Sarah Ford | January 5, 2015

Making CSR Investments Genuinely Impactful: Lessons From India

By Kanika Datta 

Now that corporate social responsibility (CSR) has acquired a statutory mandate, an activity that was hitherto informal and voluntary has become a formal imperative for some companies. The fact that CSR now has legal sanction suggests that many more companies, including those that do not fall within the ambit of the new law, will feel obliged to start programmes of their own. Corporate philanthropy is hardly new to the Indian scene but the expansion of business activity over the past two decades has seen CSR as a concept gaining traction and becoming a more structured activity. But what are the challenges involved in setting up credible CSR programmes that go beyond the letter of the law? What should companies do to make their investments genuinely impactful, as the law intended to achieve? What are the typical mis-steps they make? Here are some thumb rules culled from practitioners and experts in India.

Cheques and balances

It starts with the basic approach to CSR and that is linked to decisions on how to spend the money. “It is important that the corporation should not be a cheque-writing institution that donates to, say, 10 different programmes – it is better to channel resources to ensure a huge positive impact,” says Rakesh Mittal, co-chairman of Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the telecom giant.

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