CSR Contributions – Is it a Burden for the Companies?

Despite global turmoil, India continues to emerge as one of the fastest growing investment destination in the world. The Indian government’s efforts towards ‘policy reforms’ and ‘ease of doing business’ are major steps directed to meet the demands of its citizens. Socio-economic growth of the nation is directly linked to profitability of businesses. Without growth, the domestic consumption is not likely to increase. This is one major reason for the businesses to invest their share of profits in activities that are aimed to benefit the marginalised sections of the society.

Although, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is mandatory in India for businesses falling under the CSR ambit, yet the attitude of the Indian companies have not changed much. Businesses are mostly interested in earning profits even after realising that businesses can sustain only if communities prosper. Fiinovation, a global CSR consulting company suggests that companies who are mandated to contribute towards CSR are merely focusing on compliance, rather than impact of the initiative.

In such a situation, when there is not much visible impact, the companies tend to believe that funds have gone wasted. Hence, CSR becomes a burden for them.

It is understandable that while the CSR spending went up from Rs 8,330 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9,882 crore in 2015-16, the utilization of funds and overall social outcomes have not been quantified or reported. As per experts, it is important for businesses to understand and measure the impact and return on investment of CSR initiatives. Research has also suggested that the rise in contributions by the larger businesses is related to partnership with implementation agencies, mainly CSOs for execution of the CSR programmes. It is noteworthy for the companies facing challenges in CSR to understand that partnership with CSOs help boost compliance of the law.

Effectiveness of the CSR programmes can also be determined through monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment studies. The companies must understand the purpose of CSR and actively engage in its implementation. It is not a matter of compliance, rather it’s about their survival. Companies should be looking to leverage the initiatives to build their brand image. Through CSR, the government is also trying to push the rural development agenda to spur economic growth. As per the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the CSR process which is perceived as burden by the businesses in India can help double the income of farmers. Hence, in this collective effort to eradicate poverty and boost socio-economic growth, businesses should play a pro-active role through collaborations with the civil society organisations.

 

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

FIINOVATION REVIEWS – THE NEW MATERNITY BENEFIT BILL

The Government gifts the Amended Maternity Bill as the Woman’s Day gift for the working women in India as the Parliament approves the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016 by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya and passed on 9th March, 2017.

“This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated International Women’s Day,” he said after about a four-hour debate in the Lok Sabha. He also informed that while finalising the Bill, few amendments were made in the old law to ensure that pregnant women derive maximum benefit from the law.

Fiinovation applauds the move as India joins the league of small consortium of countries with progressive maternity leave policy in system for the working women. Now, India ranks third in terms of number of weeks allotted for maternity leave with Canada and Norway leading at 50 and 44 weeks respectively.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was introduced to protect the health and employment of working women during their maternity tenure. As per this Bill, the women employed in companies with minimum 10 employees were entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. However, the new bill has increased the tenure of paid maternity leave for first two children from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. However, for the third child it will be limited to 12 weeks. It also includes the 12 weeks paid leave provision for women legally adopting children under three months and mothers having children through surrogacy. In the later case, the 12-week period will commence from the date when the child is handed over to the mother. As per the Bill, every company employing 50 or more women employees is entitled to provide the creche facilities within a prescribed distance, allowing at least four visits to the creche during the day.

Other major amendments allows a woman to avail work from home opportunity after joining back from the maternity leave on mutually agreed terms between the employer and the woman. It mandates all the organisations to inform a woman about all the benefits included in the bill during the time of her appointment through both written and electronic medium.

Additionally, there are various other labour laws like the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 which entitles the payment of wages to an insured woman, during her 12-week maternity leave. Even, the women employed in newspapers or working as journalists are entitled to similar maternity leave under the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. Further, women employed in the central government are provided about 24 weeks of paid maternity leave and additional child care leave up to a period of two years.

Although progressive and applauding but still it has left many important aspects untouched. Fiinovation reviews that this bill is entitled to benefit only 1.8 million women working in the organised sector as they constitute only 10% of the women workforce. It fails to include the women belonging to the weak and marginalised sections of the society as 90% of the women workforce is employed in the unorganised sector belong to the lower strata of the society. It includes women working as seasonal labourers working at construction and agricultural sites, contractual labours and domestic workers. The Bill lacks to cover them under its ambit as they lack eligibility under the 1961 Act such as continuous employment or a period of 80 days in the one year prior to the date of delivery. Hence, it portrays a huge disparity among the allotted benefits amongst the different sections of the society.

Experts also argue that the Bill could have an adverse impact on the job opportunities available for women. As it requires an employer to pay full wages during the maternity leave, many companies may consider it as a financial burden and prefer to hire male candidates on critical positions. Although, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Maternity Protection Conventions has proposed that the complete burden should not be borne by the organisations as suddenly the compensation period has increased from 12 to 26 weeks. It recommends compensating through public funds, insurance schemes, etc. Various countries like UK, Germany, Australia and Norway compensate by combining funds from the government and employer or national security fund.

A government official, who has been part of the debate in parliament argued that, “A father also has equal responsibility towards the child like a mother and paternity benefits would help a couple to raise their child together as majority are now nuclear families”. In fact, another government official from West Bengal shared saying that the government in its state is already providing the paternity leave of 30 days. Additionally, the benefits should extend to single father adopting children who are currently excluded from the Bill.

Fiinovation recommends that instead of introducing different bills and schemes, the government should introduce a uniform policy to benefit every employed woman rather parent in the country. Not only this, a strict monitoring mechanism should be implemented to ensure that women receive these benefits as currently only a handful of leading corporates in India have been strictly following these norms.

As quoted by in a report by Mckinsey Global Institute “Achieving gender equality in India would have a larger economic impact there than in any other region in the world – $700 billion of added GDP in 2025 – but comprehensive change is needed.” Fiinovation second with the though and feels that the New Maternity Bill is an important step towards the same and will certainly act as an impetus for women empowerment since they will be able to strike a healthy balance between personal and professional life.

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Preserving National Heritage Through CSR – Fiinovation

In the past few years, it has been observed that the rising global warming, mishandling and inadequate restoration of cultural arts and monuments has caused deteriorating effects on the historical masterpieces around the world. Although the developed countries practice best methods for the conservation of their art and culture, the developing countries often lack both funds and willpower to carry out this exercise. For instance, European Union started the project CHARISMA, which brought industry experts from universities, museums, research institutes and historians from the respective disciplines to share their knowledge, expertise and innovative ideas for preserving their national heritage.

The project aims at developing innovative tools through research to identify the materials and methods originally used by the artists as well as the modern techniques to safeguard them against rising challenges related to environmental degradation. Under this project, different art works like paintings, sculptures, ceramics, manuscripts, monuments, art work of different forms like metal and glass etc., books and archaeological items will be investigated by the historians and archaeologists. Apart from this, several grants and funds are raised through government, civic bodies and private sector for the preservation of its prestigious art and culture.

However, in a country like India, the heritage conservation is often taken for granted and there a very few corporates who are involved in initiatives related to the protection of culture and heritage. Kiran Seth, the recipient of Padma Shri award and founder of SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) voices her concern saying, “We have failed to protect so many art forms and now they are lost to us forever. Ustad Asad Ali Khan’s death meant the end of the Khandar Vani style played on the rudraveena. The Koodiyattam style of theater in Kerala has almost no takers now. So much knowledge about our heritage is getting lost every day.”

Even corporates are also lagging behind in extending much support in this sensitive matter. In a recent study it was found that in FY16, the CSR spend on the projects related to heritage conservation by corporates has declined by 40% as compared to FY15. In the first year of CSR rules, the projects related to heritage conservation received Rs 67.87 crore but the funding fell to Rs. 40.88 crore in FY16. Experts believe that sufficient efforts aren’t being done by the government and corporates for preservation of art and cultural heritage and the lack of funds is aggravating the matter further. The government allocates funds for the projects related to heritage conservation only from the tourism point of view. So, if a monument or a historical piece is not important from the tourism perspective, it doesn’t receive funds and precious pieces of glorious history are eventually lost.

The projects related to education, poverty, health and environment receive maximum focus from the corporates as they lack awareness about the benefits associated with programmes related to heritage conservation. Hence, if seen positively, this field has immense scope for executing successful CSR programmes which can integrate a corporate’s activity with its core business objectives. For instance, industries related to tourism and hospitality can derive maximum benefits through the strategically designed CSR initiatives. The programmes can include site maintenance and restoration, carrying out awareness programmes and setting up of management frameworks for maintaining the historical sites. Similarly, other companies whose area of operations holds historic significance can also make valuable contribution towards executing such kind of projects.

In India only few corporates have taken up CSR projects related to heritage conservation. For example, IT giant Infosys Ltd. funds a part of its CSR budget for the restoration of monuments and organising cultural shows in south India. In 2016, Infosys Foundation (the CSR arm of Infosys) completed a restoration project at the Somanatheswara temple complex at Lakshmeshwara in Karnataka, spending around Rs 5 crore over four years. It also organized performances at the two restoration spots in Andhra Pradesh at Lakshmeshwara and Anupu.

Similarly, Yes Bank has used a part of its CSR funds for organising over 100 heritage walks and 50 cycle rides at various heritage spots like Lodhi Garden, Qutub Minar and Hauz Khas in 2016. It has further plans to extend these activities to different cities. It spent Rs. 29.52 crore in FY16 and plans to invest Rs. 34 crore in FY17 for conducting these initiatives.

Many PSUs such as ONGC, NTPC, GAIL and Indian Oil have also undertaken the renovation and maintenance activities for temples and monuments around their areas of operations. The Indian conglomerate Tata Group has been traditionally involved in promoting historical monuments and setting up museums through their institutions and trusts. The group has also helped the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) through grants.

In 1966, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has set up the National Culture Fund (NCF) to channelise funds for the preservation of historical monuments and arts. It has identified 100 monuments of national significance which has been put up for adoption by the corporates.

In response to the poor feedback received on the hygienic conditions of the sites, the Ministry launched “Clean India Campaign” in 2012. As part of the campaign, the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) adopted Qutub Minar while ONGC also expressed interest in adopting sites like Taj Mahal, Khajuraho Temple and Ajanta-Ellora Caves for their conservation. The main objective of this campaign was to foster a collaborative model wherein corporations are encouraged to adopt a site and the local bodies such as schools, banks, authorities and trader’s associations can come forward for maintaining the nearby areas.

Maharashtra and Rajasthan governments have taken the lead and in creating platforms for corporates to adopt monuments of historical and cultural significance. Government should create awareness programmes and encourage corporates to utilise their CSR funds through structured planning and execution.

Fiinovation, a global CSR consultancy working in the domain of CSR and Sustainability urges the corporates to initiate projects related to the preservation of cultural heritage especially in their area of operations. It will not only help in keeping the history of glorious culture alive but will also enhance their presence as a culturally evolved organisation among the stakeholders.

“It has been said that, at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” — William J. Murtagh

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation Reviews: Need of Stringent Policy on Rare Diseases

In the year 2013, a petition was filed in Delhi High Court by the seven-year old Mohammed Ahmed suffering from the rare disease Gaucher. It is a hereditary disorder which is caused by the absence of enzyme which breaks down fat and releases energy. The absence of this enzyme leads to fat building all over the body and patients suffer from bone pain and anemia. In some cases, it may also lead to death. Although, this disease can be treated through the replacement therapy of enzymes and the person can lead a normal life under all medications and precautions, however, it can never be completely cured. The cost of therapy is Rs. 6 lakh per dose and has to be administered every month till the patient is alive. Since, his father is a rickshaw-puller and earns daily wages for survival he knocked the door of High Court for help.

Gaucher is one of the 7,000 rare diseases that afflict less than 6% of the global population. Looking at the rare phenomenon of this disease, pharmaceutical companies don’t consider it as an economically viable drug and end up pricing them as high as possible to derive profits. Even these companies don’t invest much on the research of the Orphan Drugs making them almost inaccessible for the weak and marginalised sections of the society.

In order to encourage the pharmaceutical companies to stimulate research for the treatment of rare diseases, the Orphan Drugs Act was passed by the US government in 1983. The law offered different incentives like smaller clinical trials, higher rates of regulatory success, extended exclusivity and tax rebates. Laws on similar line have been replicated in other countries such as European Union, Japan and Australia making it economically viable and commercially attractive for investing in the Research and Development (R&D) of the rare diseases. However, these companies ignore the incentives offered by the government and sell the orphan drugs at inflated prices. Rituximab, an orphan oncology drug, is one such drug in this category which is also the second highest selling drug in the world. The patients of developed country have higher per capita income and also governed by good government health policies hence they can afford them whereas it is completely unaffordable for the patients of developing countries considering their economic status and flaws present in the healthcare policies.

The Delhi High Court gave full attention to the case of Mohammed Ahmed causing lot of stir and scrutiny in the existing healthcare policies governing the nation. Before giving his judgment, Justice Manmohan analysed many other cases which have proved that the right to health and access to healthcare is implicit in Articles 21, 38 and 46 of the Indian Constitution.

He concluded that “every person has a fundamental right to quality health care – that is affordable, accessible and compassionate.” While recognizing the fact that every citizen cannot expect to receive free medical treatment at the state expense he also held the government responsible for not devising favorable policies for ensuring that every citizen can afford the treatment of rare diseases.

The court suggested the government to increase investment in the healthcare sector and formulate best practices and polices related to the treatment of rare diseases. It also confirmed that the act of financial aid treatment of rare diseases will be qualified as a CSR activity. It also directed the state government to arrange treatment for Mohammed Ahmed free of cost at AIIMS whenever he requires it, as per his constitutional right.

Learning lessons from this case, Karnataka became the first state in India to release a Rare Diseases and Orphan Drugs Policy. It recommended to implement the preventive and carrier testing, which is a means of reducing morbidity and mortality. Considering the fact that around 80% of the rare diseases` have genetic connection, it also suggested to the pharmaceutical companies to use genetic testing for accelerating the identification of the critical genes involved in rare diseases.

The state also highlighted about the flaw present in the Insurance Laws of India due which often acts as huge disadvantage for the patients suffering from the rare disease in India. The private insurance companies of India consider the genetic disorders as pre-existing conditions, hence, on that basis doesn’t provide any insurance cover for the same. Since, most of the rare diseases are genetic in nature; hence patients don’t get any support from the existing insurance policy.

The state emphasised on the awareness programmes to combat delay in diagnosis and treatment. It also called for the enactment of an orphan drugs statute to allow for tax breaks, funding and exclusive marketing rights as incentives for orphan drug discovery.

The policy has requested the IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) to re-consider this exclusion from the above mentioned laws and at least provide basic coverage of rare diseases at reasonable premiums.

Fiinovation recommends the other states of India to follow the footsteps of Karnataka to ensure every citizen of India has access to affordable healthcare facilities. The state-led PSUs and private companies can utilize their CSR funds to undertake healthcare initiatives involving rare diseases for extending support to the weak and marginalized sections of the society.

 

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

 

Budget Highlights – Education Sector

The much awaited Union Budget 2017 was presented by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitely on 1st February 2017. Education is one of the key components for driving economical growth and acts as impetus for government schemes such as Make in India, Digital India and Skill India. Government should devise schemes to boost other sectors such as Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Textile, Energy etc. apart from focusing on the IT and applied IT sectors.

It is extremely important to pay attention on improving the quality of educational institutes for creating skilled workforce, ready to join the industry. The key budget highlights of the Education sector are as following –

  • In year 2017, citizens will gain access to SWAYAM, a massive open online courses (MOOC) platform. This education portal, will be introduced with 350 online courses and will be providing high quality e-content to all the colleges and universities free of cost.
  • Job-creating packages for textile sector
  • Good quality institutions which will possess better quality and education
  • 100 international centres will be launched across the country for providing assistance to the youth seeking jobs outside India
  • PM Kaushal KendrasPM Kaushal Kendras to be extended to 600 districts
  • 5 crore youth to be trained under Sankalp programme launched by government
  • Quality and market relevance will be noted in vocational training
  • Special scheme for employment has been launched in the textile sector
  • National Testing Agency will be conducting major entrance examinations
  • CBSE will be freed from conducting examinations, and will focus majorly on academics
  • Skill strengthening to be implemented from this year with a budget of Rs 2,200 crore
  • Greater autonomy will be provided to major institutes
  • UGC will be reformed for higher education, colleges and institutions will give more autonomy
  • Two new AIIMS to be opened in Jharkhand and Gujarat
  • Big employment opportunities to come up in tourism sector
  • Government will provide education through digital platform and the country will be turned into an electronics hub
  • Additional opportunities for employment of women to open up through model shops and establishment bill
  • The BHIM app has been downloaded 17 million times, and special cash back scheme for BHIM users

The main highlight of the budget in education sector was the introduction of 350 online courses and big employment opportunities to be introduced in textile and tourism sectors.

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

FIINOVATION OBSERVES – WORLD SOCIAL JUSTICE DAY

World Social Justice Day is observed annually on 20th February for promoting efforts to tackle global issues such as poverty, unemployment, gender equality and exclusion to create an equitable society for all. It promotes social justice, solidarity, harmony & equality for marginalised communities, women and immigrants. The theme of World Justice Day in 2017 is “Preventing conflict and sustaining peace through decent work”. On this day many organisations including the United Nations and International Labour Organisation present plans and issue statements regarding the promotion of social justice. Additionally, campaign groups, trade unions and volunteers are also invited to mark their support on this day.

In 2007, the World Day of Social Justice was introduced in the UN agenda. It urged governments to focus on three important aspects;

a) reaffirmation of commitments made in Geneva Development Summit 1995,

b) recalling the commitment to promote national and global economic systems based on the principles of justice, equity, democracy participation, transparency, accountability and inclusion and

c) reaffirming the commitment made in the 2005 World Summit Outcome to full and productive employment and decent work for all, including for women and young people.

Keeping focus on these aspects will remove the barriers that people face because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.

Equality is the basic fundamental right of every society and in order to achieve the same, governments have created a framework for action to promote social justice at national, regional and international levels. The governments accept the fact that holistic economic growth can be achieved only by promoting equitable distribution of income, resources and providing everyone an equal opportunity for growth and development irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture or disability. They promote the belief that only social justice can help in achieving the peaceful coexistence within and among the nations.

United Nations also promotes social justice as part of their global mission to achieve equality for all. The recent adoption of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization by the International Labour Organisation is one example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, fundamental principles and rights at work.

Fiinovation through its association with corporations for CSR and Sustainability initiatives, have always promoted social justice. It believes that there are serious challenges in front of us, including financial crises, insecurity, poverty, exclusion and inequality within and among societies and considerable bottlenecks to further social integration and full participation in the economy. The road ahead would be to incorporate social integration activities within the social development programmes to boost equitable growth in the country.

“With exclusion and inequality on the rise, we must step up efforts to ensure that all people, without discrimination, are able to access opportunities to improve their lives and those of others.” – Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation