We Want to Showcase CSR Activities: Bhaskar Chatterjee

Interview with Director general & CEO of Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs

Bhaskar Chatterjee, director general & CEO of Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, an autonomous capacity-building body and think-tank under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, has been closely associated with framing the current set of guidelines that make CSR spend mandatory for corporates in the Companies Act, 2013. Earlier in 2010, he was instrumental in bringing PSUs under the ambit of mandatory CSR spend.

In an interaction with Sahil Makkar and Sudipto Dey of Business Standard, he tries to allay fears among corporates over the issue of CSR spending. Edited excerpts:

Corporates seem to be apprehensive about the new laws on CSR spend. A general feeling is there are ambiguities in the current draft rules.

To me, there are no ambiguities at all. Section 135 of Companies Act 2013 has been drafted after many consultations, which the ministry has had with associations, chambers and groups of business and industry over many months. Their views and perceptions were taken into account even as the Companies Bill was being drafted. This is the reason why so many of the major issues have been comprehensively addressed.

Let me tell the corporates, our Act is very enabling. We want to encourage what they are anyway doing. We want to give them a national platform where they can showcase their activities. Many corporates are doing great work and this should enable them to show in the public domain what they are doing.

But the clause of penalising them (if they fail to satisfactorily report CSR spend) with fines and jail term can act as a deterrent.

That is not particular to CSR spend. That section is applicable for the entire Act. Say, for instance, if a company fails to submit its financials in time, there are penalties. That will also apply to CSR. CSR is being added to that list to which penalties are anyway applicable.

So how do you think corporates will align to the new CSR rules?
Many already have systems and processes (in place) and are extensively monitoring their CSR programmes. So, they would actually find it easy to comply with the law. Those not doing any CSR, but now falling within the parameters of the new law, will have to set up systems and processes in order to comply.

Could you explain the plan for indexing of companies based on their CSR spend?
This is proposed to be a grading of companies on the BSE, based on well-defined CSR parameters. A broad overview of what each company is doing in CSR would be taken. Thereafter, companies would be placed at different levels of performance. The objective is to inspire, engage, motivate and support business in continually improving its positive impact on society while complying with Section 135 of Companies Act 2013. This would also generate awareness about the new CSR agenda in the country.

(Business Standard, New Delhi, October 13, 2013 )