Corporate social responsibility activities in most organisations are much more than a brand-building effort, discovers Shivani Shinde.
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not new to Indian companies. However, what is new is the way it has caught on with corporates in India and the direct involvement of employees in implementation of these projects. Dedicated departments in most organisations are looking into much more than just funding or getting involved in one-time projects. CSR activities have their advantages. The benefits are in terms of building a positive image, encouraging social involvement of employees, which in turn develops a sense of loyalty for the organisation. CSR activities help bond employees as a team and with the organisation, which, in turn, helps in creating a dedicated workforce that is proud of its employer. The trend is especially strong in IT companies with a young workforce that increasingly feels that they would like to contribute to the cause of creating a better society. Most of these companies are working on issues related to children and education. Voluntarism to them means taking technology to the grassroots levels and to bridge the digital divide. Whether it is TCS’s Web-based solution for their adult literacy programme or Kale Consultant’s (an airlines and banking verticals software maker) effort in creating a centralised data system on children for adoption. With serious money and human resources involved how does it benefit the organisation? It is not uncommon to hear of rumours that in many cases no actual work was done and projects were shown on paper to gain tax exemptions. Most organisations, however, vehemently deny such allegations as funds are strictly dedicated to such projects and monitored by company boards. CSR is increasingly becoming the part of corporate governance. Yet another allegation is that CSR is just a brand-building exercise. Getting associated with a cause might create an apparent impact, but that does not generate any tangible profits for the organisation. While it does help develop their brand and convey to the public that it is a socially conscientious company, it is a natural fall out and not a deliberate attempt. Kalpana Jaishankar, Director HR, Geometric Software Solutions believes that organisations today cannot have a ‘how I can benefit attitude’ as employees are sensitive on such issues. However, one of the biggest advantages of such activities is the creation of an internal brand among employees. “Employees feel a sense of pride when they are involved in such activities which, in turn, help in retaining them. Similarly, such activities also in a small way contribute towards image building,” says Bharti Das Gupta, Advisor, Social Initiatives and Managing Trustee of Catalyst for Social Action (CSA), Kale Consultants. Besides, with hectic work schedules, these activities help in de-stressing employees and create a much involved and a conscious person. As Vivek Govilkar, Senior VP, HR and Training and Convenor CSR Activities, i-Flex says, “Getting involved in CSR is like an investment for us. There is no direct benefit out of it. But it shows the way an organisation is growing.” He does believe that such activities create a feeling of credibility. For instance, when parts of India were recently hit by the tsunami, many of their overseas customers wanted to contribute and used i-Flex’s channels to do so. According to Prof Kesav Vithal Nori VP, TCS Hyderabad, at an individual level these initiatives help in leadership and character building among employees and at the company level, social recognition. Many feel that such activities help in creating a value system for the organisation - Shivani Shinde in The Financial Express
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