Countries look at India as a leader to emulate, says philathropist RUTH A SHAPIRO in an interview to Down To Earth. Edited excerpts:
In which sectors have companies invested most for corporate social responsibility (CSR)? Where has it had maximum impact?
The two most invested sectors are education and health. It is difficult to say which programmes have had the most impact for several reasons. It is too early to have collected this type of longitudinal data. Second, different projects have different goals and time horizons so you cannot compare very easily. Third, some companies have more experience than others but newer efforts may come into the sector with fresh ideas and approach.
What areas require more attention from companies?
Different states have different development priorities. Bihar focuses on agriculture, while Maharashtra focuses on infrastructure development. Urban challenges differ from those of the rural. There are plenty of issues and challenges. Companies need to figure out their areas of commitment and where they can add greatest value. When a company aligns its CSR with core competencies and employee interest, the results are more sustainable.
Do we need better checks and balances in our monitoring mechanism?
Yes, there is need for standards and monitoring to ensure compliance. But it should not necessarily be from the government. The level of expertise will grow with time, not just within companies but also by the public and media. Good corporate behaviour and meaningful CSR will also grow.
Can you compare CSR regulations in India with those in other countries?
India is the most progressive country in CSR. No other country mandates so large a swath of companies to provide such a meaningful funding. I can tell you that other countries are looking to India as a leader, and closely watching the situation to see if they want to put in place similar requirements.
Are multinational companies more diligent in CSR when dealing with developed countries, than with developing countries like India?
Multinational companies come from many countries with different societal expectations of the role of the company. Indian companies are just as good (and in some cases, just as bad) as their counterparts around the world. (Ruth A Shapiro is founder of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society based in Hong Kong.
(This article was first published in Down To Earth's 16-28 February, 2019 print edition)
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