Going beyond the mandatory regulatory compliances, an increasing number of Indian companies and their stakeholders are integrating the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into their organisational DNA and company culture.
With India Inc taking commendable steps towards adapting a robust corporate citizenry framework, working in silos can become an impeding factor for organisations in framing a sustainable CSR agenda and realising its on-ground implementation.
A fruitful association with a corporate partner is key to successfully implementing community-focused empowerment initiatives through equitable sharing of time, knowledge, technical know-how, resources and efforts.
Identifying problems and finalising core action areas to derive maximum CSR impact and enhance program intervention may pose a key challenge area for a majority of corporates in light of lack of trained development professionals, concerns with regards to monitoring, apprehension about fund utilisation and its likely impact on the targeted stakeholders, lack of bridging between community and NGO and at times entire approach towards CSR.
An effective start to resolve this issue can be made by connecting with a partner whose goals and vision align with the CSR policy of a company. It is largely observed that several companies are not in a position to fully utilise their CSR budgets on account of a mismatched partner fit, lack of impact measurement mechanism and dearth of resources.
These gaps can be plugged and budgets can be allocated judiciously through mutually beneficial partnerships. Engaging with a responsible and ethical stakeholder can go a long way in avoiding duplication of efforts and ensuring an extensive engagement with affected communities. An easy working relationship between two partners also guarantees a greater degree of success in project planning and execution.
It paves the way for broadening the scope of collaboration and implement larger impact social development programs rather than rolling out small scale localised change programs with no tangible benefits and short-term social impact initiatives for the target communities.
Corporates with diverse policies and objectives can synergise their resources and leverage their expertise to ensure successful implementation of CSR projects.
Diverse partners bring their distinct skill-sets to the table in a collaborative setup. The engaging parties need to create common action goals and play a proactive role in finding long-lasting solutions to existing and emerging development challenges. Companies can explore different modes of partnerships which include time-bound partnerships and volunteer exchange programs with an onus on a solutions-drive approach to create value for the society and community.
While some companies establish a niche corporate identity through the creation of a specialised CSR model, others can extend crucial support to their peers and partners through philanthropic activities. Smart partnering holds the potential to build long-term commitments and co-create CSR programs on a consistent basis.
This leads to higher project ownership and accountability among partners supports the longevity of goals, lays the groundwork for standardisation of operations and helps in attaining scale and sustainability in CSR initiatives. Through a well-defined partnership framework, companies can ensure inclusivity and sustainability across the CSR value chain. Impact assessment and partner appraisal at every stage of the CSR project cycle is of paramount importance for the realisation of expected outcomes
A conflict of interest and possible ego hassles between partners with diverse outlooks can prove detrimental to the seamless implementation of CSR policies. A conflict resolution system that addresses differences arising over issues like budgetary allocations, geographical locations and expected outcomes can help in allaying stakeholder concerns and avoiding conflicts.
Arriving at a consensus may not appear to be an easy task. However, all the parties involved need to keep the larger interest of the community in mind and have a common belief in the CSR program and its vision.
CSR should not merely remain in the realm of a policy mandate but should become a visionary statement of every company. The broader emphasis of CSR partners should be on creating and scaling up replicable people-centred development model by making the community a stake-holder in social progress and economic well-being.
Corporate CSR partnerships should reiterate their commitment to hand-hold and support the less fortunate and transform them into social capital having the capacity and willingness to build a strong, vibrant inclusive India.
(The author is Head - CSR, Avashya Foundation, CSR arm of Allcargo Logistics)