Corporate sustainability is derived from the concept of sustainable development which is defined by the Brundtland Commission as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Corporate sustainability essentially refers to the role that companies can play in meeting the agenda of sustainable development and entails a balanced approach to economic progress, social progress and environmental stewardship.
CSR in India tends to focus on what is done with profits after they are made. On the other hand, corporate sustainability is about factoring the social and environmental impacts of conducting business, that is, how profits are made. Hence, much of the Indian practice of CSR is an important component of sustainability or responsible business, which is a larger idea, a fact that is evident from various sustainability frameworks. An interesting case in point is the NVGs (National Voluntary Guidelines) for social, environmental and economic responsibilities of business issued by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in June 2011.
Principle eight relating to inclusive development encompasses most of the aspects covered by the CSR clause of the Companies Act, 2013. However, the remaining eight principles relate to other aspects of the business. The UN Global Compact, a widely used sustainability framework has 10 principles covering social, environmental, human rights and governance issues, and what is described as CSR is implicit rather than explicit in these principles.
Globally, the notion of CSR and corporate sustainability seems to be converging, as is evident from the various definitions of CSR put forth by global organisations. The genesis of this convergence can be observed from the preamble to the recently released draft rules relating to the CSR clause within the Companies Act, 2013 which talks about stakeholders and integrating it with the social, environmental and economic objectives, all of which constitute the idea of a triple bottom line approach. It is also acknowledged in the Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability for Central Public Sector Enterprises issued by the DPE (Department of Public Enterprise) in April 2013. The guidelines state:
“Since corporate social responsibility and corporate sustainability are so closely entwined, it can be said that corporate social responsibility and sustainability is a company’s commitment to its stakeholders to conduct business in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner that is transparent and ethical.