range of activities that could be taken by a company or an enterpriser to give effect to a CoC. The company or enterprise is obliged to implement, enforce and monitor the specific CoC. The principles of monitoring are as follows:

  • Monitoring must be the actual observance of working conditions.
  • The frequency of the inspections must be established.
  • Accredited monitors must be permitted to interview workers on a confidential basis.
  • Besides the regular inspection, it should be undertaken at specific locations following substantiated complaints.
  • Inspection should not cause undue disruption to the premise and performance of work.
  • Accredited monitors shall provide written reports to all concerned parties.

About Dr. Ananda Das Gupta

Dr. Ananda Das Gupta has been engaged in teaching and research for more than twenty-five years at different universities and institutes across India and is currently the Head of the Human Resource Development area and Chairperson of the Post Graduate Programme at the Indian Institute of Plantation Management, Bangalore, an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode and the Indian Institute of Management, Rohtak.

Dr. Das Gupta did his doctorate as a UGC Research Fellow. He has published many papers in various refereed journals and has four books to his credit in the areas of organizational development, strategic human resources management, corporate social responsibility and business ethics. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Business Ethics in Developing Economies, and serves on the Editorial Boards of leading international journals. He is also on the International Editorial Board for Encyclopaedia on Corporate Social Responsibility, published in five volumes by Springer.

About Nayan Mitra

Nayan Mitra comes with a rich mix of diverse professional experience of over sixteen years. She straddles seamlessly between academics, social and corporate sectors. As a Developmental Consultant and Researcher, she works closely with some of the eminent Corporations and not-for profits of India as well as being in their Advisory and Board level. She has conducted several social researches for multi-lateral agencies; the findings of which have become important bases for sustainable action. She has been a resource person in eminent Institutions of higher learning in the areas of CSR and Corporate Governance and has important peer reviewed research publications to her credit in double blind peer reviewed national and international Academic journals and books as well as delivered at key Conferences. Her book, Corporate Social Responsibility in India: Cases and Development after the Legal Mandate alongwith co-editor Dr. Rene Schmidpeter is a first book of its kind that charters the development of mandated Indian CSR from a multi-stakeholder perspective, that has recently received the coveted India CSR Author Award, 2017. She spearheads the India CSR Leadership Series by India CSR. She was a finalist of the prestigious Chevening Gurukul Scholarship for Leadership and Excellence – 2013, as conferred by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the British Deputy High Commission.

Interview was conducted by Nayan Mitra.

Disclaimer: The thoughts captured in the interview is solely that of the interviewee. The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR Network.

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