Brand Story has started a new series on Atma Nirbhar Bharat, hosting its first episode on ‘Contribution of Corporate Social Responsibility for making of new India’, with Dr.K.K.Upadhyay, who has been a pivotal part of the CSR journey in India as a practitioner, and former head of FICCI Aditya Birla CSR Centre of Excellence.
The talk with Dr Upadhyay touched upon how charity and philanthropy have always been part of the corporate culture. How the prescriptive law on CSR came into being with the idea to engage, think through matters carefully, articulate intentions, and finally implement proper checks and balances with regular monitoring. In five years as per MCA website around 50,000 crores were spent on CSR.
Two years back started the discussion of imprisonment of senior corporate officers for non-compliance. Till such time it was “comply or explain”; explain if you are not able to spend money. Three things happened. First CSR became a board room talk, secondly it is discussed in rupee terms and thirdly it came into public domain, it’s on the website of companies and MCA portal.
In March 2019 CSR became mandatory from ‘Comply or Explain” to “Comply or Deposit”. CSR funds were being looked at as gap filling. With the pandemic the funds moved to relief and pandemic mitigation. It has affected the spirit of CSR as it started. The idea was to encourage corporations to contribute towards inclusive growth of the society, work with the civil society community for upliftment of the unprivileged in remote areas and around their locations.
Of late there were draft amendments from the ministry to allow only section 8 companies as implementers, now having a Social Stock Exchange. The efforts should be on simplifying procedures to the extent if a young entrepreneur wants to start a “not-for profit” these are the steps. Transparency and minimum compliance avoiding “facilitation” charges should be in the ecosystem.
CSR can contribute in a better way to Atma Nirbhar Bharat only when corporate, civil society, government and communities work together to reach the bottom of pyramid giving “dignity” to everyone in this dialogue.