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Corporate Social Responsibility Is All About Investing In Sustainability

By Suma Ravi - Regional Director, CRY (Child Rights and You)

Suma Ravi at the Click Rights Press Conference -Click Rights Photo Book release

Increasingly Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR which was previously seen as charity or philanthropy by corporate India is currently being viewed as an element that in the long run, should amount to supporting sustainability. The pertinent question here remains on whether organizations truly get what “sustainability” is all about? And how can actual sustainable change be attained and be relevant for the community where the organization plans to work or invest in? The sustainability element in the CSR realms is all about being both a value as well as a plan towards bringing about sustainability of business along with the society at large. Moreover it has to be long term sustainability to have any real impact on both business and society and it has go beyond simply tokenistic reporting or simply stating quantitative impact in annual reports.

Even as many companies are grappling towards setting up a structure and underlining the roles for a definitive CSR strategy, it is important for the company management to understand the exact extent of involvement, role and actual impact of the strategy.

The companies need to set lucid objectives and a draft of the program design with detailed communication elements to enable them to see exactly how the strategy will hold. For instance it would really help if companies chalk out 5 year plans based on what is the change that they want to witness in their planned developmental areas. In this scenario it would help the corporate entities to plan out the actual impact indicators to plan the future course of action within their CSR strategy.

The 2013 amendment made to the Companies Act, states that “the board of each company covered under the CSR requirement needs to ensure that the company spends, in every financial year, at least 2% of its average net profits made during the three immediately preceding financial years in pursuance of CSR policy.” Even as it becomes a one of its kind law that asks for a mandatory CSR spend, it could simply remain in the realms of being quantity led and not quality oriented. Furthermore the act advocates that companies should look at locations and areas close to the companies’ operations this could mean that there could be a proliferation of many organizations having their CSR strategy created for the same geographical area since most companies remain around specific industrial zones.

While the act supports companies to put in place CSR activities under their own trusts or societies, understanding unique and often complicated developmental issues may be much simpler for local civil society organizations, since they are better suited at comprehending social and developmental issues and offering sustainable solutions. Companies need to be able to amplify the elements required to truly see CSR as an integral aspect of their companies’ normal day to day functioning. This would mean that managements within such organizations would need to look within and see their companies as entities that have larger roles to play not just in the markets and economically but also socially.