The amendment of Companies Act in 2013 introduced guidelines that marked the beginning of a change of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) landscape in India. This led to increased participation of corporates in social responsibility initiatives and enhanced CSR governance.
Recent economic reforms have provided a direction for greater transparency and accountability, the influence of which can also be seen in CSR governance. I see the following trends that will shape up in 2017:
Increased transparency and governance:
There is a gradual shift in the mindset of companies towards CSR. According to data compiled by Prime Database, Indian companies spent INR 8,345 crore on various CSR activities in 2015-16. Against the Rs 6,526 crore spend from the previous year, there was a 28% jump in the total investment made by corporate firms.
Guidelines in Companies Act 2013 such as the mandatory constitution of a Board level Committee for CSR has made reporting of CSR initiatives to government and other stakeholders increasingly pertinent. While in the first three years post the Companies Act, 2013, firms focused on compliance – based reporting of CSR. In 2017, there will be a spotlight on impact assessment with an enhanced focus on transparency and governance.
Robust CSR governance is also creating a spill-over effect on non-profits. With greater participation and contribution from corporate houses, there is an emerging case for non-profits to build better governance, transparency, and increased accountability.
With the current backdrop of government reforms and close monitoring of foreign contribution, I see a stronger trend of transparency emerging next year. Impact assessment of programs will also be critical to ensure judicious use of resources.
Integration of strategy in CSR programs:
Increasingly CSR is now part of the boardroom agenda and is viewed in strategic alignment with the company ethos, business objectives, and social requirements.
By integrating CSR into core business processes, organisations can achieve the ultimate goal of creating both social value and corporate value with stronger reputations.
In 2017, we will witness a committed and gradual shift from a short-term approach to a long-term, strategic, and program-focused approach.
Strategic storytelling to maximise impact:
Communication, put forward in the form of compelling and interactive stories has the power to inspire internal and external stakeholders and enable resource mobilisation. It is heart warming to see non-profits embracing new technology and leveraging digital media. Opportunities on digital platforms such as crowd funding sites and communicating through blogs and other interactive content have enabled non-profits to transcend the geographical barriers to maximise engagement.
CSR impact communicated through human interest stories is also critical to involve and engage stakeholders. Effective storytelling by means of interactive media campaigns and leveraging social media for CSR communication has the potential to grow exponentially in the upcoming years.
I do see a move to go beyond reporting metrics to a communication framework which is more creative, engaging and encompassing multiple channels and platforms.
As CSR in India continues to mature, I hope to see CSR becoming more strategic, technology–oriented, innovative and further impactful.
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