Given most corporates’ inclination towards the practice of CSR lately , certain PR agencies are making concerted efforts to assist their respective clients with dedicated CSR service. According to Avian Media CEO, Nitin Mantri, “with the Government issuing an advisory of 2 per cent of profits to be invested in CSR, we feel that a lot of companies will now strategically invest for the benefit of the society in the coming years.”
Tapan Chowdhury who leads the Genesis Burson-Marsteller CSR Practice said “Certainly the trend is moving toward more CSR activity among corporates, with outside pressure coming from governments, consumers and NGOs. Therefore, as the function of CSR increases, it will be important for this to be reflected in the overall communications strategy. For years we have seen some of the larger Indian companies invest in CSR as a function of the company, but with no direct link to their communications plans. It’s important to note that there are measurable benefits to communicating effectively about the investments a corporate is making in a community or particular area.”
Earlier this month communications consultancy Avian Media, officially launched its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability practice. Their Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability practice will be lead by Sharmistha Ghosh. The firm has also set up a social advocacy board that comprises of development consultants and NGOs having experience in diverse roles ranging from monitoring & evaluation, capacity building, strategic corporate responsibility consulting, NGO investment promotion, building industry and trade relations.
Mantri is of the opinion that “CSR is a key element which organizations today are accepting and implementing to not only be good corporate citizens but also get closer to their communities. However, there is expertise required in ensuring that CSR activities are part of the overall ethos of the company. Today, companies are proactively undertaking significant investments and giving a social value to all their business endeavors.”
Mantri believes that organizations today are keen on investing in CSR because it enables corporates to build a stronger brand that resonates with key external stakeholders. In fact with the Government issuing an advisory of 2 per cent of profits to be invested in CSR, we feel that a lot of companies will now strategically invest for the benefit of the society in the coming years. According to a recent KPMG report, the latest CSR initiatives by companies in India suggests that CSR is slowly moving away from charity and dependence and starting to build on empowerment and partnership.
Taking charge of the Avian Media CSR wing, Sharmistha Ghosh understands that successful CSR practices helps in strengthening the corporate – consumer relationship. She said “Today organizations are beginning to see CSR as an integral part of the core business function and are shifting their focus from mere philanthropy to sustainability. This is reflected in their intent to “Do no Harm” to the stakeholders and responsible conduct across levels – creating wealth for stakeholders, lesser impact on the environment, ethical business practices by obeying the law of the land and socio-economic development of the community. This well-rounded corporate responsibility approach plays a pivotal role in shaping corporate reputation. Studies conducted globally have shown that a sustainable corporate responsibility programme yield results in terms of better business performance, employee retention and motivation and customer loyalty. “
But what about the corporate’s intentions? Many still frown upon CSR practices as a mere greenwashing exercise – one meant to cover for a corporate’s true, sinister intentions. To combat this suspicion, a company should participate in CSR activities that effectively and directly benefit their communities and stakeholders, according to Chowdhury. “Essentially, as long as corporates invest the necessary resources into developing, executing and sustaining real CSR programmes, they are better able to mitigate potentially negative allegations, leaving less opportunity to have their real motives questioned.”
Ghosh on the other hand believes that “a corporate responsibility programme is interlinked with the motive of the company and is a reflection of its values and business goals. It is not a challenge for an organization if its on-ground CSR initiative has “Do the right thing” as its motive and transparency, accountability and social inclusion as key elements. Such programmes with effective monitoring systems will showcase positive socio-economic impact on the external and internal stakeholders.”
Written by Chaahat Madaan for Image Management