The Indian economy has shown stable growth over the past few years, despite social challenges. The enforcement of the Corporate Social Responsibility law has successfully encouraged businesses to contribute towards social imperatives which are listed in Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013. Recently the Corporate Affairs Ministry highlighted that more than 12,000 companies have contributed through the CSR, amounting to more than Rs 18,000 crore. However, from the point of view of Indian businesses, the CSR has been a topic of enduring interest with some of them being positive about it while others having a negative opinion. The debate usually comes to the point whether or not the CSR should be mandatory by law. However, the discussion should have been rather on sticking to the 2 per cent average profit requirement or going beyond the mandate while incorporating sustainable practices and affirmative action to promote holistic and inclusive development within the country.

Today there are statistics suggesting a huge disparity between the privileged and the marginalised sections of Indian society. Without much thinking about inclusive and sustainable development, businesses over the years have engaged in practices which have exploited national resources extensively. Currently, 5 per cent of the High Net Worth Individuals control 68 per cent of the total national wealth and 76.3 per cent of the total wealth of the country is with 10 per cent individuals. It can be rightfully said that as a nation we have failed completely with the poorer half of India having only 4 per cent share of the national capital. Surely, there is a world beyond the airconditioned buildings which is still grappling with challenges such as those of poverty, illiteracy, sanitation, diseases, water scarcity and environmental degradation.

A blanket of darkness prevails when India’s rankings in global indices such as the Social Progress Index (Rank 98), the Basic Human Need Index (Rank 98), the Foundation of Well- being Index (Rank 106) and the Opportunity for the Young Index (Rank 106) are observed. However, the nation is not in a very bad shape and there is light at the end of the tunnel. At present, 10 per cent of the world’s richest are Indians who have the moral duty to contribute towards the development of the nation. The huge Indian population which might be seen as a problem can reap economic dividends in the next 20-30 years. Despite its policy intrusions, the Indian Government has been pro-active while mandating Corporate Social Responsibility to bring about a cultural change among the businesses operating in the country.

Today, it is an imperative for businesses operating in and out of India to think on the lines of sustainability. In fact, businesses which don’t want to venture into social objectives are treating them as cosmetic adventures. In the long run, businesses will not be seen only for their economic impact on society but also for their role in improving the lives in India.

In the social welfare context, it is understood that though the State is responsible for inculcating certain civic virtues, it is the private sector which must ensure that actions are not directed towards repentance and repair but towards prevention and preparation. The businesses must realise that it is not their rupees or dollars that will set the tone but the intent with which they invest their time, money and skills to achieve a larger social economic good, promote dignity and build a healthy socio-economic environment.

The business data needs to change in the favour of society. If the businesses make efforts to change the narrative and embed social responsibility into the operational mechanisms of their functionality, the problems will become challenges and the discourse will become opportunity. Finally, one must recall the words of Mahatma Gandhi, β€œThe ambition of the greatest men has been to wipe every tear from every eye. So long as there are tears and sufferings, our work won’t be over.”

(The author is a social entrepreneur and the Chief Executive Officer of Fiinovation, a research consultancy that specializes in the CSR arena.)

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By | March 7th, 2017|Press|0 Comments

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