Suresh Prabhu urges corporate sector to use CSR to spur development


The Railways is very keen on seeking Industry participation in the areas of Water Management & Renewable Energy, said Mr. Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways. He was speaking at the inaugural session of the National Summit on CSR – Towards Effective CSR: Innovations – Approach and Application, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi today. He pointed out that there are 8,000 stations with over 7 billion footfalls, which can be translated into a big opportunity for corporates.

Describing the CSR legislation as an enabler, he encouraged companies to engage in partnerships with government agencies, especially local government agencies, to help foster progress for India. He also mentioned that for the first time, an environment directorate was formed in the ministry. He further said that the event is “extremely important, very timely, and socially relevant” and called upon the corporate sector to utilize their profit advantages towards transforming social development issues. He felt that the industry can bring innovative solutions which can be taken to scale by the government.

The CII National Summit on CSR 2016 began on the occasion of the ‘World Indigenous Peoples Day’ with a performance by “Banam” artists from a tribal community in Jharkhand. This musical instrument was on the verge of extinction until Tata Steel revived the art through their CSR intervention.

Shobana Kamineni, President Designate, CII and Executive Vice-Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited (AHEL) mentioned that Indian industry has always been proactive in engaging with local governments and communities to find innovative solutions in CSR.

Mukund Rajan, Co-Chair of the CII National Committee on CSR for 2016-17; Member – Group Executive Council and Brand Custodian and Chief Ethics Officer, Tata Sons Ltd., highlighted the significance of collaboration. He identified four specific areas of collaboration for the industry: pooling CSR funds to drive strong projects, collaborating with other companies to attack interdisciplinary problems, technology development, and advocacy.

Anshu Gupta, founder of Goonj (Ramon Magsaysay Award Winner, 2015) stressed the importance of prioritizing non-issues in the social sector, referring to his NGO’s experience of working towards providing clothing to India. While common issues like healthcare, education, and environment are important, he believes focus should also be given to less known issues that bring dignity in the lives of all, for example distribution of sanitary napkins and spectacles, which can reduce the burden of disease and accidents. Lastly, he highlighted the fact that in the process of social development, both corporates and civil society are equal stakeholders, and not “donor-beneficiaries”, and CSR is an avenue to build an atmosphere of collective responsibility.

Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative for India, described the importance of the corporates engaging with the government through Public Private Partnerships, which he believes has huge potential to transform CSR from a short-term endeavor to a long-term commitment to support development.

Pratima Kirloskar, Co-Chair CII National Committee on CSR 2016-17; President—Innovations (Society) Kirloskar Brothers Ltd., shared that if the industry cooperates as a large group, pooling resources, the impact will be greater.

Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII, felt response from industry has been very encouraging in spurring social development through CSR. CII set up the CII Foundation to further strengthen social development initiatives through corporate engagement.

Senior representatives like Director of BSE Institute, Praveen Chakravarty; President of ICSSI, Mamta Binani; Bhaskar Chatterjee, Director General IICA; and Shanker Venkateswaran, Chief of Tata Sustainability Group; discussed the need to interpret the law with a wide lens. It was felt unanimously that innovation is the bedrock and at the heart of the law and the best people to bring in to promote innovation, they say, are corporates.

Thought leaders and industry heads including Vaishali Sinha, Director of ReNew Power Ventures Pvt. Ltd., P Balaji, Director-Regulator, External Affairs and CSR, Vodafone India Ltd.; Rajender Singh, CEO, DLF Foundation; Amir Ullah Khan, Director Aequitas Research & Advisor, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Harish Krishnan, Executive Director, Public Affairs & Strategic Engagements, Cisco India and SAARC; and Induja Rai, Advisor, National Green Highways Mission, established that CSR is neither a cost nor an investment, but a moral obligation. In their view, companies need to stop viewing CSR as a brand building exercise.

The annual flagship event of CII, the National Summit on CSR, drew participation of industry representatives, CSR practitioners, development agencies, entrepreneurs and innovators. Senior representatives from companies like Vodafone, DLF, BSE Institute, Cisco India and SAARC, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were present.

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