The 21st century is believed to be the century of knowledge and innovation. In today’s world, companies are focussed on finding innovative solutions to real world problems, that create not just efficient work processes having better productivity and performance, but also have a positive impact on the society. Today, companies have realised that social innovation is the catalyst for the growth and success of any business.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is based on the principle that business accomplishments and social welfare are inter-reliant. In India, the initial stages of CSR started with the oldest traditions of charity and philanthropy. With the Companies Act 2013, there has been a paradigm shift in the mindset towards CSR. It has emerged as a key point in the boardroom agenda and is viewed as being strategic aligned with the company ethos, business objectives and social requirements, creating an ecosystem that accelerates India’s inclusive social development. This evolution of CSR has given way to social innovation, a model of innovation that focuses on designing solutions that address social and environmental problems and contribute to the greater success of the business.
Stanford Social Innovation Review has defined ‘Social Innovation’ as ‘a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just, than current solutions. The value created accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.’
Companies in India are proactively designing and implementing sustainability initiatives that have been linked to the company’s core business, providing increased incomes and better quality of life for communities. One such example is the lead taken by certain financial institutions in mainstreaming climate finance and creating a sustainable ecosystem through financial instruments such as Green Bonds, Energy Efficiency Financing, etc. Another trend with far reaching impact is that the banks are increasingly assessing Environment and Social Risk in project financing.
Today, new age Indian entrepreneurship is revolutionizing traditional business through innovative and creative solutions to endemic social problems. An ecosystem to support this newly emerging economy characterised by D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovation and Creativity-led Entrepreneurship) has the potential to accelerate India’s inclusive development. This is expected to get a further impetus through the inclusion of technology incubators in Schedule VII of the Company’s Act 2013 and Start-Up India.
Companies are looking for co-developers for innovation through strategic partnerships with governments and non-profits. These synergistic partnerships go a long way in making a sustainable, social impact. Azim Premji Foundation’s work on strengthening Indian educational system in association with the government is an important example. With an understanding of the centrality of teachers in the education system, the Foundation has been successfully building capacities of teachers, head teachers and functionaries in 50 districts across 8 states and facilitating school quality assessment and development.
Corporates with their diverse skill sets are also working together to catalyse greater social impact through their combined efforts. The recently launched ‘Internet Sathi’ program by the Tata Trust and Google India is a successful example. The program aims to raise awareness and promote internet use in rural villages, targeting mostly women. The program intends to cover 3,000 villages and affect 1 million people. This small but heartening trend of corporates combining their efforts is crucial for India’s inclusive development.
Given that the corporate organisations have access to resources and the best talent, there is tremendous potential to develop new approaches, create solutions and emerge as change agents for society.
Prerana Langa is the CEO of Yes Foundation, social development arm of Yes Bank. She developed YES! i am the CHANGE, a mindset transformation project, innovatively using the medium of films to ignite the spirit of driving positive social change amongst the youth enabling them to become agents of social change.
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The CSR Journal Team