CSR is charity, not a marketing gimmick

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Inclusive growth is a multidimensional concept that needs considerable commitment from corporates. Personnel from socially responsible enterprises (SRE), a term coined for companies, who practice CSR, interacted with students at Chetana’s RK Managememt and Research on sustaining social responsibility, while earning profits. In his extensive presentation, guest speaker of the event, George Paul, executive director (LPG), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), pointed out that the society percieves businessmen to be selfish people with vested interests. “This perception is not cool. Most companies, through the functioning of their venture are contributing to the good of society,” explained Paul, whose energy conglomorate has been supplying cooking gas for the country’s ever growing populace for decades.

CSR is charityFollowing the new mandate of the the Companies Act, 2013, it is now complusory for businesses to contribute two per cent of their profits for the betterment of the society. A panel discussion on—’Boosting sustainable inclusive growth with the enterprise’, held between CSR heads of companies brought out a debate over the act. Though the experts welcome the two per cent contribution, most of them are worried it is enough. “I believe it is a miniscule number. Why not allocate 20 or 30 per cent to CSR since companies have considerable revenues running in crores,” asked Sudhir Sinha, CSR head, Cipla. He expressed apprehensions that companies,which had been spending much more on CSR may now get away spending less.

Vinayak Dalvi, CSR head, Urvi Ashok Piramal Group said, “Corporate India’s CSR activities are way ahead of the act which was amended just recently. But the Act will now even include those who were ignoring this responsiblity.” For Karen Shaiva, chief impact officer and MD of Idobro, number was not an issue. ” I am happy that the government is taking a keen interest in making CSR a tangible property for companies,” she said.

Tushar Gandhi, managing trustee, Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, put forth a view from the other side of the spectrum. “While framing policies one must picture the face of the poorest of the poor and weakest of them all. Ask if your initiative is going to equip these people and raise their stature in society,” said Gandhi, referring to his great grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s mantra. “CSR activities must not be clever marketing tactics that help in earning profits rather than actually helping the poor,” he warned.

CSR expenditure is of two types —welfare and people model. Right now companies in India are concentrating on the welfare model. Sinha claimed, “We have to now focus on the people model and eventually merge the two”.

Paul suggested that for a company to be effective in its social contribution ‘clarity of vision’ is an essential aspect. For Dalvi, “CSR is all about integrity toward the social commitment the company decides to take up.” Shaiva was of the opinion that impact assessment and reporting will make a difference in maintaining credibility of CSR. In his closing comments Gandhi advised the corporates to give importance to culture while practicing social responsibility for inclusive growth. They must follow the real dictum of charity. “Give till it hurts,” he signed off.

Experts express opinions on achieving sustained growth through corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the 6th National conference held at Chetana’s RK Institute of Management and Research. Prachi Rege reports

[DNA]

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