Friday, July 9, 2010

Corporate Social Responsibility

Sometime back I attended a session by Dr Wayne Visser (pronounced wiser - and surely was wiser on the subject than most in the room) - CEO of CSR International. He referred to current CSR efforts by organizations to be not at all effective in the long run or even in scale. The main reason cited was the lack of creativity in thinking about alignment to the main business.

For example, a cement manufacturing unit considering education of the people in the vicinity of the factory as CSR has all good intentions but it does not necessarily link with the company’s expertise and hence sustenance and scale are limited. Also, in difficult times the CSR is quick to be downscaled. It lives as a year on year project. But then how should the Cement Company change its approach to CSR? Difficult? Yes... needs creativity and thinking and more importantly a vision and passion to drive it! That is the wiser view.

Lot of discussion ensued and my own feeling was that CSR appeared to be like a band-aid effort on to an ailing body with sores breaking out all over. So the band-aid was rarely even a temporary relief -- it was just a hope of healing sometime soon while the main issue of why the sores are breaking out is not getting addressed.

However, the story does not end here. As I meet people from the corporations who are volunteering and supporting through personal funds or from corporate funds – I am realizing that the band-aid effort is much needed. It provides the hope and relief and keeps the motivation going for the people who are all out into inclusive efforts.  The people who are investing their lives in solving the core problems need to be encouraged.

As Ruma of NDS recently said: Its important that Corporates do what they do and earn so that they can 'give' and that the feeling of abundance is defined by how much a person 'feels' they can give. And only when the corporates give, the not-for-profit efforts of organizations like NDS ( grow and start bridging the divides and develop long-term scalable models.

In conclusion, I realized that CSR is an important activity that enables the required change through NGOs (slow) as well as Government’s structured initiatives (even slower). Now whether it should stay philanthropic or it should get linked with strategic business initiatives is a separate debate that should not take away from what is being done today.  Slow is okay since it is definite.


  1. The profit oriented approach cannot be used in its absolute terms in CSR units. The social sector cannot perform under Adam Smith and this is the reality which needs to be understood. The healthy & socially productive individual has many dynamics other than the financial one. Empowerment & success is a by-product of character which needs a longer time to heal. The fast-food-type interventions cannot give the desired results for a long time. As far as the creativity is concerned the corporate sector has a plenty of it as managers but the only problem they have is the inability to change their mindsets while dealing with human life. At last what they produce is just some Numbers.
    Nevertheless the future of all Social Projects depends on how we blend the expertise of a Social Worker and a Business Administrator. We need to put our heads together because CSR activities will shape our society in future.