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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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

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