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CSR Needs To Be A Long-Term Investment Rather Than Merely Following Obligations

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Sustainability is a business based on the philosophy of triple bottom line, encouraging companies to be more aware of their economic, social and environmental impact on the society.

The society piece is generally referred to as CSR in common language. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) assumes significance as it permits companies to engage in projects or programs related to social welfare and improvement enlisted under the terms of Companies Act, 2013. There is an element of flexibility in company activities by allowing them to select their preferred CSR engagements that are in agreement with the overall CSR policy of the company.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has defined guidelines for corporates. It says, “Every company having net worth of rupees five hundred crore or more, or turnover of rupees one thousand crore or more or a net profit of rupees five crore or more during any financial year shall constitute a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of the Board consisting of three or more directors, out of which at least one director shall be an independent director.” The eligible corporates are supposed to spend 2% of the average of three years’ PAT.

Having understood the concept, the very purpose of CSR is to drive change that is sustainable in nature. As a CSR professional, when I say this, I mean not to just cover up the 2% mandate that I have in hand for a specific financial year but I also mean having relevant projects and avenues in my hand so as to take them forward for years to come and have a larger impact. The long-term impact is where most corporates have come up short. A large proportion of corporates continue to do CSR to fulfill the 2% obligation.

The bigger question is that should CSR be seen as an obligation or a liability or should we look at it as our responsibility towards the society and the environment? Working in a corporate set up, one understands the importance of sustainability and CSR. The beautifully woven concept of sustainability is a win-win situation for all, if taken in its true spirit.

Some people are of the view that the government’s claim of the country growing at an average rate of 7.2% and being one of the most development-oriented economies in the world is not true. Also, they feel that spendings on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) during 2016-17 are a reflection of the fact that the corporate world is not doing well, quoting data from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs website.

To me, this may just convey half-truths. The claims do not stand true from where I see.

In a recent report published in the Economic Times, renowned consultancy KPMG suggests that compliance with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) regulations continues to be robust while expenditure on such activities too shows an increase.  The consultancy has been tracking CSR spending by top 100 listed corporates since 2014. It’s latest survey finds that a sizeable number of companies spend more than the prescribed 2% amount.

The data clearly shows that the spending across top 100 companies continues to increase. However, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs site lists data for 2014-15 and 2015-16 only. Secondly, in 2014-15 the data is for 7,334 companies however in 2015-16 the data is for 5097 companies which mean that 2237 companies did not file the data.  It’s a large number and can completely change the calculations. Therefore, to my mind, it would be incorrect to compare the data and arrive at an inference that the corporate world has not done well throughout the year.

As we all know, India was the 10th largest country by GDP in USD terms in 2014. Today, it is the 5th largest country by GDP in USD terms in 2018. This means we have moved 5 spots in 4 years which is the fastest ever in the history. Below is the table that shows fastest growing economies in the world and India has shown a consistent growth rate.

To further make the picture clearer for myself, I selected a handful of 42 companies out of the top 200 based upon their market capitalization listed at the BSE. These are a mix of both public sector (7) and private sector companies (35), under 12 respective sectors. Analysis of these companies has been done over the year on year revenues and PAT followed by their CSR spends, starting from 2014 until 2017. And we must keep one thing in mind that most of these companies would be contributing to the majority of the country’s CSR spends.

The research clearly shows the following:

  • Out of the 42 companies, 24 companies have an increased revenue as well as CSR spend. Similar to this, 22 companies have an increased PAT as well as CSR spend which is approximately more than 57 % of the total number. These numbers state that there is neither any sensitivity in the corporate world nor is it affecting the CSR expenses.
  • The survey shows a decline of CSR spends in 11 companies while the revenues have been on a high. The trend is almost the same (10) in terms of the PAT as well. This concludes to just 26% of the total companies. It is evident that the reason is not the business but something else.

But honestly, CSR and sustainability has to be viewed through a different lens. Corporates need to take it as their responsibility and an investment rather than a mere obligation to spend. If the attitude changes, it will benefit the entire country and the world.

The picture above also illustrates the fact that CSR spending in top 10 companies of the country is not dipping. We need to continue to be positive and believe in the cause of CSR and sustainability.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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