The Business Of Giving-1

Are projects carried out as part of corporate social responsibility a boon or bane for society,wonder many among us.

When a business house sets out to do good work for the community, most of us have an innate sense that it is probably doing something to improve its bottom line and no more. And that’s probably true in some cases. As is their corporate dharma, corporate social responsibility-related work is often viewed by business houses as an opportunity to boost their market image. Good publicity is good for business. And every bit counts. For instance, on a smaller scale, even initiatives like maintaining a public park or paying for housing colony security gates can go a long way. Hoardings publicise the work — that a certain company is maintaining the park or that it has set up a security gate. When it comes to much larger investments, there is even more scepticism among cynics about the reason for the largesse.

Many large houses have set up schools and hospitals like the Birlas, Tatas, and Ambanis. In most cases, the schools cater to affluent sections of society and there is little scope for the less-privileged. The same goes for hospitals that are run on a revenue model rather than as subsidised charity institutions directed at uplift. HCL’s Shiv Nadar Foundation and the ITC e-chaupal project are perhaps among the few that have sought to set up centres of educational excellence in rural areas for the marginalised.

Good Karma Or Branding?

Economist Surajit Mazumdar argues that ultimately, private companies are profit-oriented and their activities are all subservient to this final objective. Their CSR activities may be positive initiatives but aim at building up the image of the corporation as well as ensuring that it retains a dominant status in society. At the same time, Mazumdar is not opposed to CSR activities if they help alleviate poverty and improve quality of life. He is critical, however, of the concept of compulsory CSR as this would imply the state is trying to abdicate its responsibility to meet the economic and social requirements of the community. 

In some cases, Mazumdar concedes that much good is being done for less-privileged and disadvantaged people. Azim Premji’s Wipro Foundation, for instance, has decided to invest in improving the quality of government schools in Karnataka. But he notes these are isolated initiatives and such a welcome visionary approach is not taken in toto by industrialists across the board.

Om Namah Shivay

***Write ” Om Namah Shivay ” if you ask for God’s blessing on your life today. Please Like, Tag and Share to bless others!


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