Thursday, 11 May 2017

Beyond CSR to ISR

The concept of social engagement by Indian business has had a historical background, directed towards ‘doing good and giving back to society’. Most of these thoughts and initiatives had their roots in the value of re-distributing wealth in different forms. Practiced since the 1900’s, a few industrial houses, through charitable trusts, set aside a portion of their profits for philanthropy. From our last newsmag by guest contributor Chandni Lamba who has 25 years work experience in the corporate sector, has a passion for CSR & Sustainability.

Evolution of CSR has seen an increased allocation of profits towards sustainability through integration with and of businesses. Over the last few years, CSR has become a commitment towards a community; either directly associated with the business or because of a responsible management practise, without there being a directive for such behaviour. 

Because of the recently formulated Policy under the Companies Act, 2013, CSR expenditure has been mandated for companies qualifying as per a set of parameters. While India may lead the world in passing such legislation, many other countries have been doing it as a voluntary social initiative. For India Inc., this is an ideal opportunity to join the CSR movement towards a sustainable and long term impact for the communities they are surrounded by. Corporate India should try to expand its participation in social and human development and internalize the Triple Bottom Line of measuring gains for People, Planet and Profit, as against only the profit line. 

There is a need for companies to engage with NPO’s, NGO’s, academics and entrepreneurs to launch effective, scalable development strategies and plans. It is equally important to empower rural & urban youth and women to make them agents of change for the community. Locally relevant sustainable models directed to benefit the socio-economic environment of the communities has to come from those who are a part of it – through a ‘bottom up’ approach. For instance, through healthcare projects, if we can measure the basic health factor in, say the women, we can direct health services to bridge the gap that shows up during such measurements. Recently I volunteered for a Health camp for women, in a ‘slum’. While doing basic blood tests, we were shocked to see that 90% of the participants had an iron deficiency and low haemoglobin and were preparing for motherhood! Can then the future generation of the nation be healthy and strong to withstand the battle for resources?

So, some of us decide to make that difference through a contribution or donation. While it is also important, it is not only about writing a donation cheque to provide financial resources. It is more about optimising resources to create an ecosystem for developmental change. Ethical practises and responsible behaviour within companies can build a perspective that can improve systems that can be best used involving skilled employee volunteers, to upskill and upscale those, most in need of it – economically and socially. There is a dire need to cascade the tools that will benefit. One critical aspect of sharing tools is the teaching of a common business language, such as English and the expeditious use of simple technology, to the underprivileged in order to create a model and environment of mainstream employability.

It is therefore time to look beyond doing mere‘CSR’ activities. Doing ISR - Individual Social Responsibility -- collectively, working on the gaps that exist on the ground and creating a positive ecosystem of development, growth and self-reliance, for those who have no means or knowledge, to access.

In brief, it is about scalable development programs - creating livelihood, through sustainable enterprises using innovation, support and mentoring.

To know more about CAP’s assistance for CSR Compliance Advisory write to –

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