A prosperous society is one of the key enabling drivers to achieve balanced and equitable growth of a Nation. Humans today have infringed the most basic thread of values present in the community, with fellow human beings and even Mother Nature. The blind rush towards making profit and harbouring luxuries of life have left us ignorant towards the weaker and economically challenged sections of the society, those who are in dire need of help and support to sustain their lives.
Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, once said –
“Earth has enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed”
However, as when there seems to be never-ending darkness, there too is a light of positivity and good deeds that humans are delivering in form of Social Responsibility. It is through extending all kinds of support and help for fellow humans and other forms of lives in one way or the other. Millions of stories and videos of good human deeds are making headlines and circulating in various social media platforms during these pandemic times have proven this.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by definition depicts the kind of responsibility that any corporate shall have towards society, morally or by regulation as per any act or guidelines laid down by the government. Whereas Social sustainability is a gamut of various such initiatives of which CSR is one such part. Let us understand this in detail.
Social Sustainability, in general terms, is an aspect where the marginalized section of the society for example deprived Individuals and families, backward classes, old age, physically and mentally challenged, etc. are empowered in terms of inclusive and equitable growth, welfare & betterment of living standard, cultural & lingual respect and security, preservation and promotion of positive local traditional values and practices, etc. And CSR is one such way to work in this direction. For any business however it is mostly about understanding the impacts of corporations on people and society.
Sh. Amartya Sen, (Nobel Laureate) has defined 5 dimensions of social sustainability w.r.t to corporate understanding which helps to determine if a business or a project is socially sustainable, i.e. Equity, Diversity, Social Cohesion, and Quality of life.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) with 17 targets provide one holistic approach to sustainable development across the countries around the globe. It provides for working strategically towards achieving the goals by 2030, through policy inclusion and adaptive implementation. SDGs have been explicitly dedicated to certain Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure the status of Social Sustainability. For a happy and near-perfect society, consistent better performance in all 17 SDGs is required.
Talking specifically about India, we are a welfare state, enshrined in our constitution in directive principles of state policy. This intention of the constitution-makers provides a very clear and futuristic identity and core value of the state that the principle of development and growth of India is rooted in the welfare of all the citizens regardless of any kind of existing or developing inequality.
CSR in India is mandated by section 135 of Companies Act of 2013, providing a formula for corporates (Net worth 500 crores or more, Turnover 1000 crores or more and Net Profit 5 crores, Revenue) to calculate the amount of capital they need to invest towards the development of the society they operate in, which is 2% of the average Net profit for last 3 years of the company. “Annexure -7” of the same act provides the list of areas for interventions, which would be considered under CSR. Also to drive the constant push to get the companies to comply with the CSR aspect, a mandate has been provided towards the formation of a CSR committee with at least 3 directors including one independent director to oversee the CSR Policy and structuring of CSR practice and performance.
Many corporates in India have been undertaking CSR activities as philanthropy with a moral duty of giving back to society way before it was mandated by the law. But it is pertinent to mention in this respect that CSR is just one path of many to deliver the responsibility of Social Sustainability. As per GOI data, the total spent on CSR for the last some years is given below in INR Crores:
2014-15 – Rs. 10066 Cr
2015-16 – Rs. 14517 Cr
2016-17 – Rs. 14342 Cr
2017-18 – Rs. 13890 Cr
2018-19 – Rs. 18655 Cr
Over the years’ maximum CSR spent is in areas of education, supporting differently abled, providing livelihood, health, poverty and malnutrition, etc.
However, there are many areas of intervention on which CSR spent are made by the corporates but they still lack meeting holistic approach towards social inclusion. Also, it is not by their point of interest, but by the need and demand of the society of one of the world’s largest developing economy, growing at a faster pace.
Reasons leading the corporates to focus majorly on the selected areas are –
- Serve to the plight of the society in terms of poverty, illiteracy, lack of basic health and sanitation facilities, poor livelihood opportunities, etc.
- Need for urgent attention to just provide the basic amnesties to live in deprived Indian societies.
- Quick visible results and outcomes.
- Acts as one of the additional Implementation Vehicle to the various schemes and initiatives of the state and central govt.
- Enhanced Corporate- government relations and ease of doing business.
- Helps corporates to meet the CSR compliance as per the Companies act “schedule -7” list defined by the Companies Act 2013.
- Availability of better and approved monitoring and evaluation parameters for the areas provided by the government.
Some of the areas where CSR majorly focuses upon are Education, Livelihood, Health, Eradicating Hunger, poverty and malnutrition, safe drinking water and sanitation, environment, animal welfare, etc. It has to be noted that many social aspects could be focused on empowering a society leading to sustaining societal interactions and mobilization of processes and activities. CSR activities must be implemented in a manner that includes the intangible attributes like preserving cultural, legal and linguistic rights of the society and empowering the community based on Values and Behavioural agenda.
For example- In a CSR Initiative – formation of Self Help Group (SHGs) comprising of village women for any small or micro enterprise, could deliver a better result if the product out of their SHG activity imbibes their cultural identity which could be art or figures, ancestral values or could be through contributing a part of their earnings towards establishing awareness on women rights and action against domestic violence. There could be many more examples and ways in which initiatives can be made fruitful.
Way Forward for everyone is to follow the integrated approach to all dimensions of social sustainability that includes the direct physical or tangible interventions and much needed ingraining intangible behavioural and cultural outlook. Strategies inclusive of both the aspects can deliver much prosperous and equitable sustainable society that can help India to grow better and sustainable.