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Asking for more from company CSR

There is more to CSR than what’s on paper, revealed a panel discussion on the topic attended by Team B&C

While Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is obligatory by law, it is an activity that more often than not is taken up rather casually by companies. From gifting school bags to tree planting or conducting drawing competitions, every voluntary action of companies goes under CSR these days.

However a panel discussion had concerned residents demanding more out of CSR. Alert citizens suggested new areas where CSR funds could be wisely utilized such as, conservation of heritage, welfare of stray animals, khadi, village handicrafts, maternal health and environment.  Citizens demanded productive CSR from industry and called for going beyond lip service to definite action.

The Goa Management Association (GMA) organised a panel discussion, CSR: A socio-economic perspective. Panelists were, Santosh Kenkre, officiating chairman EDC, Ricardo D’Souza, director, Tito’s Group and Kishore M Shah, director, Ideas Unlimited. Experiential trainer Pravin Sabnis was the moderator for the discussion held at GCCI on June 21.

Kenkre said that, although CSR is mandatory and section 135 of the Companies Act prescribes the average spend it requires better enforcement. “There are remote areas in the state where people are really poor and need CSR the most,” he said.  Kenke revealed that, EDC’s focus in CSR is mostly in education although the corporation is open to new proposals.

 “Giving direct employment to people is the biggest CSR a company can do,” remarked Ricardo D’Souza. He pointed out that, companies need to increase production so as to new generate more jobs. “If industry can employ more people directly that in reality is the biggest CSR they can do,” said the Tito’s director. According to D’Souza , environment social responsibility (ESR) is equally important as CSR and the MNC cigarette, alcohol, soft drink who conduct mega events on beaches must to be clean up after every big tourism event. “Companies need to do 365 days of CSR and it must not be reduced to an activity that is done occasionally,” he said.

Panelist Kishore M Shah, questioned whether it could be made compulsory for large industry in Goa to spend their CSR funds within the state. “There are lots of industries in Goa whose production facility is located here but  are registered outside the state. Outside industry spend its CSR funds in its home state. Is there a way when we can make Goa a priority for such industries,” he asked.

Sitting among the audience, Dr Jennifer Lewis e Kamat, asked for a reliable study on the estimated CSR funds from local units. Such a study can help organizations who wish undertake CSR activities, she said.

Citing the example of Tata group companies which are the biggest funders of CSR projects, PK Mukherjee, former managing director, Sesa Goa, said that, CSR’s most significant element is internal responsibility. “Philanthropy is not CSR,” said Mukherjee, adding that, many companies have professionals to handle CSR but nevertheless it is an area where funding must be more productive and for creation of future assets.

Writer and architectural historian, Heta Pandit, called for CSR funding in conservation of heritage structures. “Heritage is the last thought of companies while doing CSR,” she remarked.  

The audience was an interesting mix and included Professor Vernekar, chairman, education committee, GCCI. Another professor from Goa Nursing College, Bambolim, recommended CSR in maternal healthcare since it ranks low in priority of companies.  A participant also demanded CSR funding for startups and business incubators.

The discussion highlighted that fact that, the socio-economic needs of the state differ from region to region and therefore CSR funds must be directed at areas where it is most needed. Participants pointed out that, CSR projects must be followed up by companies and be successfully completed. Members of the audience called for better monitoring in CSR

activities.

Earlier during the event, Harshvardhan Bhatkuly, president, GMA, introduced the panelist and initiated the discussion.

CSR mandatory under Companies Act

CSR was introduced in 2013, under Section 135 of the Indian Companies Act which prescribed a mandatory “spend of 2 per cent of average net profits during the three immediately preceding financial years” for all companies meeting specified financial thresholds. Companies with certain level of net worth would have to ensure that they spend 2 per cent of average net profits made during the three preceding years on CSR activities.

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