Shashank Shah, a visiting scholar at the Harvard Business School, wears multiple hats including that of an author and editor-in-chief at Harvard University Postdoctoral Editors Association. His work at the Harvard University South Asia Institute focuses on a collaborative project with the Tata Trusts on Livelihood Creation in India Through Social Entrepreneurship and Skill Development. In his book Soulful Corporations: A Values-Based Perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility published in 2013, Shah emphasized that corporations need to redefine themselves and their purposesto create long-term, sustainable solutions. In his 2016 book Win-Win Corporations: The Indian Way of Shaping Successful Strategies, he examines why companies should work keeping in mind the well-being of all stakeholders including customers, employees, investors, or even society at large.
Shah was in Delhi recently and spoke in an interview about how geography impacts corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda, why CSR is not just about money and why getting the top management involved in CSR is a masterstroke. Edited excerpts: How is CSR carried out in various countries?
CSR has very distinct connotations in different parts of the world. This has a lot to do with the socio-economic situain each of those countries. In countries with insufficient government funding for health, education and water supply, CSR activities in these areas would be far more relevant and value-adding than activities purely focused on cutting carbon footprint to tackle global warming challenges. India, select countries in Latin America and South Asia fall in this category.
In Nordic countries, and select countries in the European Union, where there are well-established social security programmes for citizens, and the lowest poverty levels in the world, companies need to lay greater emphasis on greening their supply chain, and producing and promoting environmentally responsible products. Most Scandinavian and West European countries consider CSR to be synonymous with sustainability.
Corporations desirous of working in countries with socialist governments such as Bolivia, Paraguay and Venezuela need to have their CSR programmes focused on poverty reduction, protection of the natural environment and providing water supply through extensive communityengagement. For local and multinational companies in China, CSR initiatives are focused on reduction in air, water and noise pollution; devising alternative means of power production than those purely dependent on coal; and developing broad-based environmentally responsible corporate strategies. In the US, the focus of most corporations is on creating shared value. Is CSR a tax on corporations?
The point to note and reiterate is that the involvement of corporations in the inclusive growth and development of India is desirable. Companies have the scale of resources— financial, technological, intellectual and human—to make a positive difference to the lives of people. Corporations attract the best of human capital from the country’s education system.
More than funds, it is the use of this knowledge and skills, and efficiency and effectiveness that the private sector can bring to social welfare that far outweigh the economic contribution. I believe the primary objective is to create a sense of collective responsibility among corporations. Does it help the cause of CSR if top managers are personally involved?
As VenuSrinivasan, chairman of TVS Motor Co. once told me, CSR is the function of the CEO. The greatest advantage of the Indian legislation is that it has brought CSR discussions into corporate boardrooms from a peripheral public relations activity.
The Act has kind of forced India Inc. to think, and think hard, about effective and efficient investments in societal well being.
"We generate wealth for the people, what comes from the people, must to the extent possible, therefore get back to the people.”-Bharat Ratna-JRD Tata VISION: TO BRING WORLD PEACE THROUGH INTERNAL TRANSFORMATION. MISSION: "TO CREATE PLATFORM FOR LINKAGE BETWEEN BOTH THE ENDS FOR CONTINUOUS SOCIAL REFORMATION" .
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