CSR Is a Must for Indian Companies Irrespective of Size

7 Jun 2024

First, the moral reason. Despite India being among the fastest growing economies of the world, and the world singing hosannas to the emerging Indian middle class, it scores extremely poorly on most human development indices. The fact that India now has a booming automobile industry with all manner of cars and SUVs choking the sidewalks of our urban centers cannot mask the co-existing abysmal poverty, that too is all too evident.

Poverty is not an invisible underbelly in India. It is upfront and stark, but we all pretend that we don't see it.

Much as the British colonialists went to their clubs, gymkhanas, and golf courses in pre-independence India, not caring to notice the plight of the common Indian who lived an emaciated existence, much of middle-class India, which is the backbone of the new corporate sector, is blind to the misery of their fellow Indians. This does not reflect well upon us as a people.

Where is our moral conscience? How can we be so insensitive to our fellow human beings? The second and perhaps decisive reason is self-interest. The present economic development model is not tenable. It will lead to tremendous unrest. You have to make everybody join in the good times. Look at the sheer numbers of the deprived. How long will they silently watch as the privileged amongst us live better and bigger than ever before?

Now more than ever before, we need everybody in the fold. The benefits that will accrue will be tremendous. As we help marginalized people join the mainstream, they will eventually become economic force multipliers. They will lead to economic activity of a scale that will be global in its ramifications. The government is doing what it can to help.

The private sector has to pitch in big time- in our cities, towns, villages, and tribal areas. It has to build schools, plant trees, help with rainwater harvesting, clothe and feed the poor, and distribute books. There really is so much that can be done in India.

It is heartening to see that companies in the corporate sector are now joining hands with the government and NGOs and helping with community development and environmental issues, besides pure philanthropy. This needs to continue and be taken to the next level. We need our Andrew Carnegies, Warren Buffets, Bill Gates, and Rockefellers.

The smaller companies have to get their act together so that CSR is given the prime importance that is due to it.

The media professionals have to pitch in by providing adequate coverage to all manner of CSR activity. PR and advertising plans should always have a CSR component, as the easiest thing to do in India is some form of social activity. There is so much that is wrong and needs to be righted. From uncovered drains to dirty toilets, from streets without lighting to classrooms without books- there are so many causes that can be taken up.

Let CSR be the number one priority for the next decade, and see how India moves up the human development indices.

Only then will we be able to hold our own on the world stage. All the pretty people in the world driving around in their Ferraris won't do it for us. It is our masses who will do it for us. But they have to be clothed and fed first.