Mr. Anirban Das, Chief People Officer-Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan attorneys
1. Views on CSR and Sustainability:
In market economies, the primary objective of companies is to maximize shareholder values bound by legal/regulatory obligations which address specific social and economic issues.
Since the early 1990’s, corporate responsibility issues have attained prominence and this was mainly in response due to the realization that development centered only on economic growth and therefore there was need for a more pro-active role by states, companies and communities in a development process aimed in balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability and social cohesion. This debate motivated the following interlinked movements in the corporate world:
- CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
- Corporate Sustainability
We distinguish between two interrelated dimensions for CSR and Corporate sustainability:
- As part of new vision for the world based on global partnership for sustainable development
- As business management approach to provide a long run better value for shareholders.
We also need to realize the difference between CSR and sustainability. Some say that CSR is an umbrella under which sustainability is one aspect. They might evolve to eventually become synonymous, however there are following differences between two:
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) looks backwards, reporting on what a business has done, typically in the last 12 months, to make a contribution to society.
- Sustainability looks forward, planning the changes a business might make to secure its future (reducing waste, assuring supply chains, developing new markets, building its brand).
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) tends to target opinion formers – politicians, pressure groups, and media.
- Sustainability targets the whole value chain – from suppliers to operations to partners to end-consumers.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming about compliance.
- Sustainability is about business.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) gets managed by communications teams.
- Sustainability by operations and marketing.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) investment is rewarded by politicians.
- Sustainability investment is rewarded by the City (‘Finally, we provide evidence that High Sustainability companies significantly outperform their counterparts over the long-term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance’).
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is driven by the need to protect reputations in developed markets.
- Sustainability is driven by the need to create opportunities in emerging markets.
In my opinion we should not confuse sustainability with Corporate Social Responsibility.
2. Students / Employee Volunteers:
We must be aware that the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility emerged as an alternate priority for organizations to consider.
It offers several benefits:
- The ability to have positive impact in the community: Keeping social responsibility front of mind encourages businesses to act ethically and to consider the social and environmental impacts of their business
- It supports public value outcome: Put simply, public value is about the value that an organization contributes to society. A sound, robust corporate social responsibility framework and organizational mindset can genuinely help organizations deliver public value outcomes by focusing on how their services can make a difference in the community
- It supports being an employer of choice: Studies have shown that a robust corporate social responsibility framework can also help a company become more attractive to potential future employees who are looking for workplaces with socially responsible practices, community mindedness and sound ethics.
- It encourages both professional and personal development: By undertaking activities outside of their usual work responsibilities, employees have the chance to contribute to work and causes that they might feel passionate about, or learn something entirely new which can help enrich their own perspectives. By supporting these activities, organizations encourage growth and support for employees.
- It enhances relationships with clients: A strong corporate social responsibility framework is essential to building and maintaining trust between the company and clients. It can strengthen ties, build alliances and foster strong working relationships with both existing and new clients. One way this can be achieved is by offering pro-bono or similar services where a company can partner with not-for-profit organizations to support their public value outcomes, where funds or resources may be limited.
Employee volunteering initiatives has been gaining greater importance with many companies as they consider how they can best express their commitment to corporate citizenship.
- Skills-based Volunteering: A cleverly devised company volunteering program can give employees the chance to draw on their own skills and expertise. It is always believed that employees’ voluntary work can help them develop their own leadership skills, help them expand their perspectives which can often mean they become more in tune with things happening outside the workplace.
- Building Relationships: It’s also plays a key role in building relationship. It is a great way of building and enhancing inter-departmental relationships across a large company. A well-thought-out CSR initiative will involve members across all departments of the company. Staffs normally get out of their department silos and get together to support their responsibility of corporate citizenship. In this way, an employee volunteering program can forge stronger bonds and a sense of camaraderie amongst co-workers, hopefully resulting in stronger relationships when they return to their day jobs
- Pride in the Company: Employees generally want to feel that their work has meaning and that the company who employs them has some sense of a social purpose. This seems to be particularly true of younger generations of staffs.
- Employee Engagement & Staff Retention: Volunteering doesn’t just boost employee morale and engagement; it can also increase their productivity. It is believed that when employees are highly motivated and engaged, they put in “57 percent more effort on the job and are 87 percent less likely to resign” than employees who are considered to be disengaged.
- Connections with the Local Community: The benefits of a CSR initiative for a charity can continue long after that programme may have concluded. Research says that volunteers express more interest in becoming charitable trustees.
Given the clear benefits that we’ve outlined, it seems puzzling that many companies still do not operate a volunteering programme. However, there is a big leap between starting such an initiative and sustaining one that makes a real difference to people’s lives and the wider community.
3. CSR Activities carried-on by the Organizations I have worked with:
In all the organizations which I have worked till date, there has been a lot of emphasis being put up on CSR and Sustainability. In one of the Big 4s where I have worked, we used to dedicate 1 day in year for making impact to Society and used to call it as “Impact Day”. It used to be celebrated across all the global office locations. In another compete firm, we used to provide Pro-Bono advisory work to various NGOS and used to run specific programs on Child Education for the underprivileged students apart from volunteering in periodic Blood Donation Camps, Tree Plantation Drives, Clothes Donation Drive, Cleaning the surroundings etc.