Getting Closer to the Way of Life for Business
“Our biggest challenge this century is to take an idea that seems abstract—sustainable development—and turn it into a reality for all the world’s peoples.” – Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General
As we all know, being strategic is the way in which we as a country, a business or an institution decide what we want to achieve and plan steps to accomplish our objectives with certain actions and putting resources.
While barrels and barrels of digital and chemical ink might have been used to write about how doing business responsibly is doing good business, it is always exciting to explore the world of CSR to unfold its myriad ways in which companies, their implementation partners and other stakeholders are working on transformational programs across a wide spectrum of causes and problem areas. It is a well-established reality that a socially and environmentally inclusive way of working adds to the drive to create wealth and create economic and social value for stakeholders. The CSR ecosystem, especially in India, has rapidly transformed from the earlier (philanthropic only) bilateral ( a company and the beneficiaries from the disadvantaged segments of the society) engagement to a multilateral strategically evolved ecosystem which has witnessed ever-increasing commitment by the businesses towards the aligning their operational and market strategies with social good.
While there is a growing footprint of multi-year programs working towards leveraging the strengths of a particular business for enhancing the employability and entrepreneurship serving more and more citizens, such actions contribute towards bringing overall sectoral growth as well. To cite a few examples, leading white goods brands have integrated skilling ( refrigeration, air conditioning, electronics repairs) in their CSR strategies to improve the capabilities of the youth to get gainfully employed or become entrepreneurs in the related business supply chains.
An MNC working in the automotive and industrial lubricants has been working to strengthen the capabilities of the truck drivers and roadside mechanics to inculcate safety, energy efficiency, preventive healthcare and sustainable livelihoods.
A digital ecosystem enabler has been training youth in cyber security to improve availability of industry-ready talent to meet the demands of this ever-increasing requirement.
Apart from training, skilling and mentoring, there are encouraging use cases where the companies have provided collateral assistance in the form of assured order values to the budding entrepreneurs trained through the companies’ CSR initiatives.
Some of the leading financial services companies have established programs to train rural women in digital and financial literacy and supported them to set-up their own digital services centres and practices to provide financial products and services, not necessarily of the CSR-investing company.
A leading eyecare brand worked across tier-2 and tier-3 cities to identify, train and hand-hold youth from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to become opticians and eyecare services and products sellers.
While the above-cited instances are like the microtip of the iceberg, there are several silent success stories dotting the Indian landscape and continuing to be in the making. As the extreme climate events and climate change causing severe impact on agriculture, livelihoods, infrastructure and overall wellbeing of people across various geographies, the CSR work by several industry groups or leading corporations has been driven by the motto of build back better. In the pursuit of bringing normalcy to these communities after the initial vagaries of the disaster have receded, the strategic CSR approach has helped in building climate-resilient agricultural practices, infrastructure less prone to damage, alternative solutions for sustainable livelihoods and an evidence-based concepts which can be inspirational, replicable and scalable.
CSR as a strategic approach can align with the business to identify, anticipate and work towards resolving issues which can help with better stakeholder engagement for that business. Needless to say that in today’s complex business environment in terms of markets, governance, policy, global trends, geopolitical risks, and greater public-customers-consumers’ scrutiny of the business, CSR can guide the organisation in evolving a realistic assessment of its stakeholders expectations.
Strategic CSR is not a short-term event or intervention but a long-term diligently assessed state of mind which can contribute in many ways for the business sustainability. It can help in investor recognition in the marketplace, build the brand, and attract talent who are seeking such workplaces which have a culture of doing good to the society and the environment.
Alignment of the supply chain with the values of the organisation have also displayed
effective and efficient operational systems and processes. In short, the strengths accrued due to strategic CSR would add to the greater adaptability to change and resilience in adverse situations – internal or external.