Enlightened business organisations view Corporate Social Responsibility as a way of contributing to overall social and environmental development rather than a business imperative
Being socially responsible is an imperative of established businesses as well as startups, as business and society are interwoven rather than distinct entities. Companies which adopt a philosophy of being a responsible corporate citizen, have an obligation to participate in community development, irrespective of a business or profit potential.
Traditionally, Indian business houses have always committed wealth, sometimes even personal wealth of the founder, for social upliftment. In present times, this ‘charitable role’ has evolved into a more mature ‘participative’ philosophy where businesses understand that their commitment is equally to stakeholders and the community at large as it is towards its shareholders.
The present-day CSR (corporate social responsibility) should thus reflect this socially responsible behavior where the aim is to achieve societal equality and environmental sustainability. It should not be confused with corporate image management and/or goodwill building.
Yet, CSR should be viewed with a business lens, hence articulating a CSR Vision and Strategy is the starting point, and thus allying CSR with the core values of the organization will help bring corporate commitment and a positive social change.
For CSR to be truly imbibed into the corporate philosophy one needs to align it with business language and imperatives. Identifying CSR themes which are in line with overall business goals and a robust tracking mechanism along with setting of deliverables and outcome indicators will bring in accountability.
So, for example if a corporate group has a business vertical in safe water, then one of the CSR themes can be to work on Water Access and WaSH (water, sanitation and health). The project should not just address the infrastructure needs but also enable awareness and participation within the communities to bring in long-term sustainability.
Need assessment, identifying local community members as partners, working with local government bodies like the gram panchayat will help in ensuring project robustness. Further, tools like baseline and end line will help in demonstrating the pre and post improvement that the work was able to deliver.
Another choice while designing the CSR strategy is to ascertain whether the on-ground implementation is through the experience of local partners and NGOs. The advantage in this model is to leverage local expertise, build credibility and ensure long-term sustainability.
It is important to involve the local stakeholder and community at every stage of planning no matter which cause the organization is supporting. Doing so, deeply implants the sense of ownership among the people and maintenance of the project becomes easier.
There is an increase in awareness about the significant effects of the CSR initiatives have on brand reputation with employees, customers, investors, communities, business partners, shareholders, governments and others. And hence, for some organisations, CSR makes business sense. However, no matter the agenda, a coherent CSR strategy, based on integrity, strong values and a long-term vision helps a business organization make a positive contribution to society at large.
(Views are personal) Copyright@IndiaCSR.