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Over the past decades, there have been increasing concerns from the public that many businesses have little concern for the consumer, care nothing about the deteriorating social order, and are indifferent to the problems of the environment and minorities. But with the passage of time these doubts seems to be vanishing as corporate sector has shown its concern towards the weaker section of the society and has also helped them out in various ways.
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CSR is not a new concept in India. Corporates like the Tata Group, the Aditya Birla Group, and Indian Oil Corporation, to name a few, have been involved in serving the community ever since their inception. Many other organizations too have been doing their part for the society.
Four years ago, Reliance Industries Ltd. launched a countrywide initiative known as “Project Drishti”, to restore the eye-sights of visually challenged Indians from the economically weaker sections of the society. This project, started by one of India’s corporate giants has brightened up the lives of over 5000 people so far. Role of Tata Steels can’t be ignored while discussing about CSR. Tata Steel promotes and encourages economic, social and educational development within its communities while also giving active support to local initiatives. Its mammoth social outreach program covers the company-managed city of Jamshedpur and over 800 villages around it through upliftment initiatives in the areas of income generation, health and medical care, education, sports, and relief.
Similar commitment to CSR has been displayed by several other corporates in India. The list, which at best can be far from complete, includes Arvind Mills, Escorts, Dabur, Bajaj, Godrej, Hero Honda, DCM Sriram, Ashok Leyland, Ballarpur Industries, Eicher, Kinetic Group, Kirloskar, Infosys, Ranbaxy, Wipro, each of which has been deeply committed to their communities engaging in programs encompassing education, health, education, integrated rural development.
Beyond the private sector, corporate players in India’s public sector too have been actively involved in corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Most public sector units in the heavy engineering industry have not only set up a township around the plant, but also established schools, hospitals and several other civic facilities for its employees and those who live in that area.
Private sector companies have been encouraged to undertake rural development programs down the years through fiscal incentives by the government. For instance, special benefits are offered in the industrial policy to those companies who set up industries in backward areas and tax exemptions are also offered to companies supporting the weaker sections of society.
Of course, with the intense spotlight on the subject, the interest in corporate social responsibility is spreading throughout the country. In the Corporate Social Responsibility Survey–India, reveals that this interest is growing as more and more companies in India are keen to project themselves as good corporate citizens. This was the most important factor driving CSR in India, according to the survey. CSR initiatives are inextricably linked with improved brand reputation.
CSR has become increasingly prominent in the Indian corporate scenario because organizations have realized that besides growing their businesses it is also vital to build trustworthy and sustainable relationships with the community at large. Another reason fuelling this rapid adoption of CSR is the state of the Indian society. Though India is one of the fastest growing economies, socio-economic problems like poverty, illiteracy, lack of healthcare etc. are still ubiquitous and the government has limited resources to tackle these challenges. This scenario has opened up several areas for businesses to contribute towards social development.
What so ever might be the reason, today, CSR in India has gone beyond merely charity and donations, and is approached in a more organized fashion. It has become an integral part of the corporate strategy. Companies have CSR teams that devise specific policies, strategies and goals for their CSR programs and set aside budgets to support them which is indeed a good sign towards development of the society.
Indeed, CSR has come a long way in India. From responsive activities to sustainable initiatives, corporates have clearly exhibited their ability to make a significant difference in the society and improve the overall quality of life. In the current social situation in India, it is difficult for one single entity to bring about change, as the scale is enormous. Corporates have the expertise, strategic thinking, manpower and money to facilitate extensive social change. Effective partnerships between corporates, NGOs and the government will place India’s social development on a faster track.
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