Dr. Vaijayanti Pandit - Advisor, Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research (Weschool)

CSR & Sustainability: from a Spiritual Lens

Long before the concept and practice of CSR came to the centre-stage, Mahatma Gandhi propounded the principle of Trusteeship which implies that you hold the wealth that belongs to you on behalf of the community and dispose it as their Trustee.
This concept may sound completely out of place in this fiercely competitive world where greed, money and power is the name of the game globally. However, I would like to take the logic a bit further to the Bhagwad Gita which says that everything belongs to Lord Krishna, you come empty handed and leave the world empty handed, leaving your work and goodwill behind. All work is service to the higher consciousness, in the form of Karma Yog, GyanYog and Bhakti Yog.

It is time we re-visit our “Spiritual Dictionary” the Bhagwad Gita, to lead us on the path of Social Responsibility as individuals, professionals and representatives of companies. If the principles of Sustainability are followed from the lens of spirituality, one will do much more than merely complying with laws set by the various Governments.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR, also called corporate conscience, corporate citizenship or responsible business) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a self-regulatory mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards and national or international norms. With some models, a firm’s implementation of CSR goes beyond compliance and engages in “actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law.”The aim is to increase long-term profits through positive public relations, high ethical standards to reduce business and legal risk, and shareholder trust by taking responsibility for corporate actions. CSR strategies encourage the company to make a positive impact on the environment and stakeholders including consumers, employees, investors, communities, and others.
Forced to spend a portion of their profits on activities linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR) to meet the requirements of the Companies Act 2013, India’s top 50 companies that make up the benchmark Nifty index at the National Stock Exchange claim to have spent over Rs 4,600 crores in the financial year ended March 2015 on social initiatives. Healthcare, education, environment and Swachh Bharat initiatives dominated the sectors where money was spent by these companies.
What has been my contribution? Well, I have been on the Board of Pratham India’s largest NGO dedicated to Education. While heading FICCI west, we organized conferences to build awareness and bring about the necessary policy changes in CSR. As an Independent woman director on Boards of companies, I help build strategies for the CSR spends.
Coming to Sustainability, which is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture.

I have followed a very simple truth about sustainability. Whatever is created by God has to be preserved, used judiciously and for the larger good of the society. Exploiting nature by cutting trees, mining natural resources, wastage of water and everything that is gifted to us by nature has to be preserved and maintained for the generations to come.
Advocacy: I have played a small role as Director FICCI in creating platforms for sustainable development in various sectors. Advocacy is a very crucial function of Sustainability Initiatives, where we took efforts to address current and future policies of the government. One of the main objectives of Sustainability Initiatives is to guide governmental and semi-governmental departments in policy making through expert driven research and analysis.
Capacity Building: through Training and Awareness is the cornerstone for achieving Sustainable development. Through Sustainability Initiatives and capacity building function, I have been instrumental in training and providing guidance to professionals, academicians, decision-makers and students for effective policy formulation, implementation and mainstreaming of best practices.
Research: There is a massive gap between availability of quality research that can feed into policy making in India. At Sustainability Initiatives, I feel that research, particularly in the areas of Urban Planning and policy will go a long way in developing better cities. I have done my bit by partnering with Global Consulting firms for research and have spearheaded 45 such sectoral publications for FICCI.
Guiding principles of Sustainability
• Improving health & well-being,
• Reducing environmental impact
• Enhancing livelihoods
The triple bottom line approach (TBL) that consists of three Ps: profit, people and planet which aims to measure the financial, social and environmental performance of the corporation over a period of time has been the guiding principle for me in my individual and professional life.
To sum up, I believe that the greatest wealth we leave behind us is our contribution to the CSR & Sustainability considering we cannot carry our Bank balance, wealth and property to heaven and our shelf- life is not more than 100 years!

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