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

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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

Importance of Partnerships in Implementation of Social Initiatives

India is going through a transformational phase when it comes to corporate social responsibility. It has evolved from being just a voluntary activity to becoming a matter of compliance. The Companies Act, 2013 has made CSR, a more strategic mechanism for the businesses to address the wide range of social challenges. It has been observed that companies that demonstrate their dedication towards solving social problems are more likely to place themselves in a better way. Communication of CSR initiatives to the public, helps in creating awareness about the brand and also enhances customer loyalty.

In the Indian context, pretext to the mindset and cultural diaspora, the implementation of corporate social initiatives in marginalised sections can be a herculean task, yet few companies with the good implementation partners have been able to create positive impact. Highlighting the importance of having the credible implementation partners, the CEO of Unilever Mr. Paul Polman once said, “The issues we face are so big and the targets are so challenging that we cannot do it alone.” Therefore, it is strongly believed that partnerships between different organisations can produce solutions which were previously unimaginable.

CSR has made us believe that partnerships is one of the keys for unlocking sustainability. Today, leaders from different industries have acknowledged the fact that solving societal issues and sustainability agendas would require unparallel cooperation among corporations, civil society and communities. For example, solving the water scarcity or food security issues would mean that no individual institution, government or company can provide the solution alone. There needs to be cooperation from different stakeholders in order to achieve the desired goals.

The role of NGOs is crucial in the development process, especially in a country as diverse as India. The NGOs not only have expertise in the social development initiatives which the corporations are willing to implement, but also acts as the bridge between the corporations and the communities. They not only help in the community mobilisation process, but also ensure there is active participation of the community in the project. Taking the example of nature conservation, in many cases the expertise lies with the NGOs on how to create least negative impact on the eco-systems and its services. The NGOs also ensure that the efforts bring benefits for the community even after training the community people to become master trainers who in return train others in the nearby areas.

However, the most challenging question in front of corporations is what different levels of partnership is required and how these partnerships will affect the possible outcomes?

As the CSR trend suggests the need of strategic long-term high value collaborations, and it appears that partnerships are really moving the dial. Significant number of corporations and NGOs believe that partnerships have helped to enhance business understanding of social and environment issues, and especially the cross-sector collaborations have helped to improve business practices for the better. The collaborations for the CSR initiatives can be at several levels such as Policy Design,NGO Partnership, Programme Management, Initiative Design, Monitoring & Evaluation and Impact Assessment among others.

Partnering with a credible NGO which has a previous experience of working on similar projects will help in effective implementation of the initiatives. Likewise, partnering with an institution such as Fiinovation for monitoring and evaluation would help in identifying the loopholes and take necessary decisions accordingly. It is understandable that exchange of information between different parties enables an atmosphere of positivity which gets reflected on the ground. Therefore, partnerships are no longer an option for corporations, rather a method to address issues such as poverty, diseases, climate change etc., in a more effective way. The focus should be on building strong partnerships and engaging in effective planning for delivering, measuring and communicating the economical, social and environmental impacts.

Although, nothing is full proof and there is a need to carefully administer the processes for optimum results. It is also important for the corporations to maintain a problem-centric approach rather than being business-centric. The process of partnerships with different stakeholders should be perceived as a learning curve so that the conflicts are managed easily. It is important to engage in discussions with the stakeholders and create meaningful longterm solutions. Sometimes in demand of quick solutions, important aspects gets overlooked which might be harmful in the long term. A corporation must understand that when it comes to social initiatives achieving long term partnerships means reaching optimal outcomes for all the stakeholders.

Both corporations and civil society organisations have an incentive to build long term relationships as it affects long term stability and impact. Working together can have a far greater impact on people’s lives with the impact being measured. In the years to come, stakeholders will become more interested in business affairs, therefore corporations would like their partners to help them portray themselves in a socially responsible manner. It is expected that corporations would work together with civil societies and other organisations to implement social initiatives that will lead us towards sustainable development.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation Suggests – Focus on Quality and Effectiveness

Fiinovation has been working with corporations as catalysts of change to influence CSR and Sustainability activities that creates positive impact on society. Being a CSR research organisation, Fiinovation has always focused on planning, partnership and engagement to bring about a societal change. The efforts are mostly directed towards brining in a tangible, viable and sustainable impact that will transform the lives of the communities.

Indian businesses have reached a stage where they look at corporate social responsibility as a perfect brand-building opportunity which not only retains talent but also positions the organisation as a driver of change. Fiinovation believes that the focus now needs to be shifted from the just being in the limelight to improving quality and effectiveness in the CSR initiatives. However, Fiinovation believes that this is not possible without the help of third party which can critically analyse the whole programme. Fiinovation offers services such as monitoring and evaluation, impact assessment and programme management which helps corporations build trust on society and solve critical issues.

Fiinovation has always been quite vocal of the fact that CSR initiatives shouldn’t be measured by the contribution amount or by the percentage of work being done rather it should focus on the impact and effectiveness of the programme. There should be increased efforts to improve the quality Fiinovation helps corporations to analyse the initiative from start-to-end so that the targeted communities benefits from these CSR projects. The challenge is stay relevant to the cause as there are high chances that what the corporation thinks of CSR, may not necessarily benefit the communities.

There are many examples for initiatives which actually went wrong. Fiinovation recommends the corporations to consult the experts before investing even a single penny. There are many activities which are taken up without proper objectives, these are just reflection of the short-sightedness of the corporations. At the end, it can be said that the CSR law is good but the corporations should be able to create positive impact on society.

Let’s hope that with the right CSR strategy at place, the corporations will be able to lend prestige to the brand, motivate its talented pool of employees and also encourage loyalty of the consumers.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation