BANGALURU: If every corporate engages with a CSR professional, India will get its rightful place under the sun, says Manoj Chakravarti chief operations officer, Centre for Corporate Governance and Citizenship – IIM Bangalore in a chat with The DNA Correspondent Patricia Mascarenh .IndiaCSR is Sharing the Same for readers.
What are the future challenges of CSR in India?
The Companies Act has propelled the importance of CSR from the back-room to the boardroom. The scope is infinite in any developing and emerging economy. We can learn from the good practices of GRI, Global Compact and our own National Voluntary Guidelines, all of which provide an excellent blueprint to developing a robust CSR business strategy.
In India, the challenge is actually the ability and capacity to look beyond compliance. The CEO himself has to believe that stakeholder management is the key to long term survival. Robust process must be put in place for identifying appropriate partners who are specialists and can help in implementing and measuring the projects identified by the fairly exhaustive menu of options that Schedule VII of the Act provides, ownership of CSR strategy has to move up the management echelons and rest with the CEO and the leadership team, under board supervision.
How do you further embed CSR into the business? What are the best ways to make this a part of everybody’s day job?
The Company’s Act actually provides a good template in this direction. While it makes clear that whatever one is doing is in the normal course of business, it cannot be considered as CSR. At the same time, it tells you how to go about it: appoint a committee, make a director responsible, create a budget, select and projectivise a project, monitor it, measure it and at the end of it make a report. Isn’t this a way a business project is implemented? If the rationale is explained well and owned by the senior leadership of the corporation, it will slowly become a daily part of life of the employee. It is no coincidence that in some of the largest businesses in our country, the chief ethics officer and person who oversees the group’s overall sustainability strategy, is one and the same person. This guarantees synergy and all employees are aligned to the same big picture.
What difference do you see in India in terms of jobs since the time CSR has become a mandate?
The Companies Act has mandated that we look at the big picture. Look at profits and beyond; at the ways that we can sustain making profits endlessly. In the past we have often assumed that resources are infinite and exploiting them to the maximum is ‘efficiency.’ We have now before us a scenario where resources are actually scarce and managing them well is ‘efficient business strategy’. There is therefore a tectonic shift as to how how corporations look at inclusivity.
What advice do you have for those interested in making a career in CSR?
CSR professionals should gather every bit of knowledge they can, in the field of CSR and the triple bottom line approach. There is lots of research material available in India as well as abroad. The more knowledge they imbibes, the more they will be able to contribute to the corporate world. A word for the corporates too. Please do not rush to consultants to ‘fix a problem’. The whole CSR strategy has to be ‘internalised’ and developed from within. Your vision and mission in business actually defines this. We are moving into a business practice of ‘integrated reporting’ where one report gives the stakeholder/shareholder and society at large, the details of how the corporation makes profit, manages its relations with society, and the methods it adopts to preserve and positively contribute to the environment. There is no other way.
(This Interview of Manoj Chakravarti First appeared in The DNA)