Corporate Social Responsibility: A Discourse

By Kumar, Vinod; Sabharwal, Shivani | Political Economy Journal of India, July-December 2013 | Go to article overview

Corporate Social Responsibility: A Discourse


Kumar, Vinod, Sabharwal, Shivani, Political Economy Journal of India


Introduction

We live in an era where corporate entities and those at the helm of managing their affairs --managers are not judged only by their financial performance anymore but also by their positive actions towards their stakeholders and the natural environment; in other words, how socially responsible they are. Reckless and irresponsible actions on the part of corporate leaders are no longer tolerated by citizens. Sadly, there is still a very small minority of people who are either indifference to the adverse impacts of some corporate actions on humanity and the environment or are totally oblivious to the impending catastrophe which these actions or inactions might bring on the natural environment if we fail to change our behaviours or take corrective actions to reduce the adverse impact. Societies around the world are gradually coming to terms with the understanding that we all have to behave responsibly and change our behaviours in dealing with certain issues which affect mankind regardless of whether we live in an advanced or the less advanced part of the world. Some of the consequences of past corporate actions are gradually unfolding and being felt either with similar or the same level of intensity by us all in terms of climate change or global warming, food crisis, drinkable water etc. are posing some problems, some of man's natural resources endowed by nature are gradually becoming extinct. Over the last few years, corporate entities around the world have identified the value creation ability of corporate social responsibility and have started weave the so called triple bottom line idea-economic, social, and environmental consideration in to their strategy.

The economic and financial crisis which began in 1998 in certain Asian countries and spread to other regions of the world, as well as recent spectacular bankruptcy cases all over the world, underline the need for a reliable and transparent management system. A system of checks and balances need to be put in place among shareholder, directors, auditors and management. There is now an increasing realization among modern and progressive companies that ethics and corporate social responsibility make good business sense. An ethical and socially responsible company generally conforms to the standards of good corporate governance. Corporate governance enables corporations to realize their corporate objectives, protect shareholder rights, meet legal requirements and demonstrate to a wider public how they are conducting their business. Corporations are ethical agents of the community or nation at large. Corporate governance must be based on a genuine respect for business ethics and values. Social responsibility, along with business ethics, tells what an organization ought to do. The present paper is an attempt to discuss corporate social responsibility and its various dimensions along with CSR initiatives in India.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Evolution

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is on the rise all over the world, and India is no exception. The history of corporate paternalism has played an important part in shaping community expectations and CSR practices in India. Civil society, consumers and other actors have increased the pressure on companies to adhere to social and environmental standards, and this new "civil regulatory" environment has had impacts on business in India.

The concept of corporate social responsibility in India is not new, the term may be. The process though acclaimed recently, has been followed since ancient times albeit informally. Philosopher like Kautilya from India and pre Christian era philosophers in the West preached and promoted ethical principles while doing business. The concept of helping the poor and disadvantaged was cited in much of the ancient literature. The idea was also supported by several religions where it has been intertwined with religious laws. "Zakaat", followed by Muslims, is donation from one's earnings which specifically given to the poor and disadvantaged. …

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