Thank God for Corporate Social responsibility

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Suparnaa Chadda, Editorial Consultant, exchange4media Group

Suparnaa Chadda, Editorial Consultant, exchange4media Group

Whether or not the Company’s Bill languishing at the throes of the government will be passed, corporates have been supporting CSR initiatives for a variety of reasons and Yes doing business in a socially responsible way is one of them.

More often than not, CSR initiatives prove to be a brilliant marketing exercise that help build the brand’s image. And if that’s not enough it’s a great PR  tool too that replenishes tainted images. And kudos for that.

In 2009, when mining in Orissa became a sore point for Vedanta, it tactfully employed CSR initiatives to focus public attention towards ‘empowering communities’. Huge advertising budgets were allocated to play up these initiatives, which included facilitating education, community health, sustainable livelihood, bio investment and more, claiming a CSR investment to the tune of Rs 463.6 crore , between 2005-2010. Interestingly, a little research throws up  a public interest litigation filed in 2004 just before the exercise. The Union Environment Ministry, however, recalled its earlier clearances for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri Hills despite the CSR marketing overdrive. In December 2011, Vedanta invested $8.67 billion and forayed into the Oil sector in India. Sustainable development continues to be included in their policies. So does CSR.

Pepsico plans to remove all sugary drinks from schools worldwide, including India, by the end of the current year. The move is to counter the flak in recent years generated towards aerated sweetened drinks and child nutrition safety standards. Publicity stunt, CSR – whatever be the case, it does bring in a sigh of relief to the concerned parent.

The centre spread in The Economist in April this year, carried a Braille embossed advertisement of the UBS group. A great CSR initiative that worked as a brand building exercise both for the publisher and the advertiser. It definitely caught my eye. According to Nidhi Kaila, the lone woman behind an NGO – Esha people for the blind, Microsoft’s business cards globally, are Braille enabled.  A CSR initiative that is inclusive of the blind. Though in India, there is no agency that handles Braille embossing in visiting cards, except Esha. The NGO teaches the process to the visually impaired that not only provides an opportunity of employment to the blind, but also gives a strong message of the value system of the company.

The Harvard Business School has recognised that CSR as a PR or marketing tool, helps align business strategies whilst giving back to the society or so. Starting in fall this year, the school will initiate a programme titled ‘Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategies to Create Business and Social Value’.  The course is for senior executives to help them integrate their strategic business ventures and society.

So while the Company’s Bill of 2011 still deliberates on the 2% mandate on CSR spends, NGOs like Esha, will continue to depend and be supported by both individuals and corporates, that help in develop an inclusive and socially responsible world.

Would you like to help? Go ahead plan in your budgets, make a difference.

Thank God for Corporate Social responsibility.

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