CSR remained a buzzword for companies in the year gone by. Though it is as old as the trade itself, the CSR or corporate social responsibility gained significance as an integral part of business practices for many a company last year. CSR or giving back to the society is now being increasingly seen as a major initiative for domestic and foreign corporate players in the country. They now better realise that there is a direct co-relation between bad corporate practices and a bad response from the marketplace.
The recently published Nielsen Corporate Image Monitor 2007 report finds that nothing can beat CSR when it comes to building the image of a corporate house and this awakening has greatly spurred the large corporate houses to make active moves in that direction. So, we see large number of the corporate world getting greatly indulged in the CSR activities which were earlier played down more as a charity, rather than a business activity. Today, there is stronger commitment on the part of the companies towards this less-exploited arena. The marketers and executives have now realised that the CSR as an activity is not a burden on the profits, but it is rather a tool to take care of long-term interests of the company by way of favourable publicity. Thus a move that started off as something like a social responsibility has been taken up by big names as a serious part of their business practices. Hence, CSR is no more a lip service.
Moreover, increasing interest being shown by the shareholders in the business practices has also prompted large corporate houses to focus on building on their social brand value. Studies in the past show that CSR helped companies improve their image. In certain cases these activities have also helped the companies to reduce their costs of operation, sourcing material and also training and recruitment of personnel.
That apart, CSR activities also ensure better access to capital for a company by enhancing its creditability. CSR has also been seen as a factor responsible for improving the brand image and thereby market share of many companies.
Till now, the country has seen a trend where big corporate companies would partner with non-government organisations. But now, the companies are engaging their employees into the exercise.Â When taking a look at the companies reworking on their CSR strategies, controversies-hit Coca-Cola is a good example. Its new approach, called “5-pillar growth strategy’, focuses on portfolio, partners, performance, people and the planet. Coke has put on a more human face, and wants people to know Coca-Cola as a company. While its previous strategy has been marketing-driven, the new one places its corporate and social responsibility more prominently.
Another major corporate that pursues CSR activity devotedly is ABN Amro. This multinational banking behemoth is taking its CSR activities very seriously in the country. The bank is into an activity called Sanctuary Earth Hero Conference involving its employees. As ABN Amro India country head and corporate executive vice-president Meera Sanyal says, “we have a very active employee volunteering programme. In Mumbai there is an organisation called ‘Support’ which works for HIV and drug-addicted children. We fund them; our corporate greeting cards are from those children. Our employees go and spend time with them. One of these children has won a science award and we help them in whatever little way we can.”