Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept and an effective tool to create a balance in society. However, it is not only corporate social responsibility but also corporate moral responsibility. The CSR mandate in India requires companies to approach their business in terms of sustainable development where both the individual and the organisational leadership have to play a major role. CSR schemes and projects will be meaningful and yield long term results if the implementing authorities have a positive managerial attitude.
While tracing the history of corporate social responsibility, it transpires that the concept has historically originated in India as extending service to the poor is a part of diverse religious practices in India. In fact, charity and philanthropy were the main drivers of corporate social responsibility in India during the pre-industrialisation period (till 1850). The industrial Indian families of the 19th century were inclined towards economic and social considerations.
Swami Vivekananda is one of the pioneers of this concept. His clarion call, “Bahu jana hitaio bahujano sukhaio” - to meet the urgencies of serving the poor and the economically weak - inspired many to take up philanthropic activities. Swamiji inspired Jamshetji Tata to establish a research institute for development of scientific activities. Over time, this institute has largely benefited society.
‘Corporate’ CSR has become more important in India since the 1990s as a result of the globalisation process and principally due to the political and economic changes which allowed a bigger development of private entrepreneurship. The role of globalisation in the evolution of CSR is fundamental. In the present day context, CSR is a process with the aim to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, employees, communities and stakeholders.
However, CSR programmes are implemented mechanically in a model where a company takes the decision to do CSR with the sole aim to fulfill the statutory requirements. In such an approach, these schemes are, at times, used as a strategy to earn public appreciation and as a tool for propaganda to build the company’s image. There is another model of implementing CSR schemes where welfare schemes are designed carefully and implemented silently. In this case, the results and benefits are permanent and create an enormous impact.
The second approach can be attributed to an organisation whose chairman is the prime mover of meaningful implementation of various CSR schemes. The Chairman of SREI Foundation, Dr. H.P.Kanoria has been following the principles of extending services and doing good – silently - for the deprived. He has been supporting such schemes which reach the benefits directly to the deserving and eligible persons and assisting selfless organisations in implementing welfare schemes.
Under the guidance of Dr. Kanoria, Srei has been extending diverse CSR schemes in the fields of education, health and women empowerment with the philosophy of seva (service). This includes services for the weaker sections of society, educational support to poor students, vocational training for women and aid and assistance to acid attack victims.
The organisations supported by Srei Foundation include Ramakrishna Ananda Ashram in Budge Budge, Avi run by women members in Salt Lake, Arise Education and Birati Globe Vision Society in Birati, Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandali in Asansol, Vivekananda Patha Chakra and Sur–O-Madhyam in central Kolkata, Society for Community Intervention & Research in Park Circus, Bankura Zilla Ma Saradamani Mahila College and the Acid Survivors and Women Welfare Foundation (ASWWF).
Advancement of education in slum areas for deprived children is one of the major tasks. As a remarkable achievement, 11 dropout girl students have been helped by Srei Foundation and they have successfully passed their secondary examinations. Adult education for elderly women is also supported by Dr H.P.Kanoria and it has been widely successful. They (the beneficiaries) have now opened their bank accounts and are capable of doing simple calculations.
Through ASWWF, Srei Foundation has been successful in rehabilitating a number of acid attack victims. They have been brought back to the mainstream after medical treatment and counselling.
Srei Foundation also extends an educational scholarship ‘Vivekananda Merit Scholarship & Kedarnath Bhagirathi Devi Scholarship’. Till date, it has been extended to 324 students - all over India. Out of the scholarship holders, Madhurima Ghosh secured the first class first position in education from Calcutta University. Another scholarship recipient, A. Shaw successfully cleared the West Bengal Civil Service (WBCS) in the first attempt. Another scholarship holder, Varsha Dasgupta was awarded the Gold Medal for being the topper in the medical examinations. A school has also been opened by Arise Education with the support of Srei Foundation for poor children in a remote place in Katwa, Burdwan.
Women empowerment and self-development training for women in slum areas have been conducted in Budge Budge and Park Circus area for the last several years. 674 women have been trained and they are now capable of earning their livelihood. Additionally, there is a demand for implementing a computer training programme in Tiljala, Kolkata.
India is a country of myriad contradictions. On one hand, it has grown to be one of the largest economies in the world and an increasingly important player in the emerging global order. On the other hand, it is still home to the largest number of people living in poverty (even if the proportion of poor people has decreased) and the largest number of undernourished children. What emerges is a picture of uneven distribution of the benefits of growth which many believe, is the root cause of social unrest. In the Indian context, the disparity, inequality and the growing divide in the society define our existence today.
Service to society must be a primary concern for corporates. The schemes under CSR can become successful only when the top most policy-makers of the organisation are personally convinced and harbour a genuine feeling of doing well for the society. Companies must feel committed to continuously improve its social responsibilities, environment and economic practices to make a positive impact on the society. They must create a positive footprint within the society to make a meaningful difference to the lives of people by continually aligning their initiatives to the goals for sustainable