CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN INDIA- A COMPARATIVE STUDY: SHUBHAM MISHRA & MEGHANA KASARLA

Corporate Social Responsibility In India: A Comparative Study

Author: Shubham Mishra

Co-Author: Meghana Kasarla

Lloyd Law College, G. Noida   

 [ISSN: 2582-3655]                    

Abstract

In this era of globalization and industrialization, economic development is the main focus without compromising on social and environmental standards. To attain sustainable development goals, implementation of human rights and other CSR principles, various governments across the globe have induced certain provisions through which businesses contribute to society. One such provision is Corporate Social Responsibility. Corporate Social Responsibility is a self-regulating model that aids the company to be socially responsible – to itself, to the public and to its stakeholders.

The main aim of this paper is to analyze the development of Indian CSR policies and its implementation theoretically and to highlight the interdependency of business and society. It provides an overview of the widely accepted definitions of CSR, the historical development of CSR across the centuries, how CSR started as corporate philanthropy and ended up as the core business strategy and the contemporary situation of CSR across the globe and in India. This paper also focuses on the various CSR regimes in both developing nations and developed nations. It also studies why CSR has become so important that businesses use CSR as their core business strategy to gain social branding. Lastly, it is important for governments to design a potential regime for companies to ensure not only sustainable development but also regional development. We conclude with certain changes in the Indian CSR regime to make it more society-friendly.

Introduction

Corporate Social Responsibility (hereinafter CSR) is an ethical fabric that suggests that a company has an obligation to act for the society at large.CSR is crucial for any company because, in the absence of fulfilling social responsibility, a company cannot survive in society. They’re directly proportional and complementary to each other.[1]In the 21st century, the aim of CSR has been to increase long-term profits and shareholders’ trust through high ethical standards which in turn helps in the reduction of business risk. CSR practices have come out as a priority and businesses are beginning to realize its potential as a tactical management tool. Thus, CSR is essentially comprehended to be the way a company attains an equalization of socio-economic imperatives.[2]

CSR is not only a theory but also a strategy which when used properly can get the utmost results in corporate branding.[3] CSR as a practical approach can get along a lot of competitive advantages, such as improved brand image and reputation, operational cost savings, enhanced customer loyalty, access to capital and markets, improved productivity and quality, better risk management and an efficient human resource base. It is considered as one of its apex stakeholders and believed as inclusive growth.[4]

In India, CSR is not a new concept. Corporate philanthropy has been followed by a majority of the companies in India over centuries. But, CSR as a concept has come into recognition only after the enactment of Companies Act, 2013. India is the first country in the World to make CSR mandatory.[5] This mandatory statute just came in place to stop companies from gaining profits from the government and tried to pull the corporate into the social framework.

Definition of Corporate Social Responsibility

United Nations Industrial Development Organization defines Corporate Social Responsibility as the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives.[6] There is no globally accepted definition of CSR, however all the definitions have a considerable common ground. Commission of the European Communities defines CSR, in simple words as “a concept whereby companies amalgamate social and environmental concerns in their business operations in collaboration with their stakeholders”.[7] Another definition says “CSR is the commitment of business to contribute to sustainable economic development working with employees, their families, the local community and society at large to improve their quality of life”.[8]

In 1998, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development conducted the first CSR dialogue in the Netherlands. This dialogue emphasized the local perspectives of CSR. America’s view is more of a philanthropic model whereas the European model says operating the business in a socially responsible way.[9] The European model enhances the competitiveness and boosts the wealth creation to society. Hence, it makes social responsibility an integral part of wealth creation. The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation defines CSR as a management policy whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders.[10]

Indian Definition & UNDIO

In Indian context, CSR word was first ever mentioned under Section 135 of Companies Act, 2013[11] and since then it is mandatory for the companies who meet a certain set of criteria to have a CSR committee. According to Section 135 of Companies Act, “a company that has a net worth of Rs. 500 crores and above or a turnover of Rs. 1000 crores and above or Rs. 5 crores and above in the past three financial years must spend at least 2% of average net profits on CSR activities”. Schedule VII of Companies Act, 2013[12] provides a range of CSR activities from which a company can choose. This particular provision of CSR works with the “comply or explain” approach which means the company should both comply with the provision and publish the report on the website or it has to give the explanation for non-compliance of the same.

UNDIO has its regional office in India for a number of countries including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc.[13] There are three principles on which the regional office works. It ensures that UNDIO’s activities are being implemented in harmony with national policy priorities and all development strategies of such policies.[14] Its endeavor is to maintain a long term good relationship with all the donors and increase its visibility.[15] It also focuses on the maintenance of International Sustainable Development goals.[16]

Historical Development of CSR in India

The history of CSR in India has four phases that run side by side with the historical development of the country.

Phase-I: Charity Phase

The first phase was driven by philanthropy and charity. The wealthy businessmen spent a part of their wealth for religious purposes like building temples.[17] This phase is also called as “dynastic charity”.[18] Later, after the arrival of colonial rule in India, the pioneers of industrialization started supporting the concept of CSR not only for social benefit but were driven by a political motive. They promoted setting up educational, health and charitable institutions.[19]

Phase-II: Independence Phase (1914-1960)

The second phase was parallel to the freedom struggle in India. Mahatma Gandhi introduced the concept of “trusteeship”, which urged the industrial leaders to share their wealth to help the underprivileged section of the society.[20] Under the leadership of Gandhi, trusts were setup that worked to enhance women empowerment, rural development and education. In this phase, the corporation was responsible for owners, managers, and employees.

Phase-III: PSUs Phase (1960-1980)

In the third phase, the emergence of Public Sector Undertakings (hereinafter PSUs) had an impact on CSR. But PSUs were not successful in equitable distribution of resources to the needy, thus there was a shift of expectation from the public sector to the private sector. In this phase, CSR under the “mixed economy” setup, a corporation is responsible for owners, managers and other target environments.

Phase-IV: Social Responsibility Phase (1980-Till Today)

In the fourth phase, CSR emerged as a sustainable business strategy. With globalization, liberalization, and privatization, the licensing systems were relaxed and there was a boom in India’s economic growth. This growth led to the understanding of CSR as a social responsibility rather than a charity. CSR is in a globalized economy, a corporation is responsible to owners, managers, target environments and the public at large.[21]

CSR in Different Countries

This part of the paper deals with the development of CSR policies in developed as well as developing nations & what all steps have been adopted by these countries.

CSR Policies in Developed Nations

Germany

In Germany, the CSR policies focus on the key challenges of 21st century such as climate change, human rights, and fight against poverty. It believes that these problems can only be tackled when all the parts of society will take an active part.[22] The German policies try to be in consonance with international standards which is related to environmental and human rights challenges.[23]

The German government believes that the role of consumers is the most important amongst all factors. The consumers are believed to be the main pilot to make companies and firms to adopt sustainable practice and training.[24] The education sector in Germany is also ensuring that the new generations are aware of new business models and upcoming global problems.[25]

USA

The concept of CSR emerged in western countries in the mid-1800s, mainly in the USA. With the industrial revolution taking its form, labour movement and the spreading of slums were emerging. Businesses started to provide social welfare such as the construction of hospitals, bathhouses, etc. In 1929, the Great Depression, social responsibility took the form of “Public Trusteeship Management”. The CSR took a philanthropic approach in the post World War-II period. CSR as a concept emerged in the 1950s with the publication of Howard R. Bowen’s book “Social Responsibilities of the Businessman” in 1953.[26]

According to Bernard Dempsey, the responsibilities of businessmen arise from four concepts of Justice. Out of which one is called social or contributive justice and it can be understood as a business cannot operate on its own but it needs a community to thrive. Thus, a business has a control on substantial resources and has a great capacity to contribute to the welfare of society.[27] In the late 1960s, CSR slowly took the form of the three-dimensional model. This concept considers the corporate responsibilities, social issues of business and corporate actions.[28]

Australia

In Australia the employees of the company are considered as the stakeholders and they are capable enough to give meaning and values based on their own ideologies, personal interests, and experiences.[29] It can be found that the stakeholders broaden the scope of CSR to achieve maximum result in relation to social interest.[30] In 2016, 30 Australian CEOs signed the statement of support to UN sustainable development goals.[31] In Australia, CSR is not only the domain of large scale industries, but even small size industries also have the capability to work for the benefit of their local area community.[32]

Japan

In 2004, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry released a report on CSR dealing with six agendas[33]:

  1. CSR is fulfilled through interaction with stakeholders.
  2. CSR is not only remained in the outside communication of corporate, but also include the organizational system inside the corporate.
  3. Observance of the law is the foundation of all business activity. Including environmental protection, respect human right, social contribution, etc.
  4. CSR includes national and regional sense of value, culture, economy, and social matter.
    Since the content of CSR is extensive and closely related to business, the effort of voluntary and tact is very important.
  5. The most important effort to receive trust is to disclose the information including comment from stakeholders and explain the responsibility to stakeholders.[34]

From the above agendas, we can conclude that the Japanese CSR model works on the area of protection of the environment, corporate philanthropy, and responsibility towards all the customers and human rights.[35] 

China  

China is from those countries which have mandated CSR behavior just like India.[36] China is probably the first country that has used the term ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ in its domestic legislation.[37] In the year 2006, an amendment was made in Article 5 of Chinese Company Law which states that “In its operational activities, a company shall abide by laws and administrative regulations, observe social morals and commercial ethics, persist in honesty and good faith, accept supervision by the government and the public, and assume social responsibility.” The use of the word ‘shall’ denotes that there is a mandate on all the Chinese companies to abide by the CSR principles.[38]

Since the year 2006 there are 169 cases wherein Chinese Courts have interpreted Article 5.[39] However, judicial interpretation is very different. It believes that the interpretation is directly proportional to the political, economic and social situations in China.[40] In one of the cases, the court rejected a plea regarding the consideration of consumers as stakeholders of the company.[41]

Singapore

Singapore is also one of those countries which have a mandatory provision regarding CSR. There are several provisions under the Indonesian Limited Company Liability Act, 2007. These provisions are Article 1, Article 66 and Article 74.[42] The definition clause defines ‘Social and Environmental Responsibility’ as “the commitment from Company to participate in the sustainable economic development, in order to increase the quality of life and environment, which will be valuable for the Company itself, the local community, and the society in general.[43]

There is a provision under this Act which talks about annual reports and states that an annual report must contain information about the implementation of Social and Environmental Responsibility.[44] Chapter V of the Act deals specifically with the provisions of CSR. Clause (2) of Article 74 states that “Social and Environmental Responsibility as referred to in paragraph (1) shall constitute the obligation of the Company which is budgeted and calculated as the cost of the Company, implementation of which shall be performed with due observance to the appropriateness and fairness.”[45] Through these articles we can trace the mandatory provision for CSR in Indonesia.

CSR Policies in Developing Nations

Thailand

In Thailand, the CSR policies and factors depend on three major factors i.e. social, political and economic factors.[46] The social factors is driven by Buddhist beliefs and practices in the country.[47] Ethical behavior in business, economics, and society more generally is the responsibility of individuals rather than of organizations taken in the abstract.[48] The political factor is driven by the involvement of different NGOs and changes in the political regime.[49] During the period from 1980 to 1990, the economy of Thailand was prospered but the government failed in maintaining good standards of living for its population.[50] There is no mandatory provision for CSR in Thailand, it totally depends on the strategies of the Companies.

South Africa

In South Africa, The CSR policies are regulated by the King Report on Governance for South Africa 2009, popularly known as ‘the King’s Report’[51] In the African context CSR is based on a principle known as ‘uMuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’ which means ‘I am because you are; you are because we are’.[52] Thus, CSR in South Africa is regulated with the accountabilities of stakeholders of companies and consumers.

There is no direct provision to deal with CSR in South Africa. In a case, it was held that “As long as no legal requirement is set to integrate CSR issues into business decision-making and governance structures both internally and externally, businesses will not be legally obliged to act in a socially responsible manner.[53]

Sri Lanka

The approach towards CRS in Sri Lanka has always been philanthropic.[54] The main forms of CSR activity observed in Sri Lanka can be categorized as follows:

  1. Philanthropic and charitable activities.
  2. Environmental conservation.
  3. Public awareness.
  4. Corporate sponsorships.[55]

In addition to this, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has figured out several problems which needs to be taken care of. There is no provision in the Sri Lankan legislative system to regulate CSR. It totally depends on voluntary participation by the companies. The disclosure annual report requirement doesn’t have an obligatory nature.[56]

Contemporary Situation: A Win-Win Strategy

In 1994, the phrase “triple bottom line” was coined by John Elkington. The theory underlying TBL is that the genuine cost of doing business is reflected in three proportions of responsibility: the responsibility to shareholders, to people, and to the planet.[57] This model was followed until the 2000s. But later, nowadays, CSR is an expectation from society and a wish from society. A corporate follows a strategic based approach. There are certain push and pull factors that influence the successful implementation of CSR and make companies go beyond their compliance. The push factors are pressures or threats, the need to change the legislations of the company. For instance, with the given globalization era the lack of trust in companies demand transparency competitive push. The pull factors mostly are opportunities, like better company reputation, competitive advantage. As the business environment is dynamic, the pull factors can sometimes become push factors.[58]

Knowledge and innovation are essential to improve competitiveness. These can be purchased on the global market independent from the country. However, there is a magnitude of knowledge and structure of relations that is an attribute of the region. The resources that are necessary for innovation and competitiveness are available for the companies that are deep-rooted with the local community which is where CSR plays a major role.

Modern CSR is strategy-based that addresses negative value-chain impacts with respect to supporting their needs of society and business.[59] The concept of strategic CSR provides an understanding of the broader context of philanthropic contributions and profits. The essential test that should guide CSR is whether it provides a shared value – which means a benefit for a society which also, in turn, is valuable for the business. [60] Strategic CSR is, therefore, the process in which business focuses on value creation. Value creation can be defined as “identifiable, measurable economic benefits that the firm expects to receive”.[61] Thus, corporations started viewing CSR as a core business activity rather than a philanthropic activity. Thus, the current CSR model assures the equitableness and equal rights in the interrelations of the state-business-society triangle.

Conclusion

The development of Corporate Social Responsibility in India has changed from time to time depending upon the need of society and time. Initially it was more philanthropic and gradually all the policies became strategic centric to get an efficient result and maximum benefits to all the important factors such as stakeholders and consumers. Presently, the policies in India are more focused towards UN Sustainable Development Goals, Human Rights Compliance, Harmony between International Policies and National Legislations. Indian Company Act, 2013 has a specific and mandatory provision regarding CSR enshrined under Section 135 and there is a supplementary Schedule-VII that provides a different range of activities for CSR to all the companies. Apart from India, there are several other countries as well which have mandatory provision for submission of the annual report to show how the companies are contributing. There is a commonality between most of the countries, most of them are focused on environmental and human rights issues. It is to be understood that the development of the economy of a country depends on all the factors which are part of it and the most important factor is stakeholders. Stakeholders are not only the investors, but even all the consumers should also be considered in that peril. In some of the countries, consumers are not considered as stakeholders. Yet there is a need for development with regard to the interpretation of the provisions and judicial decisions in all those countries. As far as a practical application of these policies is concerned, still, every country should endeavor to implement the policies inconsonance with international standards so as to get the most efficient results.     

Bibliography

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  34. Li-Wen Lin, Mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility? Legislative Innovation and Judicial Application in China, Commercial Law, Corporate Governance, May 27, 2019, https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/business-law-blog/blog/2019/05/mandatory-corporate-social-responsibility-legislative-innovation-and

[1] Corporate Social Responsibility: An Introduction, page 4 https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/173786/7/07_chapter%201.pdf.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Bistra Vassileva, Corporate Social Responsibility-Corporate Branding Relationship: An Empirical Comparative Study, University of Economics-Varna, http://mnmk.ro/en/documents/2009/2_Vasileva_Varna_FFF.pdf.

[4] Rusen Kumar, Corporate Social Responsibility in India, India CSR, 10 Oct. 2019, https://indiacsr.in/corporate-social-responsibility-csr-in-india/.

[5] Ameeta Jain, Sandeep Gopalan, In India, A Legislative Reform is needed to push Corporate Social Responsibility, The Conversation, June 30, 2017, http://theconversation.com/in-india-a-legislative-reform-is-needed-to-push-corporate-social-responsibility-80169.

[6] United Nations Industrial Development Organization, https://www.unido.org/our-focus/advancing-economic-competitiveness/competitive-trade-capacities-and-corporate-responsibility/corporate-social-responsibility-market-integration/what-csr.

[7] European Commission, Green Paper, Promoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility, COM (2001) 366, para 20.

[8] Richard Holme, Phil Watts, Corporate Social Responsibility: Making Good Business Sense, World Business Council for Sustainable Development 10.

[9] Ibid.

[10]  Supra note 6.

[11] Companies Act, 2013, Section 135.

[12] Ibid at Schedule-VII.

[13] United Nations Industrial Development Organization, https://www.unido.org/who-we-are-unido-worldwide-asia-and-pacific-offices/india.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Sawati Nagwan, Evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility in India, 3(3), July 2014. https://www.ijltemas.in/DigitalLibrary/Vol.3Issue7/164-167.pdf.

[18] Nandini Deo, A brief history of Indian CSR, July 30, 2015, https://www.gatewayhouse.in/a-brief-history-of-indian-csr/.

[19] Jana Foundation, Evolution of CRS in India, https://www.janafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/evolution_of_csr_in_india.pdf.

[20]  Supra note 17.

[21] Supra note 19.

[22] Federal Ministry of Social and Labour Affairs, CSR Policies in Germany, https://www.csr-in-deutschland.de/EN/Policies/CSR-national/CSR-Policies-in-Germany/csr-policies-in-germany.html.

[23] Ibid.

[24] UN Sustainable Goals, Country Focus: CSR in Germany, https://www.sofidel.com/en/soft-and-green/country-focus-csr-in-germany.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Acquier, Aurelien & Gond, Jean-Pascal et. al., Rediscovering Howard R. Bowen’s Legacy: The Unachieved Agenda and Continuing Relevance of Social Responsibilities of the Businessman. Business & Society – BUS SOC, 50, 607-646 (2011).

[27] Neelam Jhawar, Shasta Gupta, Understanding CSR: Its History and Recent Developments, IOSR Journal of Business and Management, 19(5), http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jbm/papers/Vol19-issue5/Version-6/P190506105109.pdf.

[28] Ibid.

[29] A.E. Fordham & G.M. Robinson, Mapping meanings of corporate social responsibility-an Australian case study, Int. J. Cor. Soc. Resp., 3, 14 (2018).

[30] Ibid.

[31] Jack Richardson-Cooke, Corporate Social Responsibility: Benefits for Business and Community, Future Directions International, Nov. 12, 2019, page 3, https://doi.org/10.1186/s40991-018-0036-1.

[32] Ibid at page 5.

[33] Shing Kit Wong, Japanese thought on Corporate Social Responsibility, Law at the end of the day, Sept. 14, 2010, http://lcbackerblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/japanese-approaches-to-corporate-social.html.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Li-Wen Lin, Mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility? Legislative Innovation and Judicial Application in China, American Journal of Comparative Law, page 3 (2018).

[37] Ibid at 4 (2018).

[38] The Companies Law of the People’s Republic of China, Jan. 1, 2006, art. 5.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Li-Wen Lin, Mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility? Legislative Innovation and Judicial Application in China, Commercial Law, Corporate Governance, May 27, 2019, https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/business-law-blog/blog/2019/05/mandatory-corporate-social-responsibility-legislative-innovation-and

[41] Han Renfa Yu Changzhou Xinhongrui Zhiye Youxian Gongsi Minjian Jiedai Jiufen An (Han Fenfa v. Changzhou Xinhongrui Properties Co., Ltd., A Loan Dispute) (Jiangsu Changzhou City Intermediate People’s Court, May 17, 2017); Also see: Li-Wen Lin, Mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility? Legislative Innovation and Judicial Application in China, American Journal of Comparative Law 29, page 4 (2018).

[42] Limited Company Liability Act, 2007 (Indonesia).

[43] Ibid at art. 1(3).

[44] Ibid at art. 66(2)(c).

[45] Ibid at art. 74(2).

[46] Pareena Prayukvong & Matt Olsen, Research Paper on Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility in Thailand and the Role of Volunteerism, Jan. 2009, page 15.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid at 17.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Neil Kirby, What’s really right? Corporate Social Responsibility as a legal obligation in South Africa, 6 Feb. 2014, https://www.werksmans.com/legal-updates-and-opinions/whats-really-right-corporate-social-responsibility-as-a-legal-obligation-in-south-africa/.

[52] Jonathan Johannes, Corporate Social Responsibility In South Africa: How Corporate Partnerships Can Advance The Sustainability Agenda, page 5.

[53] Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry v Stilfontein Gold Mining Company 2006 (5) SA 333 (W).

[54] K. K. Tilakasiri, Corporate Social Responsibility and Social, Economic and Environmental Development in Sri Lanka, University of Kelaniya, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, page 23.

[55] A. M. Sheham, Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility in Sri Lanka, South Eastern University of Sri Lanka, page 7.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Triple Bottom Line, The Economist,  Nov. 17, 2009, http://www.economist.com/node/14301663.

[58] Janos Szlavik & Noemi Csigene Nagypal et. al., Sustainability, and Business Behaviour: The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility, 13(2) Periodica Polytechnica Ser Soc. Man. Sci, 93-105 (2005).

[59] Ankush Mahajan, Traditional to Modern CSR has gone a Paradigm Shift, Entrepreneur India, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/342306.

[60] Samina Afrin, Traditional v. Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: In pursuit of supporting Sustainable Development, 4(20) Jour. of Eco. & Sust. Dev (2013).

[61] Bryan W Husted, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility and Value Creation. 49 Man. Int’l Rev. 781-799 (2011).

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