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10 Year Challenge: CSR then and now

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As the 10-Year Challenge, or the 2009 vs. 2019 Challenge sweeps social media, The CSR Journal has its own take on the otherwise superficial trend. We are comparing the state of Corporate Social Responsibility in the country in 2009 vs. 2019.

Institutionalizing CSR

A decade ago, the most common CSR activity when it came to the environment was planting trees. Indian companies today have evolved to focusing on projects that have a sustainable long-term impact, such as installing solar powered lighting systems and water conservation projects.
This evolution is noticeable across the board. Companies have started moving away from traditional philanthropic projects and have begun institutionalising CSR activities strategically.

Sustainability

For several of the largest spenders on CSR, sustainability has become a way of doing business. ITC’s CSR Committee is aptly called the “CSR and Sustainability Committee.” Similarly, HUL’s projects focus on water stewardship tie-in with Unilever’s global focus on addressing water scarcity. Axis Bank spent nearly 28 crore on reducing GHG emissions through the use of renewable energy and optimising energy efficiency, choosing to concentrate on reducing the company’s footprint on the environment.

Ministry of Corporate Affairs

Of course, Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 didn’t exist back in 2009. However, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) was just as enthusiastic about Corporate Social Responsibility then as it is today. The most significant business news event that year was the release of the Corporate Social Responsibility Voluntary Guidelines 2009 by the MCA.
The Ministry believed that while a lot of human and economic energy is available for utilization in this area, a suitable mechanism is required to channelize this energy for which the Government, corporate sector and the communities need to partner together. It brought out a set of voluntary guidelines for responsible business to add value to the operations and contribute towards the long term sustainability of businesses. Suggestions received from trade and industry chambers, experts and other stakeholders along with the internationally prevalent and practiced guidelines, norms and standards in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility were taken into account while drafting these guidelines.

World leaders

One of the most recognisable faces in the world when it comes to corporate citizenship, Anand Mahindra was co-chair of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2009 at Davos, Switzerland. Forty-two heads of State and Government, 1,200 business leaders, NGOs, Trade Unions and experts from a wide range of fields converged on the Swiss alpine resort of Davos to address the global financial crisis which we still haven’t fully recovered from. Mahindra shared the platform with world leaders Kofi Annan, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Stephen Green, Jeroen van der Veer, Werner Wenning and Maria Ramos.
Fast forward to a decade later, the socially conscious industrialist committed all of the Mahindra Group’s companies to setting science-based emissions-reduction targets, which aim to limit global temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius (the level scientists say is necessary for preventing the most disastrous of climate impacts). He also called on 500 other companies to commit to set science-based targets by the Global Climate Action Summit in California held in September 2018.

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