The good news is – most companies are fulfilling their social responsibility. The question remains – is that really what communities need?
According to research, people feel that corporate social responsibility is not effective and failing in some cases. For instance, only 13% people trust what they read in a corporate firm’s CSR or sustainability report!
This lack of trust poses a challenge for companies to shift their focus from mere fulfilment of legal mandate to adopting a more comprehensive and pragmatic CSR approach. Why not make full use of the present opportunity when most companies are willing to invest in social development and make it a more robust process right from the beginning? This is where evidence based practice can play an instrumental role.
One of the crucial reasons that organisations often struggle in developing an effective CSR strategy is the lack of reliable baseline data. Many a times, a project is started taking into account the ground realities but keeping in mind only the short term objectives, due to which companies fail to achieve desired impacts neither in their business nor in the society.
Evidence based practice helps streamline strategy for CSR and brings it in tune with the vision of the organisation. CSR will yield outcomes only when it is seen as an integral part of the organisation and is embraced in totality. A clear roadmap developed with thorough research will eliminate chances of deviation from the long-term goals.
Interestingly, CSR strategy developed on strong foundation of evidence, is more likely to address real needs of community and draw people’s support. For example, participatory community need assessment will highlight both hidden and apparent needs of people. When people come together and ponder over social issues (that is supported by necessary data), there is a higher possibility of them prioritizing issues, taking charge of the situation and render support in project implementation.
When corporate houses adopt evidence based practices for their CSR activities, it opens a whole gamut of social dynamics prevalent in the system and also reveals existing linkages between different issues. This is important because it helps companies build a comprehensive approach to integrated development rather than responding to problems in isolation. For example, while it is a serious problem to have girls dropping out of school, the underlying causes could be many. This could range from extreme poverty or people’s rigid attitude to lack of proper toilets for girls in schools. Once this inter-relationship is understood, it would be far easier to address the problem accurately.
It is now time that companies start investing in creating a robust system for research and monitoring to achieve the best out of their CSR endeavours. Yes, it could be an intensive exercise and would bring in slight discomfort in the initial phase, but once the system falls in place, advantages would be huge.
Pearl Tiwari is the Director of Ambuja Cement Foundation, the CSR wing of Ambuja Cements Limited. In a professional career spanning over 30 years, Pearl has been associated with the not-for-profit, educational and corporate sectors. Pearl joined Ambuja in 2000 and ever since has been at the helm of nurturing the Ambuja Cement Foundation that has expanded from a fledging team to nearly 400 development professionals, with a pan-India presence active in 21 locations across 11 states.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
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The CSR Journal Team