Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) enables harnessing the strengths of the private sector to meet the challenges of sustainable development. Growth of business needs to be accompanied by environmentally and socially responsible behaviour, i.e. adhering to the globally accepted values of good governance – accountability, transparency, responsibility and responsiveness towards all stakeholders. Moreover, this should also be seen as a vital element to ensure competitiveness of the business in the long run.
To develop and broaden consensus at the policy level about CSR in the Indian context, the Indo-German Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative project is helping to establish a multi-stakeholder dialogue process at the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), which is a think-tank of the Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs. This involves a wide array of public, non-governmental and private-sector actors, and is being backed up by critical studies and surveys.
The project is helping a number of enterprises to carry out pilot schemes. It uses a cluster approach to instill responsible business behaviour in groups of micro, small & medium Enterprises (MSMEs), by demonstrating how such practices are directly linked to the profitability of the firms and clusters. The project is currently working with three clusters consisting of business organisations representing 100 energy-intensive steel foundries, helping them to integrate CSR into their core business practices. The firms have begun implementing a range of simple measures, such as energy efficiency and safe and hygienic working conditions. In collaboration with the German international cooperation agency GIZ's MSME Umbrella Programme, the number of clusters is now set to rise to 18, involving 25 business organisations.
The project feeds the lessons learned from the pilot schemes back into the policy process. At the same time, it supports the wider mainstreaming of CSR through training of trainers and helping to produce educational material, which is then used by expert institutions, chambers of commerce and business schools, including the IICA. Mainstreaming also involves liaising with other potential multipliers such as financial institutions, which can promote alternative products and responsible investment and lending.
A proud moment for this project was the launch of the Corporate Social Responsibility Voluntary Guidelines 2009. Comprehensive national guidelines have been formulated by the Guidelines Drafting Committee, which was set up as part of the multi-stakeholder platform on CSR created by the project in 2008.
Development of special training materials on CSR for MSMEs and documentation of seven case studies of large and small companies, which will now serve as teaching aids, are also important achievements of the programme.