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on 22-Apr-10 02:18.
Indian companies are now expected to discharge their stakeholder responsibilities and societal obligations, along with their shareholder-wealth maximisation goal.
Nearly all leading corporates in India are involved in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes in areas like education, health, livelihood creation, skill development, and empowerment of the weaker sections of the society. Notable efforts have come from the Tata group, Infosys, Bharti Enterprises, Coca Cola India, Pepsico and ITC Welcome group, among others.
In fact, four Indians, including Sunil Mittal, Chairman and Managing Director of the Bharti Group, NRI businessman Anil Agarwal, Shiv Nadar, HCL Technologies Chairman and NGO activist Rohini Nilekani were featured in the Forbes list of '48 Heroes of Philanthropy' recently.
According to a survey carried out in June 2008 by TNS India (a research organisation) and the Times Foundation, over 90 per cent of all major Indian organisations surveyed were involved in CSR initiatives. The leading areas that corporations were involved in were livelihood promotion, education, health, environment, and women's empowerment.
on 22-Apr-10 02:18.
The question of the role of business in society has received a high profile in recent months with a couple of films that have sought to shine a critical spotlight on what many see has the dominant institution of our times.
Of these, Super Size Me, is the least interesting. The idea that it's news that if you eat nothing but McDonald's burgers you will get fat is a fact so mundane that it seems hardly worthy of comment, let alone making the premise for a full picture. Of course, the picture still manages to make some reasonable hits - particularly on the lack of real interest and supervision in a number of school canteens.
Recent research in the UK suggests that parents believe that schools, families and individuals are primarily responsible for influencing diet choices, with less than 1 in 10 seeing the main focus as being companies. So there is a real message here about how far those institutions do or don't embrace that responsibility.
on 22-Apr-10 02:16.
During the last week, we have seen the Asian Forum on CSR in Bangkok, and the Ethical Corporation Asia Conference in Singapore. You could not have had two more different events had one of them taken place on the moon.
The Asian Forum on CSR was a lively, well-attended event, with a broad spectrum of social campaign groups, public sector and businesses looking at a range of compelling stories and case studies of business engagement with some of the starkest issues facing Asia. This included programmes targeted on poverty alleviation, environmental improvement and AIDS. The conference operated through plenaries and a series of breakout sessions, including one stream where delegates nominated titles for the breakouts.
on 22-Apr-10 02:13.
2003 has been a fascinating year for those of us involved in the movement for corporate social responsibility. There have been scandals and setbacks, controversy and debate, paragons of good practice, and innovation in tools to manage and benchmark progress. It seems that none of the energy or momentum for improvement has diminished. And yet there is a gradual growing maturity in how CSR is described and put into practice.
At the start of the year, the Nike v Kasky case got into full swing when the US Supreme Court agreed to review the California Court's decision. Opponents of the principle of the Kasky case - that corporate representations on issues around their conduct enjoyed less protection under freedom of speech than that afforded to the critics - were hopeful this move would lead to the case being thrown out.
Various companies watched nervously from the sidelines as a range of organisations that have championed the principles behind open disclosure weighed in to lobby for the case to be defeated. In the end, of course, the Supreme Court had tantalised to no great effect - deciding only to not decide for the time being. Faced with an extended process that could easily have seen a barrage of damaging publicity about past practice and mistakes, Nike settled - leaving the principles of the case wide open.
on 22-Apr-10 02:12.
Anyone with an eye towards where are the emerging issues in corporate social responsibility will have registered the question of corporate lobbying of governments. Indeed, it wasn't that long ago that we last dealt with the question here. Since then things have continued to move significantly.
One of the growing messages within Corporate Social Responsibility over the last couple of years has been that CSR is about how you create wealth, not just how you spend it. Of course, there are already a lot of rules that govern how companies are, and are not, allowed to create wealth. There is no such thing as a really free market. Legislation to ensure minimum standards of protection for the consumer, and good conduct on the part of companies, has been a part of the landscape for centuries.
Equally, companies have always sought to influence governments in the nature of these rules. This is entirely legitimate. After all, any stakeholders in a piece of legislation ought to be able to make representation. That's how you get good legislation.
Now, the issue about how companies lobby, and for what, is increasingly being drawn into the CSR microscope. Recently for instance, the Institute of Business Ethics produced a report laying out some of the challenges that exist.
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