When it comes to CSR, the focus seems to be on activities branded under “social responsibility”, while ignoring or overlooking companies’ core business, according to a report released recently by Corporate Responsibility Watch (CRW). Titled ‘CSR in India, 2016’, the Report was launched by Justice Rajinder Sachar on behalf of CRW at an event held in New Delhi on Wednesday, September 7, 2016. CRW is a voluntary coalition of 12 member organisations that watch the business environment in India and push for responsibility in the corporate sector. CRW has analysed publicly available data of top 100 companies in India, as listed by the BSE and published its findings to reflect the status of CSR in India.
The Report pointed out that a number of companies that are otherwise not responsible in their core operations seem to be taking the limelight by being able to invest a minor part of their profit on charity. Prof. Sri Ram Khanna, Managing Editor, Consumer Voice, said, “CSR is like make up, to make the companies look good. What really happens in these companies needs to be seen in the morning when they are straight out of bed.”
The CSR in India, 2016 report throws up startling data when it comes to how companies operate vis-à-vis constituencies that are often left behind; employees, consumers, communities and shareholders among others. Sample this: a miniscule 0.006% of the corporate workforce is disabled, which seems even more bleak when seen with the total population of the disabled in India: 10%. Javed Abidi, disability rights activist, said at the event, “CSR for the disabled population is treated like charity. It is our right. We ask for a level playing field and a non-discriminatory environment in the country.” Belinda Bennet, CEO, Change Alliance, asserted the need for affirmative action speaking at the event.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Justice Sachar said, ‘In 1978, I had to deal with the overhauling of the Companies Act, 1930 and1956 and at the time our reference did not talk of Corporate Responsibility as it was considered horrible to talk of responsibility of business, it was like doubting their goodwill." He cited the Sachar committee judgment on responsible business and the committee’s recommendation of an “openness in corporate affairs” i.e. adequate disclosure of information for the benefit of shareholders, creditors, workers and the community.
As Amita Joseph, Director, Business and Community Foundation quoted Green Nobel Laureate winner Ramesh Agrawal who said, “The company takes away my home, my livelihood and they give me a needle and call it CSR.” She added that CSR must go beyond this. Corporate social responsibility must have an approach that makes businesses responsible in their core areas in addition to social development.
CRW in it’s function as a watch body does that by pushing for transparency and accountability in the corporate sector, in turn making it more responsible for all stakeholders involved.
The report looks at the role of the State, and its relationship with Business and Community in the context of CSR. The report has been authored from a human rights perspective, and includes pieces by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Editor, Economic and Political Weekly, Ashok Bharti, Chairman, NACDOR, Javed Abidi, disability rights activist, among others.
You can find the report here.