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Opinion: CSR Is A Top Management Agenda

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CONSULTANTS are glad to see this new revolution of wp in the Indian context that should create a new business segment. Voluntary organisations and activists have been incentivized to leverage more control over social issues that had so far been lacking due to corporate negligence. Local communities are glad to learn that corporates are now compelled to do something good for their vicinity; perhaps the government is also pleased with the thought that millions of rupees are flowing into the system in the guise of community development. But a corporate is not content with this decision and, for obvious reasons, does not see eye to eye on this subject. From what I − as a learner in this field− perceive, I feel India Inc. is in a confused state as to where to spend this huge amount that they earned after putting in a lot of serious efforts.

I am sure this is not a fad and this has to be understood by the corporate sector. Section 135 of company law is now fait accompli and this pressure of mandatory spending is not coming down, not at least in the initial phase. Increasing awareness among stakeholders would, however, fan the spark of menace and risk, especially in the value chain. So where are we right now? Confused or planned… have we pondered upon the requirements of the social sector in our country, or are we just trying to make hay while the sun shines since the introduction of the law?

We ourselves are uncertain about the business case of wp. Yes, indeed! There it is. It is just that the corporate sector needs to identify its business case, which would inevitably differ from company to company. More importantly, don’t be duped to consider wp as a means to hide misdeeds behind your closet.

The Menace of Emotions

Do tell me if I am wrong. A company producing ‘X’ goods and impacting the community negatively in terms of health, builds a community hospital to cure the health issues. Is this wp? Perhaps when you have to spend 2% of your budget on such activities, you cannot think beyond it. Can we not change that ‘negative impact’ through business process transformation? Can we not adopt sustainable production of our goods with no, or even minimal negative impact on the community? What we need first is ‘Change of mindset’ – change the way you look at wp. And then ‘Transform’ your business.

Since the law was passed, every company has added wp or similar terms as their specialty. Check your LinkedIn profile in your network! Every week, I am invited for at least two conferences or workshops on wp or sustainability. Look at the number of companies in wp consulting! Good for the nation but a dilemma for the corporate! How can a consulting firm born within a year of the law being passed have the expertise to manage huge projects? A few might manage, but the fact remains that most of us are only pretending to. We are talking a lot, and loudly at that, about wp but doing nothing except networking through meetings.

Are We Thinking Differently?

The corporate can add value to its business system through a sustainable value chain or, as pointed by renowned analysts Porter and Kramer, the corporate can develop its business clusters. Companies can determine their current state and by identifying gaps in future targets, they can develop a good wp strategy for business. Life cycle analyses of the projects can also facilitate the defining of project success in the future, thereby reducing the risk of failure.

Dr Wayne Visser, founder of wp International and one of the Top 20 Sustainability Leaders, has stated that for developing organisation-encouraging investment, projects and job creation take top priority. Here, the wp law would definitely change the scenario through boosting investments in social projects and creating jobs for the youth. In fact, the decision of Coal India, the world’s biggest coal miner, to recruit 120 officers to oversee their wp initiatives is a laudable move.

I invite all experts out there (including people who have recently added wp as a skill) to support everyone through action and implementation. With this huge amount of money coming into the system, a corporate can deliver value to their stakeholders and, at the same point, add value to their own processes. A sustainable path would include all facets listed infra:

  • Spend Wisely and Strategically
  • Explore, Innovate and Share
  • Assess and Adopt

A corporate can also determine milestones and quantifiable targets annually or quarterly to judge the performance of their social projects. Auditing by external agencies also support in assessing the effectiveness of the project and can push towards better performance through stimulating inputs.

One aspect I strongly agree with is that wp is a top management agenda. Organisations that are considered as socially responsible have achieved this distinction because their mentor wanted it to be so; Tata and Reliance are apt examples. Dwayne Baraka, a leading thinker on wp, also points out that even if all the employees of an organisation believe that wp is a good thing, it would not happen until the top management decided to do so. In India’s case, it is somehow appropriate that law would bring this as mandatory for the top management and the nation would be benefited by corporate expertise on social and environmental development.

Companies are required to find ways to reduce the negative impact of their operations rather than finding ways to cure that impact. Companies cannot help in lowering the price of vegetables for the indigent community, but they can certainly develop skills in the youth for gainful employment and for a better future. The one thing I am certain about is that wp or sustainability would motivate companies to bring down their negative impact to zero level in the future. That time is around the corner!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or statements of The wp Journal.

To read this article on the author’s webpage, visit: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140327061231-51259475-corporate-social-responsibility-road-to-implementation