Corporate Social Responsibility in India: A Practitioner’s Perspective – A book by Nirbhay Lumde

Nirbhay has significant experience in CSR and it is reflected in the book. The book is very informative and well written. It has practical advice for stakeholders like CSR or development professionals, NGOs and corporates.

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Review By Mamata Das

The book on Corporate Social Responsibility in India by Nirbhay Lumde is a practical handbook for development practitioners. I got to read this book recently and being a development professional myself, I found it quite interesting.

We all know that corporate philanthropy has a long history in India. Corporate groups like Tatas, Birlas, and many others have traditionally been known to be involved in community development activities. However, this is not applicable for all corporates and most are perceived as profit oriented organizations entirely with limited or no focus on the community and environment. The past few years have seen a distinct change in corporate philanthropy primarily due to the government’s intervention.

In order to maximize the corporate sector’s overall impact on the society and stakeholders, the government enacted Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 which has been instrumental in changing corporate involvement in the social welfare from a purely voluntary activity to a mandatory requirement.

In recent years, the civil society sector which is otherwise known as the development sector led by NGOs has seen an increased dependency on CSR funding to carry out their activities, mainly due to the changed socio-political scenario and drying up of funding from international sources. In such a scenario, where corporates are moving from philanthropy to strategic investment for communities and environment, and civil society organizations are looking for funding through domestic sources, there is a need to combine different skills and resources to have better impact at the ground level. There is a significant information gap between corporates and CSOs which needs to be bridged, in order to ensure that the funding is able to meet the objectives.

This book provides an overview of enhancing the understanding of development professionals about CSR in India in a structured manner covering all the relevant concepts. The book starts with an overview of inequalities prevailing in the world, where the wealth is concentrated with a handful of population whereas a sizable percentage of population is suffering in abject poverty, importance of social justice, India’s commitment to ensure social justice as per the constitution, major policies and acts by the government to address the inequalities and to build an inclusive and balanced society, and the importance of CSR as a catalyst in this process.

The next chapter touches upon basic concepts and definitions of ranging from economic development, different economic and governance systems, role of governments in business, types of business organizations, etc. This chapter also gives an understanding of various business terms and also introduces international development goals like MDGs and SDGs. This chapter is especially good for understanding the foundations of CSR.

The third chapter about CSR and sustainability deals with the motivation for giving and different approaches to philanthropy. It emphasizes the significance of social and environmental aspects for corporate sustainability. It also touches upon the concepts of employee engagement, Social Return on Investment (SROI), Triple Bottom Line (TBL) reporting system, importance of measuring impact, global standard for measuring, benchmarking, and reporting on corporate community investment, among others. This chapter also provides an enhanced understanding of CSR, corporate brand building, essential qualifications and expertise required of a CSR professional. This chapter is very useful for CSR professionals.

The fourth chapter covers regulatory aspects relating to CSR in India. This includes short notes on CSR laws, activities permissible under CSR, important circular and government resolutions pertaining to CSR, criteria to qualify as implementing agencies, social audit, among others. The narrative is clear and touches upon all the necessary points to provide a good understanding of these important aspects.

The next chapter touches upon the checkpoints and processes that one needs to be aware of while evaluating proposals for CSR grants. This covers the importance of due diligence, necessity of visibility of NGOs and presentation of their skill sets and experience in the focus area and geography, theories of change,  innovations, transparency, religious and political affiliations, among others. From a grant perspective, these are important components and the author explains all key points making it very useful for both NGOs as well as CSR functionaries.

The sixth chapter deals with employee engagement. It talks about enhancing understanding of employees about community needs, opportunities to face challenges, and develop/hone outlook and skills. A point to be noted is that such engagement helps corporates boost productivity, helps in retention of talent, and in brand building. This is a very useful chapter for corporates as it talks about the importance of employee volunteering, its benefits, roles of various stakeholders and how to go about it in a detailed way.

The final chapter gives a strategic direction on how CSR can play an active role in nation building and help improve skewed social indicators. It also talks about challenges faced by corporates in terms of operational limits and to address regional imbalances, and lack of project management and reporting skills among NGOs. It discusses about various focus areas of CSR and the need to collaborate with government and convergence of resources to bring sustainable impact or transformative change.

Nirbhay has significant experience in CSR and it is reflected in the book. The book is very informative and well written. It has practical advice for stakeholders like CSR or development professionals, NGOs and corporates. Chapters 4 and 5 very relevant for NGOs or civil society organizations who are struggling to understand how CSR works and also for those NGOs who intend to have long term fruitful partnership with corporates to carry out different developmental interventions.

The book will be useful for corporates to understand how a strategic employee engagement plan can benefit employees, corporates and communities.  In my opinion, the only area of improvement in the book could be that some portions could have been more comprehensively covered but then it might have made the book way too detailed than intended. Also, specific references would have helped refer the source material whenever required.

Overall, the book is a must read for CSR professionals, civil society organizations and corporates. It covers a lot of territory and yet is not bulky. It is practical and not preachy. It has touched upon all basic concepts and has tried to address relevant sections in a simple manner. I especially liked the insight about how CSR can contribute towards achievement of SDGs, improvement in HDI, and strengthen development initiatives by governments and other institutions. I would highly recommend this book for people who are connected with the development sector as this is a good comprehensive guide. This is also a good read for anybody who wants to know about CSR.

You may order the book using this link http://amzn.in/d/6R1vxnn

Mamata Das is a rural management professional with 18 years of experience in the development sector. She has worked in the fields of education, livelihoods, entrepreneurship development, among others. She is based in Bangalore and works as an independent consultant. She has carried out social audits and impact assessments for many projects supported through CSR interventions. You may reach out to her on mamtadas17@gmail.com

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