The distinguished guest started with asking the fundamental question of “what is CSR?” She quoted Friedman and said motive of organizations is to make profit for the stakeholders, then why go for CSR? Tracing the history of CSR she said at the end of 19th century many corporations in Europe and US had set up 100s of philanthropic trusts. CSR was seen as capitalism with a heart. During last 2-3 decades, with increasing globalization CSR has gained augmenting popularity. Now many theory exists in favor and against of CSR.
Discussing the global CSR scenario, Dr. Asha said that it all primarily started with bad press. Organizations like Dow Chemicals, Enron and Nike etc. were battered by press for their unethical business practices. Many customers shunned Nike after discovering that it employs child labor in developing countries. So as a part of damage control activity, these companies started focusing on CSR in a big way. They have started cleaning up their supply chain and many big global retailers like Conron, Ikea & Bodyshop who source glassware, brassware etc. from India, are working with NGOs to improve the lives of children. Now “No Child Labor” logo is a coveted one.
Dr. Asha elaborated on types of CSR activities which are- cause promotion, corporate social marketing, community volunteering and socially responsible business practices. She also revealed that now we have many CSR watch dogs & CSR monitoring institutions in form of Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, Social Accountability 8000 (SA 8000) etc. All these factors have led to an increased activity in CSR space across the world. For example Vodafone transferred money through text messages to those without bank account in Kenya; Honda took road safety initiative in China & Japan; HSBC focused on education & financial literacy classes and Sony initiated recycling programs & electronic drop boxes.
Talking about the Indian CSR scenario, Dr. Asha said though India moved slowly towards CSR, now Indian companies have started to wave the CSR flag. Now the mind set is changing from “Why should I do it?” to “How should I do it?” The reason could be that the pressure for CSR is building up now and also companies now think CSR looks great on company mission statement and value codes. The CSR in the country has evolved over a period of time from “adhoc charity” to “allied charity” to “focused charity”. Now strategic philanthropic is also taking shape. For sustainability and good returns on CSR spending, well defined processes need to be put in place. Social objectives need to be clear, measurable and linked to the economic goals of the organization. ITC’s e-chaupal initiative was one highly successful model which linked the CSR to its core business. It has been found that CSR helps organizations in enhancing brand value, credibility, giving competitive advantage, increasing customer loyalty & community trust and motivates employee.
Dr. Asha then expounded on CSR initiative at Ashok Leyland. CSR at Ashok Leyland is very structured and involves socially relevant activities to build trust among employees, community and stakeholders. Many focused groups and initiatives have been taken up to engage employees and their families in form of SHGs (Self Help Groups). Organization has been doing activities like HIV/AIDS awareness, afforestation drive, and relief operation during natural calamity, coaching for poor school students, driver de addiction centers etc. Company has also started a green initiative wherein it implemented a green supply chain management which includes reduction, recycling, reuse & substitution of materials.
In the end Dr. Asha concluded by saying that “CSR is not only about doing good for the society, it makes sound business sense also”.