Integrating CSR strategy with Business Strategy

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The growth of CSR programmes has the potential to help both businesses and society if the corporations can make their CSR activities a core part of their business strategy and company culture.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), became mandatory for businesses in India a little over two years ago.The initial scramble to fulfil the letter of the law has given way to an attempt to really understand and embrace CSR initiatives with an eye to making it a part of the corporation’s culture and dna. Acknowledging the next step in the evolution of CSR, Bennett University recently conducted the first workshop of the CSR Practitioner Series. This workshop was presented by Bennett University in partnership with The Economic Times and NextGen, which is a leading technology, based CSR management company. Hosted in Delhi, the workshop, which is a unique initiative aimed at decoding CSR for corporations and helping them understand and explore the ways in which they can integrate their CSR activities and programmes with their business itself.

The day-long workshop began with a welcome address by Anil S Kumar, Director – External Affairs, Bennett University. This was followed by a brief presentation by Amitabh Bhatnagar, vice president, Response, The Times Group, on the CSR programmes that The Times of India has initiated and how these initiatives are evolving and growing. These include the Teach India, through which over 45,000 underprivileged children have learnt English and many of whom have gone on to become employed; the TOI Green Drive in partnership with Hero MotoCorp , which is an annual tree plantation drive in Delhi; the TOI Organ Donation Drive and Road Safety initiatives. The workshop consisted of five sessions. Two of these sessions -‘Creating A Winning Model in CSR: 1 Strategy & Society and 2 The Truth About CSR’ were conducted Prof Saji Gopinath. Another two sessions – ‘CSR & Functional Strategies of Business’ and ‘Societal Development for Competitive Advantage’ were by Prof. Anandakuttan B Unnithan. The fifth session was a presentation on ‘Effective Implementation of CSR Schemes’ by Abhishek Humbad, Co-Founder & Director, NextGen. This was followed by a question and answer session with Sibani Swain, Economic Advisor and Seema Rath, Deputy Director, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, GOI.

The crux of the workshop was combining a structural understanding of the business potential offered by CSR initiatives. Some of the common issues that every corporation looking to create its CSR portfolio needs to think about include -deciding what type pf CSR they want to practise, the internal and external challenges they will need to address, formulation of framework and implementation strategy, deciding whether CSR is core to the business itself or peripheral, etc. The workshop started by looking at CSR conceptually and discussing the different types of CSR that corporations can opt for and how to identify which is the right type for each corporation within its natural constraints of nature of business, interest areas of the business, infrastructure, social environment within which they operate, etc.

CSR, regardless of scale, scope and functional area is a three part process, comprising policy, plan and implementation. All three have to be formulated with clarity and coherence for a truly meaningful CSR engagement. The ultimate aim for any corporation is to engage in Transformational CSR, which enables a true social impact for the betterment of society. In the process it allows the business to become better in tangible and intangible ways.

Judging by the enthusiastic and vocal participation from all those who took part in the workshop and given the range of different types CSR experiences that were shared by all, it is clear that India Incorporated is looking to transform CSR activities in India into a meaningful medium of social change.

Quotes:

Change doesn’t come easily. It takes a lot of doing. Clean water flowing from taps, electrification of rural and remote areas, empowerment that makes a difference, all of this is possible by making CSR an integral part of an organization’s business philosophy and strategic planning. Sessions like these provide a direction to an organisation’s CSR activities by helping them align with global perspectives in terms of development priorities.
– Anil S. Kumar Director – External Affairs, Bennett University

CSR is one of the last corporate functions untouched by technology. Whereas other functions like HR, Finance, Marketing, etc., have adopted automation tools since ages, CSR is still on pen and paper, excels and emails. With the CSR spend of companies rising, the spread and number of CSR projects increasing and the board being liable for the spend, there is a dire need for a ERP for the CSR function.
-Abhishek Humbad Co-Founder & Director, NextGen

CSR has to become a part of the business strategy itself especially since it is the Boards of the corporations that are now getting involved in CSR initiatives. Ultimately, CSR should be a win-win proposition for both Business and the cause of social development. But the final decision on what type of engagement to undertake belongs only to the Board and the company’s CSR committee.
-Sibani Swain Economic Advisor, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, GOI

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