“unless we think of others and do something for them, we miss one of the greatest sources of happiness” – Ray Lyman Wilbur
INTRODUCTION: ABOUT CSR….
What is CSR?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the focused actions of a company/corporation that desires to do well while simultaneously doing good for the community, the society, the environment and/or all other aspects with respect to general human up-liftment and well-being.
The World Business Council best describes it as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society in large.”
Other terms for social responsibility include sustainability, corporate citizenship, community relations, business ethics, and cause marketing – though each focuses on a slightly different part of the business model.
Industry leaders, pundits, policy makers and consumers each may have their own definition – and opinion – but one thing is for certain; CSR is here to stay and it should!
Why CSR for corporations?
There are many incentives, socially and by incentives for corporations, whether IT or others, to incorporate CSR in their working culture.
On my interviews with professionals as part of this assignment, I found out that most of them had mixed feelings as to why such corporations inherit the CSR culture, with many of them indicating that companies do it more for personal image gains rather than out of generous behavior and actual consideration. Therefore with increase in the corporate resources towards CSR, higher market returns to these investments are the main driving factor apparently.
I for myself do not mind that. As long as good is being done for the community as a whole, it does not matter what the actually purpose was for these steps taken.
In terms of benefits for the company, there are many:
• enhanced ‘brand image’ with regards to trust and reputation
• new customers and development of a strong relationship with consumers.
• better ability to attract and motivate talented workforce.
• Availability of new resources by influencing key stakeholders – such as investors and policy makers.
On the other hand, these days, there are various negativities with companies that do not incorporate CSR:
• unfavorable public opinion and increased reputation risk (which mite lead to decreased shareholder value and diminished stock price)
• Increased litigation and related legal costs on various social and environmental issues.
• Decreased customer loyalty, loss of customers and/or stakeholder support due to the negative publicity garnered.
Why should India care?
We live in a developing nation, and we, as young working class members of the society, should be aware of the role we can play in the development of our nation. It is our responsibility that we make sure that the benefits that our generation reaps are equally distributed amongst all strata of society. Hence it is very important for us to know what CSR is and what role we can play in it. This is because under the initiatives of our respective companies, we can make large impacts and make changes for the benefit of our people.
There is a part for every individual in an organization to enact a role in corporate social responsibility, since a corporation is made up of us individuals. It always has to be collective, combined efforts by all the people involved to play their part in this endeavor so that it develops into a concrete work of action. Singleton steps in isolation cannot make a huge difference to the society in general.
CSR should be more than just doing ‘something good, it should rather be about making a sustainable social impact. Nobel prize winner, Mr Muhammad Yunus in a lecture he gave in Boston University, touched on the point, apart from various other discussions, the shortcoming of a single dollar (in our case a rupee) placed in charity by saying that it only has a single life cycle, i.e., it does not use itself.
Drawing from this idea, I believe that as yet-to-be working class professionals, CSR for us should be aimed such that a single unit currency has multiple lives. That means that it should be invested in such a way that it gives you an outcome, which in turn is actually another unit itself, so that it keeps on recycling itself. For a simple example, a single rupee helped in creating jobs in turn helps raise money.
The role CSR plays in the larger picture of social development:
CSR is an important tool amongst various other methods and initiatives of social development.
As we know that in our country especially, the divide between the rich and the poor is reaching alarming proportions.
Let’s take a single case of elevating people out of the poverty line. A non-humanitarian might ask what good comes out of doing that. There are plenty of reasons in involved if one asks. Peace, for instance is one of them as it is generally dependant on the level of poverty. Peace is an indicator of national prosperity and stability which affects all.
Reduced Corruption, reversal of vote-bank politics, increase in government accountability and more similar affects are all natural outcomes that evolve out of a wholesome society and CSR plays an important role in achieving this minimum social status for all.
A FIELD SURVEY:-
The field survey consisted of discussions with professionals on their knowledge and their point of view regarding CSR. The reason for this exercise was to ascertain the ground realities that would help us understand the extent of the gap that exists in actual implementation of CSR models and activities.
I asked a few basic questions and came to a general conclusion based on the majority of similar replies that I received. Most of my interaction was done verbally with a few written replies. A major chunk of professionals I asked work in the IT industry, but the list also included people form other fields.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility? Are you aware of any initiatives of your company?
The replies I received out of this question were straight forward and pretty much to the mark as the term CSR is self defining. However on further discussion, barring a couple of professionals, and non form the IT field, were aware of the workings of any CSR projects or initiatives undertaken by their respective companies. Some even thought of it as a term NGO’s undertake.
Is CSR a corporate issue at all? (Only Government should concern with it or that it is a NGO sphere)
This was a resounding yes. Most of the respondents felt that it was a corporate issue and that every company had a responsibility to give something back to the society and that they had the means to do so. Many were skeptical of the role government plays and believed private sector work would give a better outcome than that of a public sector initiative.
Does it involve us? In what way?
This was a tricky question, not that it was a difficult thought provoking one, but one that made all of the respondents guilty. All of them felt that it was every individual’s responsibility to do something, but they themselves have not done anything as of this time.
Do active corporations have hidden motives?
Most professionals did not think that corporations these days had a money making scheme. They rather thought of it as an image building exercise. Most did not have problem with that as long as firms were not show-boating and there was some actual groundwork being done for the development of the society. However, nobody had the knowledge whether their companies had made any concrete progress in society or environmentally, etc.
The major challenge you would like to undertake/be undertaken?
I had to change this question from ‘what have you’ to ‘what would you have done’ because of obvious reasons. The two major issues that came out of this were that of poverty elevation and education.
Should their be laws?
Most did not think it was a good idea to force corporations into undertaking CSR initiatives by the way of laws. They believed that it would not be and should not be possible in a capitalistic free market environment. On the contrary a couple of female respondents felt that certain laws could help us in making sure that companies that do undertake these steps do it for something concrete and not for hallow publicity.
Conclusions drawn from the field survey:
Out of these responses, I draw an image of today’s professional as a person who is supremely busy with his job, and not with living his life. Most of them were idealistic enough in their thought process, like in saying that they would prefer actual work to publicity stunts but they did not know if that was true for their own companies. That sums up today’s young professional for me, all right in their ideas but wrong in their priorities.
Most did not have any theoretical knowledge of CSR and what all it encompasses. They did not know of the facts or the long term reasons as to why CSR is important to the society as a large. Not many were active or had the time to spare for these initiatives but some had helped and were willing to help monetarily.
CSR is an important tool for a developing economy to ensure that the growth is evenly distributed amongst all. By helping to increase the quality of living of our society as a whole, entails many positives as mentioned in the introduction of this paper.
CSR for me should be looked as generational steps taken with an eye not only for the present but also for the future. What that means is that by helping this generation of people in need and suffering, by helping them stand on their feet, we make sure that the generation that follows them has all the opportunities of further development.
For instance, by giving an unemployed women a chance to have a job and a stable earning through a CSR initiative, we are making sure that her children step up in their quality of living and maybe have the same opportunities of becoming whatever they want in colleges like ours. This will build our middle class to tremendous proportions. Think of the consumer clout and the economic boom, if instead of around 300million, we have a 600 million strong middle class in our country in the coming generation, thus paving way for us to leave behind the ‘developing nation’ tag.
As IT professionals, our part in this endeavor could be to focus on using IT, our core competence, to create opportunities for our society.
There are many IT initiatives that we might take, for instance:
• make an impact in the spread of education through IT
• help create a more digitally inclusive society by providing digital literacy and access to relevant information, thereby, improving the qualities of lives of communities.
‘Developing (and communicating) a comprehensive CSR strategy takes time, commitment, focus, and designated people and financial resources. It requires commitment from the executive offices on down to every individual department and staff position and should be made part of the corporate DNA’.
In conclusion, I would say that Corporate Social Responsibility should be taken not only at a corporate or an IT level, but also as a study programs in school and colleges so that future professionals are well aware of the importance that they can make in our society and have the knowledge and tools along with new ideas to achieve their social purposes.
Dr Sanjeev Verma, Rohit Chauhan (2007), ‘Role of Corporate Social Responsibility in Developing Economies’, International Marketing Conference on Marketing and Society
Jeremy Moon (2004), ‘Government as a driver of Corporate Social Responsibility’, ICCSR Research Paper Series.
Kerry Peyton,, ‘CSR: Who needs it’, www.cbsr.bc.ca
Dr James Harris, Dr Maeve Cummings, Dr Christine Fogliasso (2001), CCSC: Central Plains Conference.
Christopher M Hoadley, Peter G Kilner, ‘Using Technology to transform communities of practice into knowledge-building communities, SIGGROUP Bulletin, Volume 25 Number 1.