Importance of Professionals in Corporate Social Responsibility – Fiinovation

The advent of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in India opened new avenues for employment for people belonging to the social development sector. The mandate under the Companies Act, 2013 made it a more focused area for the businesses which might look at CSR in a strategic manner. Hence, the effectiveness of CSR initiatives lies in the hands of CSR professionals who are well versed about the concept and can utilize the initiatives for benefiting the organization.

It has been observed that in most of the businesses, there is still no CSR department, rather it’s the Human Resource department or the senior management which takes care of such initiatives, that too because of mandatory compliance. When called to enquire regarding the CSR department, most of the times the calls are answered by the HR and not by the CSR committee members. This brings us to the question that, are the businesses really serious about giving back to the society or considers CSR as a tick-box exercise?

The presence of CSR professionals in the organization is definitely an indicator of the seriousness of the initiatives. There are several benefits attached to having a CSR professional within the organization. Not only it provides chances to improve the social return on investment, but also improves the communication of CSR initiatives to the stakeholders. As a brand, businesses look to increase their consumer base and market outreach. CSR definitely provides an opportunity to boost the brand value, and the CSR professionals do play a significant role in devising implementation strategies.

Globally, leading CSR professionals have moved one step ahead and are looking not just to initiate ‘give back’ projects, rather incorporate the concept of being a responsible organization across the value chain. They help the corporate communications department to put a number on the value that has been created through the CSR initiatives. It is always recommended to not to give the job of handling the CSR manager position to someone in the HR or any other department, so that there can be a complete analysis on the social return on investment.

With increasing competition among the businesses, CSR could be an innovative mechanism to differentiate a brand from its competitors. The increase in effectiveness of the CSR programmes due to the presence of CSR professionals is definitely a motivating factor for the socially responsible investors. It is also due to the increasing demand of CSR professionals in the businesses and business foundations that several b-schools have started offering degrees in CSR. It is expected that in the years to come, the businesses which doesn’t have CSR professionals will look to recruit them to optimize their social return on investments. Hence, for a CSR professional the future seems to be bright in terms of employment opportunities, but their definitely will be more pressure on them with greater responsibility towards the organization and society at large.

 

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

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 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

Fiinovation Observes – The Day for the Specially-Abled

Equality is the public recognition, effectively expressed in institutions and manners, of the principle that an equal degree of attention is due to the needs of all human beings.” – Simone Weil

The specially-abled people form the world’s largest minority group with more than 1 billion people or approximately 15 per cent of the 7.4 billion world population having some form of disability. Out of them more than 100 million are children who are likely to experience four times more violence than non-disabled children. Nearly, 80 per cent of the specially-abled live in the developing nations. India, which will soon become the world’s most populous country, is home to more than 27 million specially-abled people.

Fiinovation, being a leading organisation in the social development sector understands that disability is a condition or function which usually leads to poorer health, lower education achievements and fewer economic opportunities. They face lot of difficulties due to lack of services, opportunities and discrimination. In wake of this, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared the year 1981, as the International Year of Disabled Persons. Further, the UNGA proclaimed 1983-1992 as the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons calling for an action plan at international, national and regional levels.

The observance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities started in the year 1992, promoting an understanding of disability issues and mobilizing support for the dignity, rights and welfare of the differently-able people. Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognized by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which has been ratified by 153 countries and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights.

This year, the theme is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. The aim is to build a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities. With its experience in the social development sector, Fiinovation strongly feels that achieving the 17 goals requires full inclusion and effective participation of persons with disabilities.

The abilities of persons with disabilities cannot be undermined as in the case of Rio Para-Olympics, where the Indian team performed outstandingly, bringing medals and honour for the country. This day provides an opportunity for everyone to salute them and other specially-abled people who despite all the difficulties continue to inspire world with their contributions. Therefore, Fiinovation urges all governments, businesses and other stakeholders to intensify efforts for ending discriminations that prevent persons with disabilities from exercising their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Let’s together build a better world.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Kaladera – A Case Study by Fiinovation

There are several cases of improper institutional practices in India that have led to socio-economic and environmental problems for the citizens. The Kaladera case is one such instance when a corporate giant Coca-Cola exacerbated the miseries of people in the already water scarce region. Kaladera is a small village located 40 kilometers away from the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur. The lives of people, especially the weak and marginalised in the village is currently at stake because of the Coca-Cola plant.

Fiinovation, a global CSR firm that also focuses on sustainability initiatives, highlights that the Coca-Cola plant that supposedly drained the region of its water reserves was finally shut down. The region which is known for its mud resistant block prints and natural dying handicrafts, have struggled for more than a decade. The exploitation by the soft drink giant ended after the people’s movement ensured that interest of the marginalised is not undermined. The people’s movement was a reminder of the role of the state and businesses to safeguard the interest and rights of the citizens. In fact, the impact of the movement was such that Coca-Cola also had to shut down their plants in Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya.

Fiinovation reviews that the entire process posted some serious questions on policy planners, institutional bodies granting licenses and the role of pollution control boards. Ironically, the plant was set up in 2000 and was permitted to extract water in one of the most water scarce region of the country, Rajasthan. The ruling state government in that year had adopted an anti-people policy by providing tax incentives to a soft drink producing unit in a block which has already been declared overexploited in 1998 by the Central Ground Water Board.

Ground report from Kaladera suggests that it is located in the semi-arid zone and has frequent droughts and low average annual rainfall. Fiinovation finds that the village doesn’t have canals, water bank and has a dried river Bagho, making it difficult for the inhabitants to survive. At present, nobody is willing to take the blame for the man-made crisis leaving the people in despair. The problems of the local communities can only be solved by the nature’s capacity to rejuvenate the area.

Fiinovation reviews that there is no institutional mechanism to replenish the loss and water management in the region is a daunting task. One of the main reasons for this crisis is the lack of clear property rights which is creating adverse environmental impacts of resources due to wasteful and unsustainable consumption. It can also be said that there is a policy failure resulting in trade-off between industrial demand and agricultural demand for water.

Fiinovation comprehends that the scant availability of water for irrigating the agricultural fields dipped the yield per hectare. The worst affected were the marginal farmers and the agricultural labourers. The plant even didn’t solve the employment issues in the region as opportunities were mostly contractual with meager salaries. Additionally, it increased burden on the women and girls who have to walk miles to fetch water for household purposes.

Therefore, to overcome the current crisis looming over the region, both businesses and the authorities will have to collaborate and work efficiently to increase the water availability. Fiinovation believes that CSR funds need to be channelised towards rainwater harvesting and watershed development projects. Development of canals, water pipelines, lakes, etc. are necessary to overcome the water crisis. Apart from this, climate smart agriculture, drip irrigation and low water consuming crops can be the additional ways to strengthen the livelihood of the farmers.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation reviews: Amplifying CSR through Social Media

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Gone are the days, when companies use to contribute towards social causes without analysing the social return of investments. The Delhi-based CSR Consultancy, Fiinovation is of opinion that in today’s date, companies are not only doing good but they are also utilizing every possible medium to promote and spread awareness about their social campaigns and sustainability practices. Social media, being the favorite and most effective medium. Hence, it will be foolish of any corporate to ignore the power of social media rather they should use it as a tool to increase the footprint of their corporate social responsibility initiatives across the globe.

Using social media for promoting the good cause can lead to a plethora of business benefits ranging from increased stakeholders engagement, enhanced goodwill, brand visibility and competitive advantage. A joint study by the Pew Research Center and John S. And James L. Knight Foundation reveals that 63% of the space at Facebook and Twitter serves as a source for sharing news about events and global issues. Hence, it is also important to communicate the brand messages to intended audience through the channels preferred by the audiences.

As per cio.com, the 1.8 billion monthly active users of Facebook, sends out an average of 31.25 million messages every minute everyday. These numbers prove that social media platforms provide an influential network of passionate customers supporting brand’s initiatives and endeavors. Companies like P&G have leveraged the benefit of this spectacular stakeholder presence through their campaign, “Future Friendly Challenge” on Facebook. The program was launched to help customers save water, conserve energy, and reduce waste through several activities like donating clean drinking water to children for a day, pledging to save energy and reduce wastage and save energy for 90 days. P&G designed the strategy in a way that customers can send page invitations, educate their friends and motivate them to participate in the challenge. The brand also invited the followers to share their experience and tips on how to fulfill the objectives of this challenge.

Through this simple initiative, P&G received tremendous Return on Engagement within a few months. The statistics show that around 20,000 followers participated in the challenge and saved water and energy as well as reducing wastage for 3 months. The clean drinking was donated by each of them, amounting to 20,000 days of clean water donation. Around 7000 posts were made and shared by the supporters comprising their tips and experiences leading to total active engagement of around 48,000. The above example of P&G, integrating CSR with social media strategy has not only amplified the good actions of the company but have also helped in generating large number of supporters across the social media platform. Additionally, this will create a lasting impact on the minds of customers, strengthen trust and loyalty in the brand providing them edge over their competitors. Fiinovation appreciates P&G for utilizing the social media platforms for spreading awareness about their CSR campaign as well as passively educating customers about the importance of safe drinking water and energy conservation.

Looking at the stupendous growth of social media platforms in near future, brands are not going to leave any stone unturned in communicating and promoting their CSR initiatives on the social networks. They find it the best and easiest mediums to engage their stakeholders and enhance their brand value.

Nike’s Digital Advocacy Director Laura Adams says social media has become instrumental in Nike’s evolution as a brand and as a socially responsible and more sustainable enterprise. “At the end of the day, it’s the people out doing work that are going to get us to achieve our goals,” said Adams.

Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications

Fiinovation