Rao Inderjit Singh: CSR has evolved from mere philanthropy to strategic business decision making in corporate sector

October 4, 2023

October 4, Mumbai: The concept of CSR has witnessed a transformation frommere philanthropy to strategic business decision making in the corporate sector,said Shri Rao Inderjit Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation; Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Ministry of Planning and Union Minister of State, Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA). He was the Keynote Speaker at the annual CSR Conclave of Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry held in Mumbai today. Shri Singh added, “CSR is a Board driven process and the Board has the responsibility of ideation, planning and execution of CSR activities based on the recommendation of its CSR committee. And thus companies are able to form a deeper and meaningful connection with the stakeholders and the community that they operate in. CSR is no longer perceived as an act of charity or voluntary support to the needy. Today it forms an integral part of a company’s business philosophy. Since legislation mandated CSR since April 2014, companies have spent more than 1.5 lakh crore in different activities. Both the number of companies contributing to CSR as well as the annual CSR expenditure have increased from 2014-15 to 2021-22.”


He also shared that since 2021 a class of companies have been mandated to carry out impact assessment of their CSR practices. “This will encourage companies to take an informed decision before deploying their CSR funds. This will not only serve as feedback for companies to plan and allocate resources better but also deepen the impact of CSR. MCA has released an e-compendium of CSR which compiles the legal framework of CSR in one destination so as to enable stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding the CSR eco system in the country,” he informed.


In his opening remarks, Ritesh Tiwari, President, Bombay Chamber & CFO, Hindustan Unilever and Unilever South Asia stated that CSR is much more than short term philanthropic gestures; it’s about making systemic and sustained investments that create material positive impact on communities and society at large. He said, “CSR requires businesses to build a framework around responsibility to society and being accountable to all stakeholders including consumers, employees, investors, the public, and the environment. In order to reap the full benefits of CSR, organisations should consider three key aspects when designing their strategy. Firstly, organisations must adopt a strategy that is not limited to short term philanthropy but is instead a multi-year commitment to holistic community development, institution building and sustainability-related initiatives. Secondly, organisations should focus on their CSR areas of expertise where their contribution can be maximised creating sustained long term impact. While some of these areas may evolve over time, the CSR strategy will need to remain true to the company;s values and stakeholder’s interests. And thirdly, there is merit in pooling resources to amplify impact. CSR is not a zero-sum game. Companies with common CSR interests can create larger impacts by collaborating and amalgamating resources.”


Hemant Gupta, Head – BSE Social Stock Exchange who delivered the thematic address said, “ An impactful CSR strategy is important to create both a greater social and corporate impact; to build greater engagement with partners and focus on core business competencies. CSR is not about only your company; it is also about both downstream and upstream partners.”


The CSR Conclave was organised under the aegis of the Chamber’s CSR Committee chaired by Aloka Majumdar, Managing Director, Global Head of Philanthropy & Head of Sustainability, India, HSBC.


The conclave saw a panel discussion on SSE which was moderated by Anantha Narayan, Advisor, Sattva Consulting and the panelists included Dr R Balasubramaniam, Chairman, Social Stock Exchange Advisory Committee; Dhruvi Shah, ET & CEO, Axis Bank Foundation; Noshir Dadrawala, CEO, Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy and Namita Dandekar, COO, Raintree Foundation.


Dr. Subramanya Kusnur, Founder Chairman & CEO, AquaKraft Group Ventures,Treasurer – Governing Council of UN Global Compact Network India and Consultant – Ministry of Water Supply, Sri Lanka gave a presentation on Ten yearsof CSR in India: The learnings and way ahead.


A second panel discussion on Social Impact and Financial Reporting was moderated by Abhay Gupte, Partner, Deloitte India. The panel included Heena Khushalani, Partner, Climate Change and Sustainability Services, Ernst & Young Associates LLP; Vaneeta Gangwani, Director, PWC and Sandeep Kothawade, Associate Director, KPMG.


The last panel discussion on Inclusive & Sustainable CSR: Way Forward saw Aziz Fidai, Head – CSR, Metro Brands as moderator and the panel included Aloka Majumdar, Chairperson, CSR Committee, Bombay Chamber & Managing Director, Global Head of Philanthropy & Head of Sustainability, India, HSBC; Prasad Pradhan, Director Sustainable Business & Communications, South Asia, Unilever; Matilda Lobo, Senior Vice President – Head Corporate Social Responsibility,IndusInd Bank and Prerana Langa, CEO, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat India.

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