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

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

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

Corporate Social Responsibility – In Context of 2017

The year 2017 brings new hopes in the social development sector with more businesses contributing towards improving the standard of living of the people. With praises across the country for their contributions, the businesses are now more focused on strategising CSR rather than doing charity. However, there are several questions which are not answered as CSR projects are not good parameters for judging societal welfare. Today, it is unclear whether CSR spending by businesses have increased or not as compared to the days before the mandate, with not much available information.

However, data from the last two years suggest an increase of CSR funding with Indian businesses spending INR 9,309 crore in 2015-16. This is INR 163 crore more than what was required by the law and INR 703 crore more than 2014-15. The major focus areas for businesses have been Education and Health and they are likely to remain one of the most favoured sectors for CSR investments.

Understanding the present situation, Fiinovation, a global CSR consulting company analyses the trends in CSR for the year 2017.

1. Environment – After the successive droughts that nearly crippled the rural economy, it is expected that businesses will look to invest their CSR funds in projects that mitigate the climate change risks. Keeping focus on water, businesses will look to implement CSR projects for natural resource conservation, rain water harvesting, safe drinking water, watershed development and irrigation. Organic agriculture, climate smart agriculture, grain production with new innovative methods, etc. will also receive adequate focus. Several companies are looking to reduce their harmful environmental impacts.

2. Education – Several businesses will rather not look to diversify and stick to their CSR projects in education. It is expected to remain the favourite sector when it comes to CSR expenditures. Although, there might be a shift towards digital literacy, digital education and higher education to meet the current demands of the nation.

3. Health – Similar to Education, investments in health projects is likely to continue even this year. Focus will be on preventive healthcare along with healthcare infrastructure facilities including ambulances, digital check ups, diagonistic centers etc. Several businesses will also look to invest in public health in a public-private partnership model working in tandem with the government initiatives.

4. Skill Development – The Indian Government is currently committed towards providing skill development trainings to the youth. The government also provides additional support for entrepreneurship of the SC, ST and women. The government has also urged the businesses to contribute their CSR funds towards skill development trainings to ensure that the emerging workforce is formally skilled. It is expected that businesses will also look to boost infrastructure in the ITIs and Training Institutes to support the government. There are several businesses who are also investing in Sustainable Agriculture projects by providing trainings to the farmers.

5. Other Sectors – It is also expected that several other sectors will receive CSR funding but not at a very large scale. Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga, Digital Literacy, renewable energy, etc. are some areas which will receive contributions.

The impact of the CSR law can be better understood after the end of this year, when experts review the first three years after the enforcement of the law.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation: Beyond the Mandate – Changing CSR Paradigms

Not long ago, not many people cared about corporate social responsibility, at least in India. The concept might be known to a few, but there wasn’t much thought on the same. In the last two decades, things have changed significantly. Firstly, the economic reforms in 1991 laid the red carpet for the MNCs to start operating in India.

With the MNCs came the concepts of cause marketing, corporate responsibility, employee welfare, volunteerism, ethical practices, etc. Few other concepts, such as the Triple Bottom Line Approach (coined by the British consultant John Elkington in 1994), Shared Value (Michael Porter in 2011) and Conscious Capitalism (Raj Sisodia and John Mackey in 2013) also came into the limelight.

It was clear that in the last two decades, the emergence of these concepts targeting the commercial enterprises came up suggesting that the businesses should go beyond the obvious financial parameters and develop a holistic framework for assessing the impact of the business operations. From the point of view of the businesses, time and again they have spoken about doing good towards the society and environmental sustainability in their annual reports. Yet, the big issues such as climate change and well-being of the people and planet are prevalent along with a huge disparity.

The passing of the CSR law in India, seemed to have formalised the social sector contributions by the private entities. With not much data, a comparison of the same cannot be made. However, at least in the last two years, there has been significant amount of funds being invested in social projects. Businesses are now taking CSR as a strategic business concept and not many are contributing as a mere charity.

The move to bring about a cultural change within the businesses in India highlighted two concerns. Firstly, majority of the companies are searching beyond their own competencies to create programmes as per the Schedule VII. Secondly, there is not enough capacity or capability in the existing NGOs to meet the requirements of the businesses.

Fiinovation, a global CSR consulting company suggests that social sector initiatives require endurance and extended periods of investments in capability and delivery to make a significant impact. The concept is still evolving and incorporating sustainability issues, despite specifications mentioned in the Schedule VII. The whole idea is not to departmentalize business ethics and social responsibility, rather focus on sustainable corporate practices which includes CSR. Fiinovation suggests the idea of amalgamation of social and environmental issues within the business processes, help the businesses achieve enduring socio-economic outcome.

sustainability-framework

The time has come for businesses to be linked with ecosystem and not empty effluents into rivers and then contribute funds towards Clean Ganga. If businesses are truly considering becoming responsible entities they have to reduce, re-use and re-cycle the waste at least by 50 per cent. Therefore, when corporate social responsibility emanate from the core competencies of the respective companies, there is a higher chance of creating systemic solutions for delivery of social benefits.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation – The Future of Impact Investing in India

Impact investments is not something new to the world anymore. It might have started on a similar concept back in the 1980’s when Bill Drayton’s Ashoka started funding social enterprises. The term impact investing was coined in the year 2007 at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. The term was given to investments which are made with the intent of generating both financial and social and/or environmental returns.

In the last decade, India has become one of the world’s biggest impact investment market. The global investors are looking at India as a bright spot which is likely to grow rapidly in the next two-three decades. Along with this, there are several social and environmental issues which India would like to resolve while it continues to grow.

It is expected that with all the growth in several sectors, India could absorb $6-8 billion of capital annually by 2025. In the past six years, there has been $4.1 billion worth of cumulative investments with an annual growth of 15%. It is believed that impact investments has touch at least 60-80 million lives in the country focusing on sectors such as financial inclusion, agriculture, healthcare and education. Last year, impact investments touched the billion mark for the first time.

Understanding the present situation, Fiinovation believes that there is a huge importance of impact investors in helping socially relevant enterprises grow and prosper. There is need to focus on increasing investments to promote financial inclusion, clean-technology solutions, education, healthcare and agriculture. Fiinovation comprehends that the potential of impact investments needs to be unlocked as it provides vast opportunity for social and financial dividends.

With the impact investments growing at fast pace, it will be necessary to keep track on the returns. Fiinovation believes that there is a need for guidelines and monitoring frameworks to strengthen the entire investment process. The bottlenecks related to policies and government regulations need to be managed keeping in mind the adequate measures that can help the impact investment market expand. Fiinovation also understands that increase in investments will lead to requirement of professionals and therefore, government policies promoting skill development in sectors such as clean-tech, healthcare, education, digitalisation, financial inclusion, agriculture, etc.

In future, the struggle with access to capital will be done with and the massive challenges, which the sector is still facing, is expected to be addressed. It is also expected that the limited number of investors need to grow over a period of time. Fiinovation expects that better governance and talent will be required to provide support in the market expansion process. For bridging the gap between priviledged and the marginalised, it is important for impact investing to become mainstream.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation