“Corporate social responsibility must not be defined by tax planning strategies alone. Rather, it should be defined within the framework of a corporate philosophy which factors the needs of the community and the regions in which a corporate entity functions. This is part of our cultural heritage. Mahatma Gandhi called it trusteeship….I invite corporate India to be a partner in making ours a more humane and just society… We need a new Partnership for Inclusive Growth based on what I describe as a Ten Point Social Charter…first, we need to have healthy respect for your workers and invest in their welfare…” Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh in 2007 Part I OVERVIEW CSR has a long tradition As Mr. Singh pointed out, one of the keydrivers of Indian corporate social responsibility is found in the country’s cultural heritage. The concept of “trusteeship” asserts the right of the capitalist to accumulate and maintain wealth and to use it to benefit society (Narayan 1966). Researchers have established connections between CSR and trusteeship (Renold 1994; Masani 1956; Pachauri 2004). Gandhi’s view of the ownership of capital was one of trusteeship, motivated by the belief that essentially society was providing capitalists with an opportunity to manage resources whichneed to be managed on behalf of society in general. As the tradition suggests, almost every large corporation involved in the Indian market today is engaged in some form of social initiative in India although this is not well documented. CSR penetration in India is relatively high with over 80 percent corporations administering some kind of corporate social responsibility program; this exceeds some of India’s counterparts in Asia, especially Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines that are economically more prosperous than India. (Chambers et al 2003). Keep a low profile Despite the high penetration, CSR activities of Indian businesses are not well recognized at the global level. Diverse stakeholders in India interviewed have pointed out that Indian companies’ CSR programs are significantly underestimated. An immediate explanation would be that contemporary CSR international rankings based on the continued emphasis on the corporate bottom line fall short to assess CSR performance of Indian firms as they address social problems like poverty, health, and education. Another reason might be Indians themselves. They believe it is not appropriate to talk about the good deeds that they are doing. The rule of ‘Do not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing’ is predominantly being applied to the case of CSR. Only 17 percent of the companies surveyed in India had a written CSR policy while more than 80 percent of the surveyed companies engage in CSR programs (Partners in Change 2005). Corporate Social Responsibility in India by Sunyoung Lee A Case Study for the Oxford-Achilles Working Group on Corporate Social Responsibility The Oxford-Achilles Working Group on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an initiative between Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and the Achilles Group. Its purpose is to stimulate thinking, to promote and disseminate research, and to bring together researchers and practitioners.
November 10, 2011
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