Civil societies to play crucial role in CSR agenda

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MUMBAI: Business associations and civil societies have a crucial role to play in the government’s corporate social responsibility agenda, according to industry leaders and government officials.

“They (business associations and chambers of commerce) could act as hubs to further facilitate a process of constructive engagement and collective action with their respective organisations,” Bhaskar Chatterjee, DG & CEO,IICA said at a seminar orgainsed by Federation of IndianChamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in Mumbai on Wednesday.

“Success or failure of CSR programme in India rests more with civil societies than with companies. NGOs have to demonstrate their capability to implement,” said Chatterjee.

The seminar on “Corporate Social Responsibility – Companies Bill 2012 & Impact of Section 135”, organised in partnership with IICA and with the support of Next Gen, British High Commission and HPCL, dwelled on what activities qualify as CSR and what does not, the critical role of industry associations and chambers of commerce, the role of civil society and NGOs in reaching the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ through CSR, among other issues. The seminar also had a panel discussion on integrating social delivery into business.

The new Companies Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha in December, made it mandatory for firms to report on how much they spend on CSR every year. If companies spend less than 2% of their average net profit over the last three years, they are required to explain the reasons. India is the first nation in the world to frame such legislation.

Speaking on the occasion Rashesh Shah, chairman, FICCI, Maharashtra State Council, said: “We must look at CSR as not a binding legal requirement but a commitment to imbibe it in our corporate culture, which contributes substantially towards betterment of society holistically.”

According to Abhishek Humbad, co-founder of sustainability management firm NextGen, one of the partners in the seminar: “In order to realise the full potential of Clause-135, the companies need to innovate and evolve new areas intervention like social entrepreneurship, startup incubation, social business models etc. and develop new methods of delivery. Greater collaboration and greater use of technology will play a critical role in the success of Clause-135.”

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