India Inc. is now looking at CSR through a new lens

From old days of philanthropy it has developed into an integral part of responsible business strategy

Ratish Jha | December 26, 2022


#Society   #Environment   #Business   #CSR  
A menstrual hygiene and awareness program organised in Raigad by Hikal Ltd.
A menstrual hygiene and awareness program organised in Raigad by Hikal Ltd.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown concurrently and risen to enormous prominence in recent years. Initially, business owners started CSR by making charitable donations in an unstructured manner. The focus was on fewer areas such as environment, upliftment of the underprivileged. Corporates are now constantly looking for new opportunities for CSR initiatives that are out of the box and add value to the society.

CSR has evolved to become an integral part of the business as it shapes the brand's perception that leads to the retention of employees, customers and investors. Being socially conscious strengthens the brand's reputation. It demonstrates that organizations are more than just about making profits. Organizations are now following a more structured approach to identify the CSR needs and are being vocal about social issues, being patrons of art and culture, working on education, skill development and healthcare needs of the society.

Being vocal about social issues:
Organizations today are more proactive and eager to take matters of social significance as agendas in their CSR manuals. Customers are more inclined to make purchases from businesses that support causes that are consistent with their moral principles, and more crucially, businesses have the potential to change the world. Organizations all around the world have shown a strong internal commitment to the well-being of their community. We have seen brands addressing movements in the recent past and taking several steps to incorporate inclusivity and diversity. Beyond influencing people's opinions and minds, brand views have been successful in fostering debates and drawing attention to problems that require action.

Patrons of arts and crafts: The crafts industry is one of the largest sectors in India that provides livelihood to thousands of people. Every great work of art and culture originates from the elements of the mystical. It is the need of the hour to prevent future generations from losing such enchantment of art and culture to negligence and cynicism. It serves as the impetus for projects that are avidly undertaken by many organizations in a variety of fields, including the preservation of traditional arts and crafts, and the restoration of architectural masterpieces. Corporates are actively bringing exposure to the tribal communities who are practicing varied forms of handicrafts, performing arts and literature. They are also providing financial aid to preserve monuments, museums and historical sites. Many corporates are acting as patrons of art by giving them a voice and appropriate connection to the world through their CSR activities.

Empowering the specially-abled group:
People with disabilities still experience prejudice, whether it is in the workplace, the educational system, or any other area. Corporations are making efforts to improve the socioeconomic status of the disability sector by providing education support to children, skill development training for youth with disabilities, vocational training programs, and midday meal programs. Organizations are creating awareness to accept people with disability in their limits by recruiting, training, establishing a supportive work environment with specialized equipment, and supporting the employee's personal and professional growth.

Promoting education and skills development:
Initially for education-related CSR activities, firms used to distribute books and stationary or organize workshops once a year that hardly made any difference. Today the picture has changed. Corporates are investing in infrastructural developments like proper seating arrangement, and sanitation facilities (especially for female students), the lack of which can be prime reasons for low attendance in schools. Basic well-furnished classrooms, outdoor grills for safety, and well-maintained toilet facilities with water supply can contribute significantly to bringing children back to classrooms. Every school must have a high-quality water purifier to provide access to safe drinking water. The world is moving towards digitalization, a complete set of e-learning solutions projectors, computers, and smart class hard disks should be provided for better quality of education.

Businesses have integrated CSR into their marketing, public relations, diversity and inclusion, and human resources strategies. CSR is crucial in expressing the stories of brands and retaining top talents. For the past few decades' corporates are not only tackling environmental issues but also emerging problems of modern society. With changing times business firms are looking at CSR with a wider lens to address social and environmental issues and adopting new techniques to resolve these issues. A more conscious CSR strategy will not only give a company a competitive advantage in building brand image, but will also be crucial for inculcating the values in future generations.

Ratish Jha is President HR, Hikal Limited.

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