Corporate social responsibility is not a new concept in India. However, what is new is the shift in focus from making profits to meeting societal challenges.
Now-a-days, employees are actively participating in the social activities even on holidays. This is mainly because employees feel a sense of pride when they are involved in such activities. Moreover, companies are having dedicated departments for CSR.
Giving a universal definition of Corporate Social Responsibility is bit difficult as there is no common definition as such. However, there are few common threads that connect all the perspectives of CSR with each other; the dedication to serve the society being most important of them.
Most ideal definition of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been given by World Business Council for Sustained Development which says, Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.
Thus, the meaning of CSR is two fold. On one hand, it exhibits the ethical behavior that an organization exhibits towards its internal and external stakeholders (customers as well as employees). On the other hand, it denotes the responsibility of an organization towards the environment and society in which it operates.
Firms can no longer continue to exploit environmental resources and escape from their responsibility by acting as separate entities regardless of the interest of the society. Organizations, now, are realizing the need to shift their focus on the interest of society. The sense of being socially responsible has to come from within.
CSR involves various voluntary efforts in which companies engage themselves in order to give something back to the society. It involves providing innovative solutions to societal and environmental challenges. Organizations generally believe that acting in a socially responsible manner will create value for them.
The fact that an organization is committed to social causes, also gives employees a sense that the company would also be committed to the welfare of its employees as well.
In India, CSR has evolved to encompass employees, customers, stakeholders and sustainable development or corporate citizenship. The spectrum of CSR includes a number of areas as human rights, safety at work, consumer protection, climate protection and caring for the environment, and sustainable management of natural resources.
From the perspective of employees, CSR activities include providing health and safety measures, preserving employee rights and discouraging discrimination at workplace.
This helps in fostering a healthy environment within the company. For example, after 1945, TATA implemented social welfare provisions for its employees that have since become the legislative norm. From the perspectives of customers, CRS activities may include commitment to product quality, fair pricing policies, and so.
CSR taken up by various genres of companies primarily focuses on poverty alleviation, environmental protection and sustained development. Companies are taking initiatives for developing infrastructure in rural areas, e.g., TATA Motors provides desks, benches, chairs, tables cupboards, electrical fittings and educational and sports material to various primary schools in Singur.
The company has also planned similar programmes to upgrade school infrastructure and is also planning to set up a computer laboratory in one of the high schools. Similarly, TVS Electronics was involved in CSR during the Tsunami to provide relief measures to the victims. They have also participated with the government to improve sanitation in a village called Tiruvidenthai.
Such initiatives will help in improving the conditions of rural people. Satyam Foundation of Satyam Computer Services Ltd., Infosys Foundation of Infosys Technologies Ltd., GE Foundation of the General Electric Company are exemplary instances of the philanthropic commitment of the corporate sector in India. Irrespective of the profits they make, these foundations are aiming at uplifting of the poor and enhancing the standard of life in the rural sector.
Corporate social responsibility offers manifold benefits both internally and externally to the companies involved in various projects. Externally, it creates a positive image amongst the people for its company and earns a special respect amongst its peers. It creates short term employment opportunities by taking various projects like construction of parks, schools, etc.
Working with keeping in view the interests of local community bring a wide range of business benefits. For example, for many businesses, local customers are an important source of sales. By improving the reputation, one may find it easier to recruit employees and retain them. Businesses have a wider impact on the environment also. Plantation and cultivation activities taken up by Intel India are a step towards the same. Recycling used products also acts as a step towards minimizing wastes.
Internally, it cultivates a sense of loyalty and trust amongst the employees in the organizational ethics. It improves operational efficiency of the company and is often accompanied by increases in quality and productivity. More importantly, it serves as a soothing diversion from the routine workplace practices and gives a feeling of satisfaction and a meaning to their lives. Employees feel more motivated and thus, are more productive. Apart from this, CSR helps ensure that the organization comply with regulatory requirements.
Even though companies are taking serious efforts for the sustained development, some critics still are questioning the concept of CSR. There are people who claim that Corporate Social Responsibility underlies some ulterior motives while others consider it as a myth. Is CSR really a stalking horse for an anti-corporate agenda?
The reality is that CSR is not a tactic for brand building; however, it creates an internal brand among its employees. Indulging into activities that help society in one way or the other only adds to the goodwill of a company.