Sunday, April 01, 2007

Corporate Social Responsiblity

Recently I had attended the AGM of CII Orissa in Bhubaneswar. A prominent speaker a senior level office bearer of CII spoke eloquently about Corporate Social Responsibility with obvious references to Nandigram and Singur.
Even in the previous year another senior level office bearer spoke in similar vein.
A well intended subject has become a politically correct cliché. Every year or even otherwise in all such august gatherings very pleasing statements are made. Sadly most of the CSR efforts of the Corporate sector in India have become reduced to photo-ops with TV crew milling around. They lack sincerity and commitment.
The general perception about CSR amongst the Indian Corporate sector is that of Charity,doling out crumbs. CSR is not about charity. It is about improving your relationship, having a better neighbourhood, working with the society and that of sustained development. A good starting point would be “OM SAHANVAVATU…..SAHANAU BHUNAKTU…………..”.
Inspite of all the CSR efforts in Nandigram the image that lingers is of Industry vs Farmers. Such perceptions cause large scale damage.
I suggested to the august gathering that it is high time there was a wedding of well intended low cost NGO’s and the Corporate sector. Though the CSR should mean an ethical and responsible behavior towards one’s employees, customers , peripherals and society in general. In the current aspect I am talking about one’s neighbourhood and society. These are the days of specialisation and outsourcing. These (low cost) NGO employees dress and speak the language of the target group. The suave and citybred executives would never be able to inspire confidence amongst the villagers. The villagers by and large perceive all these well groomed, well dressed persons as insincere and out for a photop-op. They believe and very often rightly that these people collect funds in the names of these villagers, do a high profile camera shoot and disappear.
Corporate sector with their management expertise can effectively participate in the top level management of these NGO’s yet leave the ground work to the executives of the NGO’s. The Big NGO’s are top heavy and the overhead cost is more than what goes in the fields.
Today when the Corporate sector has become as big as the state they should be a bit more responsive towards the society.
Yes there are a few sound CSR efforts by the corporate sector in India. Its still a long way when the acronym would become a common phrase in the society.

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