CSR: Is Corporate India doing enough?
Corporate Social Responsibility is not a new concept in India. Ever since their inception, corporates like the Tata Group, the Aditya Birla Group, the Wipro and the Infosys, to name a few prominent ones, have been involved in serving the community. Through donations and charity events, many other companies have been doing their part for society.
However, CSR has been taken more seriously in India after the Corporate Social Responsibility law came into effect in April 2014. Propelled by this impetus, a lot of good work for social causes is being done by Corporate India with CSR finding a permanent place in approximately 16,000 company boardrooms.
But there is a flipside to the story as well. A reality check done by Bureaucracy Today reveals that there is a lack of awareness of CSR guidelines among many corporates. Several top corporate honchos cutting across sectors are performing tasks which do not come under the CSR guidelines.
Another disturbing trend is the apparent partiality shown by many corporates in their CSR spending towards the States that have low industrial and business activity. It is seen that a majority of the companies opened their purse strings for the States that already have a sizeable corporate presence such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The backward areas of India like the Northeastern States and the Union Territories of Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Dadra and Nagar Haveli where social and economic development is most needed are witnessing little CSR spending.
Another aspect of the entire issue is the mushrooming of NGOs. The Government's suggested CSR activities include measures to eradicate hunger, promote education, environmental sustainability and rural sports, protect national heritage and make contributions to the Prime Minister's National relief fund. As per the guidelines, a company can perform these CSR tasks either on its own through its non-profit foundation or through independently registered non-profit organizations. This provision in the CSR law has led to a boom in the number of NGOs in India. As such, it raises a genuine doubt about the credibility and intention of many NGOs. According to a media report, there are over two million operational NGOs in India. Choosing the right one from such a large number of NGOs is not an easy task.
Our Cover Story in this CSR-Special Edition attempts to bring to light the gaps in corporate CSR activities in India while highlighting the extraordinary social tasks performed by Corporate India which are bringing smiles to the faces of thousands of underprivileged people. At the same time, it also raises a pertinent question – why should not the Government put in place an effective monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance with the guidelines and see to it that CSR spendings are done judiciously without any bias by companies? Monitoring CSR spendings will make the entire effort a tangible reality rather than an exercise just for the heck of it.