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Corporate Social responsibility in India: Past, Present and Future
“Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large”
World Business Council for Sustainable Development in their publication making ‘Good Business Sense’ used the above definition given by Lord Holme and Richard Watts.
Dr. Sanjay Kumar Panda’s book Corporate Social responsibility in India: Past, Present and Future published in 2008 profoundly speaks about the role and importance of CSR in a society. The wide range of subjects the book encompasses amazes the reader. The book gives its reader an approach from theory to practice. The corporates can use this book to plan and implement their CSR interventions as it generates awareness and sensitizes on issues related to CSR. The book is based on a detailed study carried out in various Indian Corporates from Public and Private sector, NGOs, Government initiatives and collaborative actions taken by the Association of industries. This study done by Dr. Panda gives this book a special feel and provides the reader a broad overview of various initiatives taken.
The reader will find this book very informative and thought provoking.
The book has two major parts. The first part deals with the major issues relating to CSR and second part provides various case studies. These case studies documented successful interventions in CSR and if corporates today wants to replicate these interventions, they can have the benefit of learning from other’s experiences. The author specifies that corporates are one of the major stakeholders of the national development; hence they need to take appropriate action for sharing the advantage of growth with the less privileged. As socio-economic development of a developing economy like India is a complex task, the author also speaks of different paths taken in Western countries as well as in India with regard to CSR.
Discussing the relevance of CSR, the author speaks about growth with equity and importance of corporates becoming sensitive towards society. He argues that it is beyond doubt that the corporates needs to take care of the society and it is vital for their existence. Author advocates that growth process cannot be sustained unless it is socially inclusive. He also adds that remaining sensitive to the problems of the society and helping the poor and the disadvantaged has become a necessity for survival of business. It is essential to note that the author clearly defines the social responsiveness and need of it for becoming socially responsible.
The most noteworthy contribution is the explanation about the importance of civil society and power of people; where he writes that in the struggle for growth with distributive justice, CSR will play an important role. The author expresses “as the democracy matures, new set of checks and balances will evolve for enforcing accountability and improving governance for safeguarding the interest of common man as envisaged in the constitution; in a democracy, people are supreme”. The statement seems so relevant in today’s context when nation is going on a change and peoples power is seen everywhere. The author indicates that in view of the complex nature of problems faced by the Indian society; role of civil society is twofold, one supplementing the efforts of the government for socioeconomic development and second, making the growth process equitable and socially inclusive.
In a forward looking fashion, the author appeals for proper synergy where civil society can provide the base for CSR interventions. He clarifies its role by mentioning that it can operate by acquiring social capital for the corporate on one hand; while on the other hand, social welfare need to be aimed at strengthening democracy. In other words, active partnership among the government, civil society and the corporate along with involvement of people and use of appropriate technology can make a difference.
The cases presented in the second part of the book are very interesting and indicate that CSR interventions of corporates, taken up in a planned way with innovation, commitment and interest have been making a difference.
When this book was published in 2008, a mandatory CSR spend rule was not in existence in India; however, in his book, Dr. Panda has sensed the future legal measures for broad basing CSR. We all know that recent mandatory-CSR spend rule has attracted critiques’ attention. As per the new Companies Act (2013) passed by Parliament in August 2013, profitable companies must spend every year at least 2 per cent of their average net profit over the preceding three years on CSR works.
Finally, Dr. Panda also points out the difficulty faced by developing countries in enforcing social legislations to yield the desired results. He also advocates that implementing them is much better than enforcing social legislations to motivate the corporate for understanding and expanding CSR activities voluntarily.
This book provides the business community a roadmap for integrating complexity of corporate social responsibility. There are very few books that can provide a solicitous analysis of the present state of CSR; reflecting on past while at the same time opening up a vision for tomorrow.