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INTENT OF CORPORATIONS

Many approaches towards CSR have been proposed in past, some related to
voluntary contribution by companies towards social welfare, while others to the
government imposing legal stipulations on the corporations. [1] If we talk of India, we
have companies following both the approaches. On one hand, we have names like
Tatas and Birlas, who have been undertaking social development projects since
ages, while on the other, we have new firms ramping up their CSR efforts in order to
meet legal guidelines. Clearly, the intent of companies falling in one category differs
from those falling in another. To explore this further, we had a discussion with Ms.
Deepika Mogilishetty, a senior member in EkStep Foundation. She has worked in the
area of public policy for long and has closely witnessed the changes that have
occurred in the CSR landscape in India. Before the act came into effect in April
2014, a number of companies like Bosch, L&T, etc. were already involved in welfare
activities. This was driven by a sense of philanthropy and an intent to create a
positive change in the society. As the act became mandatory, other companies also
started CSR work. But unlike older players, they look at CSR from a business
mindset. They have been taking simpler short term projects like organizing a
medical camp, revamping dilapidated public structures, etc. Not that this is not
useful for the society, their impact is very limited as most of the projects are taken
in limited fields (healthcare and education). The creative solutions which industry is
capable of providing are not coming into CSR since companies choose simple-toimplement projects.
Lets look at governments intention first. It has been widely debated that they are
shifting burden upon corporations by making them take up social and environmental
welfare projects. This claim is largely misplaced since the total CSR potential of
Indian companies comes across 16000 crores, which is very miniscule in comparison
to the budget of Indian government. The aim of government is to instill a sense of
responsibility among companies; ensure that they at least think about world around
while conducting business.
Going by the governments intent of instilling sense of giving back to the society
among corporations, CSR efforts need both time as well as spend. However, not all
companies have been able to reach the 2% target. The reason is not all companies
have enough expertise in doing CSR. Many companies have their own trusts to
handle CSR activities, e.g. Infosys Foundation, Azim Premji Foundation. These trusts
have autonomy to design activities and subsequently carry them. New companies in
this arena, on the other hand, dont have a separate wing to handle CSR. They are
pursuing CSR through donations to NGOs and PM welfare funds.

GOVERNMENT TAKING A LARGER ROLE


Given the condition where limited funds chase multiple developmental projects,
discoverability of right projects in priority order becomes very important. This will
ensure that all development areas get covered, both geography wise as well as
sector wise. To facilitate this, Government can create a common portal that lists all

possible projects. Companies should have the liberty to pick projects they would like
to do on the basis of their expertise.