India made the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) provision mandatory through its Companies Act, 2013 and the CSR (Policy) Rules (the Act) from 1 April 2014. This has led to several businesses stepping forward, formulating their CSR policies and spending for social and environmental initiatives. Now in 2018, when we look back at the time since this landmark policy change was made, there is a strong belief amongst several types of stakeholders that there has been steady progress made.
When I look back at the time when the CSR provision was made effective in 2014, the feeling of uncertainty is still fresh in my mind. Just to understand and interpret the policy was a challenge then for all stakeholders including the donors as well as the implementing agencies. However, all this has improved significantly and effective progress has been made year on year.
The findings of several CSR reports that studied 2017 spends are very encouraging. General insights suggest that by the end of 2017, compliance to the regulatory aspects of the CSR provision had greatly improved. Overall CSR spends had seen steady improvements compared to the previous years and sectors of education and health had secured maximum funding. Many companies had even surpassed the 2 per cent spend mandate. Significantly large and innovative projects with strategic vision and intent had been designed. Even the spread and reach of CSR funds disbursement had been much more uniform. These are all indeed good signs and very much welcome.
Out of the several positive observations, there are two that really stand out in this regard. Firstly, the alignment of the CSR policy and its prescribed activities with several other ongoing initiatives of progress such as the Skill India Mission, Digital India Mission etc. In this too, the mapping and growing realisation of the overlaps as well as synergies between the prescribed activities and Sustainable Development Goals is remarkable. When we at the Development Alternatives (DA) Group design any CSR programme, we find it extremely useful and more sustainable if such alignments and mapping between the CSR policy and the other development related missions, schemes, goals etc. are done well in advance.
The second interesting observation is the concept of pooling funds by donors for a particular region or a cause to create large impact outcomes. In this, some of the large partnerships have been forged not just amongst donors and companies, but also in many cases with government bodies and NGOs. Such a practice is much needed in India where scale and continuous momentum is required to create impact and development for a majority of our rural districts.
While progress has been steadily happening with the CSR policy now entering into a stable state, expectations continue to increase every quarter. Several companies can now easily aid and enable India’s achievement of its specific SDG targets by ensuring that their CSR mandates are synced to these. As per a leading CSR study report, currently only five SDGs have received 50+ percent of the traction amongst the CSR themes. We at the Development Alternatives Group are now working on making sure these and many such expectations are mapped so that potential for further continuous development could be unleashed. To do so, we look forward to like-minded companies, professionals and institutions to connect with us and further propel the development and growth agenda in India through the right use of CSR funds.
The views expressed in the article are those of the author’s and not necessarily those of Development Alternatives.