DailyPost 2093

Corporates have traditionally been indulging in philanthropic activities for the welfare of the community for a long time. It leads to large numbers of welfare activities and also some amount of health and education infrastructure. Corporate Social Responsibility is based on the concept to pursue pro-social objectives as it is the community that sustains any corporation, and they need to do it for the community. CSR refers to practices and policies undertaken by corporations intended to have a positive influence on the world. In concrete terms, to alleviate the quality of lives of the individuals and the community. On April 1, 2014 India legally mandated CSR. It became mandatory for companies of a certain turnover / profitability to spend 2% of the average net profit. India became the first country to legally mandate CSR.

What has been our tryst with CSR? Has there been a transformational change in the way CSR funds have been invested? Or has CSR gone the same way as philanthropy of yesteryears? Should it go the NGO outsourcing way? Or has it become another compliance issue? Most importantly, has there been any change in the mindset of the corporations towards society. It would take time, energy and planning besides innovation to make the best use of the funds which would be made available as a part of this mandate. Assets and skills which can be generating value to those it has been created for many years. Funds apart, it would need full and complete involvement of some dedicated experts in the field working with the corporations to make it happen.

With no regulatory body to regulate duplication, superfluous activities, lack of impact, some sectors being attended and lots remaining unattended, there is a feeling that it is going the jungle growth way. Most of the activities happen around the areas where the big corporations / their units are located. Where are no corporates, CSR is also missing? There are lots of activities which happen on weekends, around big cities, with lots of multimedia publicity. Results will happen only if the involvement is as perpetual as in the case of their pure business /commercial activities. What about a separate stream of technology CSR? With large number of technology companies, mainly IT, legally mandated to do CSR, and digital technology becoming the major game changer, this has to evolve as one of the core CSR areas.

A few thoughts will make it clear. What difference can capacity building in various digital skills make in the lives of a common student, or the unemployed? Relevant world class courses can be brought to their doorstep and additionally, it can think of creating highly skilled courses suited for Indian conditions, or might for one specific plant or company itself. From Police Stations buildings to ambulances, we can see this CSR philanthropy, can it not happen to maintain creaky IT systems; in schools, lower end government / quasi government offices and a variety of such institutions and systems starved of such support. We can think of the messy bed management system in Bangalore in the second wave Covid-19. Municipal administration can be another great area to alleviate the life of the common man. There are innumerable areas which can be transformed because of technology CSR. To bring the thought to reality needs the same creativity, application of mind and execution capabilities, which corporates display in their commercial work.

Sanjay Sahay

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