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

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

World Day of Social Justice – Fiinovation

The disparity between the rich and poor is growing day by day. A lot of work needs to be done to empower people, protect them and ensure their voices are heard. When we talk about social justice we actually mean promotion of gender equality and rights of people in distress. According to Fiinovation, social justice is when there is peaceful and prosperous co-existence within and among the  countries. Social justice can be achieved only when we overcome the bottlenecks related to gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability. 20th February is observed as the World Social Justice Day to promote social justice through employment and honourable livelihood, gender equity, fundamental rights and access to social well-being and justice for all.

It is important to recognize that inclusive development is a prerequisite while looking at maintaining international relations. As the world adopted the Millennium Development Goals there have been significant efforts in the areas of health and gender equality, including steady progress towards equal access of girls and boys to primary education. Fiinovation, have been working with various development agencies, donors & NGOs across India that have been implementing social development programmes of similar nature.

The team at Fiinovation understands the relevance of looking beyond 2015 and focusing on global sustainable development agenda. That would entail targeting poverty with the support of government and NGOs, private sector and other stakeholders like academicians and scientists through a systematic approach and in depth research. Together we have to set up new target indicators for social empowerment, which look at social determinants of health and  other sectors addressing the needs of the community. Our next development agenda should include empowerment and social justice as important factors that can be measured with set targets.

There is need to serve the vulnerable and harness their potential. We should work towards enhancing the capacities of women and children in the developing and underdeveloped countries. As we put our efforts together, we can hope that a sustainable and equal future lies ahead of us.

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.’ -Margaret Mead

Fiinovation

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To Build a Nation that is Corruption Free – Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd.

“A man who has never gone to school may steal a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Corruption is prevalent all over the world and is a social, political and economic complex trend. It slows the economic growth, leads to instability in the government and undermines democratic institutions. Corruption acts in distorting electoral process in a democratic setup, alters the rule of law and creates bureaucratic predicament that encourage bribes. It hampers economic development of a region as foreign investors hesitate in investing and small businesses dry up due to increased costs because of corruption. Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd. believes corruption is an obstacle towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and needs to be taken into account in defining and implementing a vigorous post-2015 development plan.

In the year 2011, India saw an uprising to make the country corruption free. It all started on April 4th 2011 when protestors gathered at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi with an intention to bring a strong legislation and enforcement against perceived widespread political corruption. The anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare began fast unto death from 5th of April and the movement gain a stupendous momentum. It brought millions of people on to the street, from Delhi to Bangalore, Kolkata to Mumbai there were protests in 52 cities of the country. The movement was a Gandhian one and included marches, hunger strikes, civil disobedience. Social media played a crucial role in creating awareness and mobilizing people for the movement to sustain.

The government used all its tricks to stop the movement and Hazare was captured and sent to Tihar jail. When asked by a reporter as how can he continue the protest despite prohibitory orders by the government, he replied saying “how can the government stop anyone from protesting? The land is not their ‘father’s property’. The citizens are the masters of this country and the ministers are their servants”.

Several opposition political parties, BJP and CPM supported Hazare and urged the government to take his fast seriously. However, there was no result to the movement and the bill is yet to be passed by the government of India. The movement also saw emergence of Arvind Kejriwal a member of team Anna who was detained along with Anna Hazare. Arvind and Anna moved apart in 2012, the former went on to establish a political party named as Aam Admi Party while the latter continued the movement. The Aam Admi Party took the national capital by storm and shocked the nation by winning 28 seats out of 70 in the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections. The party also received majority of the vote share with more than 30% of the voters voting for them.

Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd. believes that strong and effective measures are required to make the nation corruption free. Transparency and willingness to set an example in front of the world is necessary. Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd. always strives towards providing greater transparency to all its associates.

Written By

Rahul Choudhury

Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd.

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Myth Busters: Unraveling Environmental myths – Fiinovation

Earth Sciences comprises of many aspects that need in depth knowledge. Once it was believed that continents are so huge that they can’t move, which now we know is wrong notion. There is so much to know about the Universe, Earth and Environment that we need to keep researching about them to gather as much knowledge as possible. The mysteries about Earth and Environment have led to different perceptions. The mysteries surrounding climate change, global warming etc. has led to an increased inflow of remedial suggestions from experts, academicians and the general public. This has also led to an increasingly opinionated public perception about the state of current environment. Personal beliefs are being translated into strong comments and views. Are these perceptions correct? Not all of them. Let us find out if some of the major “well known-facts” are even facts or not.

Myth: There is a physical hole in the Ozone!!

Fact: The ambiguity surrounding this mysterious hole in the ozone layer has continued to baffle one and many. The earth’s atmosphere is surrounded by an Ozone layer and this layer protects the inhabitants of our planet from the harmful spectrum of UV rays. But when people say that there is a hole in that layer, they are not entirely correct. Ozone is an allotrope of Oxygen which is present in the triatomic form or as O3. The formation of O3 is a continuous process in the earth’s atmosphere and is affected by several factors including the incidence of UV rays. The “hole” in the layer which was observed over Antarctica represents lesser density of the Ozone layer due to excessive dissociation of the O3 atom. Hence the “hole” represents the depreciation in the formation rate of ozone near the poles rather than a physical visible hole.

Myth: Human Beings are responsible for Global Warming.

Fact: Despite the fact that it is popular belief, that this is an irrefutable fact, the actual stats convey a different story. It is observed that the anthropogenic contribution to green house gas emissions is just actually slightly lower than the natural causes. The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for just 3.27% of the carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere each year, while the biosphere and oceans account for 55.28% and 41.46%, respectively. This though does not mean that Human beings are not contributors in the Global Warming scenario. The contribution from the biosphere and the oceans was always there but the anthropogenic contribution is extra and does pose a threat in maintenance of equilibrium in the Global Carbon Cycle.

Myth: Environment Conservation= Planting Trees= Well done Human Beings.

Fact: This case is well accepted amongst people and is by and large believed to be the best way to conserve the environment. Environmental conservation is not only limited to planting trees. A common man can contribute to the conservation of environment by performing a simple act like switching off the electrical appliances for 10 minutes each day. Tree plantation drives attract many participants but wrongly conceptualized tree plantation drives can also lead to environmental degradation. Planting water intensive trees in areas experiencing ground water shortage will cause water stress and will ultimately lead to environmental degradation.

Myth:  Renewable Energy = Good Energy

Fact: This may be true in the case of energy crisis that the world is facing, but this is not true if we look at it from an environmental point of view. Renewable sources of energy are those sources which can be replenished at a faster rate than the non-renewable sources of energy. These sources include: Water, Air, biomass, solar and geothermal energy. It is a debate whether to include nuclear energy or not in this list. Though the usage of renewable sources mean replenishment of the sources, it does not guarantee production of clean energy, geothermal energy and hydropower generation cause huge environmental problems by way of air pollution and habitat loss respectively. The other cleaner sources like wind and solar remain too expensive to be introduced to the general public. So the question remains, is good energy necessarily good for the environment?

Climate change

 

By:

Vipin Vijayan

Program Manager

Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd.

International Day of Peace

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at the goal.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

There is a peace bell in New York which is rung to inaugurate the International Day of Peace which is also known as World Peace Day. The United Nations Peace Bell at the United Nations Headquarters is cast from coins donated by children from all continents except Africa. The Bell was a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan as “A Reminder of the Human Cost of War”, on its side reads the inscription, “Long Live Absolute World Peace”.

In September 1982 the first Peace Day was observed, and in 2002 United Nations officially declared September 21 as the International Day of Peace, since then every year it is been celebrated by the United Nations by inviting people and nations to honour a termination of conflicts during the International Day of Peace, and to commemorate the Day by education and public awareness on issues related to World Peace.

This Day is a reminder to all the people of the nations to that United Nations is a living instrument in the service of peace and it also reminds everyone that they should keep peace above all interests or differences.

This year the theme is “Education for Peace”. The Secretary General’s message on this day is “On this International Day of Peace, let us pledge to teach our children the value of tolerance and mutual respect. Let us invest in the schools and teachers that will build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity. Let us fight for peace and defend it with all our might.”

Some other important landmarks that were observed were when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in 2005, called for a 24 hour ceasefire across the world to mark a day of non-violence. In 2007, a minute of silence was observed after UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon rang the peace bell in New York, calling for cessation of hostilities.

It is important for the world to realise the fact the dialogue can resolve conflicts and bring in peace and harmony among all nations of the world. After all, we must remember what Mahatma Gandhi said, that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

 

E Education for Peace

www.fiinovation.co.in