Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Projection of CSR Trends in F.Y. 2017-18

The Companies Act, 2013, has markedly altered the mindset of corporate India. It has made them more conscious about their role as change agents. No longer are they just focusing on bottom-lines, but also on social impact and sustainability.

In India, big corporate houses like Godrej, the Tata Group and Aditya Birla Group, were already practicing CSR through their various trusts and foundations. But once the Act came into play, it brought into its fold many more companies. Now, even SMEs and entrepreneurs are beginning to think along those lines.

The compliance is also not merely being followed in letter, but in spirit. Companies are realizing that CSR is becoming a key component in reputation building – it gives them a chance to build their image as socially responsible enterprises.

Additionally, CSR enhances employee engagement, giving them an opportunity to break away from their rigid roles and participate in social change; eventually making them more sensitive to the society they live in.

Thus, what initially started out as cheque-book charity is now becoming a strategic benefit for businesses. CSR is giving businesses an extra dimension – that of meaningful and inclusive growth and profit. 

Companies are undertaking CSR initiatives in various ways. We’ve seen stellar programs being launched in companies across India in the last few years...some of which will be discussed below.

While some corporate houses are creating employee-driven volunteer programs to motivate, others are partnering with NGOs to help promote larger causes like education, skill development and health. 

Many are also backing government initiatives or entering into public private partnerships (PPPs).
Still others, are building entire CSR departments in-house to create programs of their own. These programs could focus on their particular sector/expertise or on the group’s area of interest in certain social causes.

Since 2014, the CSR act has been implemented in diverse ways by companies and many times very innovatively too.

CSR is going to continue to be a major area of focus for most corporates. Going by the trends of the last two years, the following social issues will continue to dominate the space:

1. Education of the Lesser Privileged
Education continues to be a focus area for most… From spoken English skills, to computer education, and scholarships for the girl child and engineering students, the programs that corporates have undertaken in this field are many. For example, the Infosys Foundation, headed by Sudha Murty, supports primary education in India, and computer science education in the US, helping America bridge the digital divide. (Source) 

2. Rural Development Programs
Equipping rural India has become a pet project for many corporates. And rightfully so…as they often have their manufacturing plants and employees situated in those parts of the country. One such initiative is by the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, led by Rajashree Birla, whose main focus is on the all-round development of communities around their plants, located in distant rural areas and tribal belts.

3. Skill Building
Skill building is not only a need for India’s growing population but also a requirement for corporate India. By focusing on skill development programs, they ensure the quality of skilled workforce entering their companies as well as provide livelihood opportunities for the lesser privileged. An interesting program is that run by Tata Motors called Learn, Earn and Progress (LEAP) which imparts mechanic motor vehicle training to the youth through a year-long program. LEAP provides theoretical learning as well as 'on-the-job' training at their various service centres. (Source)

4. Women Empowerment
Most CSR programs also look at education, health and skill development, to empower women in the community. Companies like Tata Steel, Mahindra & Mahindra, Dabur and Indian Oil, are focusing on this area. Women for Wipro (WOW) focused on women empowerment and community development has seen considerable impact over the years.   

5. Sustainability
Sustainability can be seen both through sustainable community development and by preserving the eco-system. For a community to develop sustainably, several initiatives like education, healthcare and sanitation come into play, whereas for the environment, companies focus on reducing their carbon footprints. The work done by Indian Oil is notable. It provides many alternative fuels like ethanol-blended petrol, bio diesel, hydrogen and hydrogen-CNG mixture to ensure environmental sustenance. (Source)

6. Energy and Conservation
As energy and conservation dominates global conversations, it also assumes a growing significance in India’s CSR initiatives.  Act for Mahseer, by Tata Power, is one such conservation initiative focused on saving endangered species in India. Tata Power has also established a breeding centre in Lonavala to further its cause for eco-restoration and eco-development in the area of lake conservation. (Source)

7. Water and Sanitation
In an age where everyone is talking about water conservation and rain water harvesting, some companies are taking this issue head on and acting upon it. Project BOOND by Bharat Petroleum started with creating water-harvesting structures and is now working toward helping villages become drought-free. A project that started with four villages in Maharashtra, has now spread across the country in more than 140 villages. (Source)

8. NGO Management
An interesting way that corporates are undertaking CSR is by giving existing NGOs support. They help them put management practices in place so that they can scale more rapidly. Sometimes they also help them in becoming more digital, marketing, or communication savvy. One such program is YES Foundation’s Media for Social Change Fellowship which connects high potential youth in a two-month internship program to help NGOs enhance their communication efforts and maximize social impact.

As corporates get more immersed in CSR in 2017, they will also get more effective and innovative in their CSR processes. Impact assessment and Social Return on Investment (SROI) will become key components urging them to further fine-tune and scale their programs.

We hope the CSR spirit among the country’s corporations continues to grow in 2017. And the focus is not just about complying with the 2% of profits mandate, but more about caring for the planet and its people!

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