From the desk of Editor- in -Chief

In pursuit of the true ethos for social cause

For most of the people, non-governmental organizations or the NGOs mean a group of people dedicated to the cause of social service. Mere mention of the term NGO evokes a sense of respect for their devotion.
However, there is a flip side to it as well. Disheartening, but it is a reality that there are a lot of NGOs who have gone way too far from the true ethos. A lot of challenges are engulfing many NGOs, if not all. Be it opaqueness in daily functioning, prime focus being fund raising or absence of proper audits can be listed to mention few of them to say the least. There are exceptions, but their presence is miniscule.
There are incidents where transparency is found missing to clearly state how the resources are being spent or how vital decisions are taken. NGOs are at times found to be running as a one-man show or companies. It brings NGOs in bad light when they are found existing solely to raise funds after the mandatory initial years.
In the wake of the CSR law, there are companies or public sector undertakings (PSUs) who wish to lend a helping hand for a good cause. For this, they need NGOs. Unfortunately, a lot of them get duped at the hands of unverified groups thus leave the cause on a bitter note.
It is a huge challenge to identify NGOs dedicated to the spirit of service. However, there are exceptions rendering exemplary service to the social cause, though with a miniscule presence.The Bridge India India seeks to highlight people and projects for those, for whom they matter, helping the society and specially taking the help to those on the last-mile. The sixth edition of the e- magazine is another endeavor furthering our motto of facilitating social partners.

Rethinking CSR: It’s time to impact real change

Widely perceived to be key features of India’s new narrative of growth and development, the NGOs and Corporate have the potential to influence people at large in a big way. But for a few, it seems giving back to society is steadily turning a path to play smart and serve profitable means than ‘a noble cause,’ writes Choudhary Sandeep for The Bridge India India. As millions of people in rural India or living on the last-mile in the country are yet to cherish the real joy of development, there is a vital role that a prospering industry can perform through non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
To play a key role as enablers or facilitators for people of different sections of society, who need a helping hand to survive or improve life, the industry has been mandated to support them under Companies Social Responsibility (CSR) provision.

A Reality Check

At times it seems not everyone is playing a fair game. Sometimes some companies along with NGOs or Trust are going a bit too far to actually tinker with this CSR provision to their favourable condition.

The Dark Side

Away from the public perception of many, there are some companies who are at times reportedly found indulging in malpractices; using on-hire charitable trusts to fabricate CSR spending.
Even as India holds the distinction of being the prime mover when it comes to statutorily mandating the CSR for a section of companies, the law of the land too looks riddled with various loopholes allowing a lot of elbow room for exploiting this social responsibility of the corporate.
It is so because unlike other expenditure, CSR spends disclosed by companies need not be vetted by statutory auditors. Besides, financials of charitable trusts also invite hardly much of statutory scrutiny. These two things have left the new CSR norms wide open for abuse.

Modus Operandi and Lacunae

A company is obligated to spend, i.e. Rs 14 crore on CSR, it issues a cheque favouring a trust operating in health, education or climate related issues or any activity specified by the government. Such a trust after deducting its commission, returns the rest in cash to the officials or promoters. It instantly turns the principal amount of Rs 14 crore of white money into black, the leading daily quoted a person familiar with the modus operandi as saying.
By the year-end, the trust gives a report to the company which it duly incorporates in its CSR reporting form called AOC-4. “Though the financials are part of the directors’ report, audited by external auditors, the AOC-4 itself is not subject to external audit. It is a lacuna,” a media report quoted Bhaskar Chatterjee, director general and CEO, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) to have said it once.

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It must be remembered that public trusts are reportedly a favoured route to launder money. It is so since they are not adequately governed or monitored. Trusts are not governed by a nationwide law, though some of the States like Maharashtra have their own law such as the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950. If a State law doesn’t exist like in Delhi, these trusts are governed by the Indian Trusts Act of 1882 that applies to private trusts. There is no centralised repository— like the registrar of companies for corporate—of information on public trusts.

Foreign NGOs and India’s Strict Rules

India has one of the largest NGO networks in the world. And, there is a well-established legal framework for NGOs to operate in the country, according to Government of India. Thus, when a donor organisation is put under ‘prior permission category’, it cannot fund any Indian NGO without the government’s approval.In one such instance of last December, when a US-based donor organisation (name withheld) was feeling compelled to shut down its local operation in India, the US Government intervened and demanded a “transparent process for foreign NGOs”. While admitting countries and governments certainly have “their own reasons for the laws they pass”, a US State Department official, said: “NGOs do valuable work overseas …” and “we believe it should be transparent and clear why they are shutting down these organizations”. Expressing concern over the Christian charity closing down its operations and the challenges faced by the foreign NGOs to continue operations in India, the official said US would take up the matter with the Indian government Meanwhile, New Delhi, categorically said a foreign NGO in any country worldwide is bound by local laws. “There is a well-established legal framework for NGOs to conduct their operations in India. India has one of the largest NGO networks in the world,” a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson stated. The Ministry of Home Affairs said it was unlikely to reconsider its decision banning the US-based donor from funding Indian NGOs despite consistent appeals by the US authorities. The Christian charity was put under the ‘prior permission category’ previously.

The Ray of Hope

Although some companies are contributing in their distinct manner to the foundation of CSR in India and addressing national concerns, the efforts remain to be well-coordinated. A national- level policy framework with the involvement of all stakeholders can perhaps lead to the efforts of companies, individuals, organisations, and the government to synergise on the expected lines.
In brief, considering the kind of endeavour the Government of India is making to develop a new India, a much more constructive role is expected of companies and the NGOs. They are supposed to be ‘Good News’ factor in India’s growth story. They are looked upon for innovative models of delivering a better and easy experience of life in any field of their choosing i.e. health, education or skill development, etc. Let’s not deviate from the noble spirit. Let’s build India.

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Time for Strategic CSR in India

The present CSR scenario is indicative of the fact that the implementing organizations looking towards fresh CSR funding need to ensure that the overall outcome of CSR programme is rewarding, scalable and impactful, emphasizes Vijay Kumar Singh, CSR Head PI Industries. Having worked in different capacities in the voluntary, humanitarian as well as the private sector for almost 19 years, Singh has been a part of various important campaigns leading to the change in the national policy for addressing the cross-cutting issues of poverty alleviation, environment, human rights, education and health. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility has evolved over the years. It is today considered a vital part of the strategic business of large corporations. In the pre-industrialized period, philanthropy, religion and charity were the key drivers of CSR. The industrial families of the 19th century had strong inclination towards charity and other social considerations. However, the donations, either monetary or otherwise, were sporadic activities of charity or philanthropy that were taken out of personal savings, which neither belonged to the shareholders nor did it constitute an integral part of business.
Most industries in India today have already realized the necessity of incorporating CSR into their business strategies. With the new Companies Act making CSR reporting mandatory, a legal acceptance to this vital concept has helped further and driven organizations to undertake CSR proactively.

Fresh CSR funding

Call it Smart CSR / Strategic CSR. We are at a stage where most of the eligible companies have dedicated their CSR funding towards socially beneficial programmes. The 2% earmarked for CSR is already committed for long-term projects in a manner where impact will be felt over next 3-5 years timeline. Day by day scope for taking new CSR projects is diminishing under the current portfolio. No matter how good the prospective CSR projects are; the companies are least likely to drop the ongoing CSR projects.
In such a scenario what an implementing organizations should do to tab the CSR funding? Few tips to make projects bankable under CSR:-
1. Align your priorities with multiple CSR programmes that work towards common goal, so as to minimize the cost on a particular CSR funding.
2. Increase the reward for interested CSR Company by bringing other like-minded partners with portion of resources required for achieving the desired goal.
3. Co-create a platform for others to join the programme and maximize the impact.

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Cost Centre to strategic investment

Sooner or later implementing organizations looking towards fresh CSR funding will have to think on the above lines to make the overall outcome of a CSR Programme more rewarding, scalable and impactful. CSR professionals on the other hand will have to align themselves to their branding budgets, deal with sales and marketing departments and offer community beneficial services in-sync with sales and marketing goals. Essentially it should be anchored by business-CSR team. This will also bring the Board’s attention towards dedicating more than 2% of their profits towards CSR or synergize CSR funding with marketing, sales and branding budget. The perception about CSR as a cost Centre needs to change and it must be perceived by the Board as strategic investment.

Good Corporate citizens

In India where there exists a wide gap between have’s and have not’s and an ideal CSR has both ethical and philosophical dimensions. Let companies reap the benefits of being good corporate citizens in terms of increased revenues and top of the mind brand recall by being exemplary corporate citizens. It is common to find leaders from these companies on various popular media which speak a lot about the high esteem in which they are held. This translates into instant recognition and a “Halo” effect which for all practical purposes is like the exaltation that rock stars and sports personalities receive from the people. The point here is that strategic CSR immensely help companies in actualizing their visions for growth and society alike.

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Way to go for effective implementation of the CSR law

By The Bridge India India Correspondent

The Government of India’s initiative to provide a mandate to corporates for spending at least 2 % percent of profit for CSR under section 135 of the Companies Act 2013 set the wheels in motion for more socially responsible behavior and increased contribution. Post the enactment of the law in 2014, it was estimated that approximately INR 15-20,000 crore will be invested by around 15,000 companies. Although the cumulative spend has gone up in the last four years, CSR performance has been dismal in many areas in terms of output and impact indicators of community and social development.
The Act in its present legal framework has not been very effective in terms of ensuring companies to proactively integrate CSR into their business plan, nor has it been effective in making companies take it seriously and comply with the same. In the light of these facts, CSR Inc has been closely observing CSR practices, trends and developments across the nation in general and through detailed studies.

What deters the effective implementation of CSR law

CSR Inc in its ongoing study on Corporate Social responsibility in India finds the Act itself as one of the leading reasons for the poor state of affairs in CSR implementation. An analysis of the findings of the study suggests that the Act and its CSR Rules have many flaws calling for a review, analysis, and modifications. There are many provisions, clauses or sub-clauses which are found contentious, incomplete and deterrent for effective implementation of the law. With more than five years since the inception of Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, there is no evidence of the real impact of CSR interventions at ground level. On the basis of its study & critical examination of the Act and its Rules, CSR Inc has come out with observations and recommendations with respect to provisions for MCA; accordingly plans to propose to MCA for making necessary modifications, changes and amendments for securing quality CSR interventions that go beyond mere compliance.
Apart from the ongoing study and analysis under its reform initiative, CSR Satyagraha, CSR Inc is holding ‘Regional Panchayats: Stakeholder Consultation Roundtables’ for taking selective review of the Act & rules through a nationwide dialogue with wider groups of stakeholders. It is essentially done with a view to submitting a comprehensive and consolidated report to the MCA for taking cognizance of the viewpoints and consensual recommendations of stakeholders from across the country.

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The first stakeholder consultation roundtable was held in Delhi on 6th July followed by Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, and Mumbai on 10th Aug, 21st Sept and 4th Oct 2018 respectively.

Glamorization in the name of CSR

CSR Satyagraha, an initiative of CSR Inc and brainchild of Sudhir Sinha is a peaceful war on increasing insincerity, commercialization and romanticization of CSR. “Satyagraha is essentially a reform agenda which seeks to constructively engage with its stakeholders for taking efforts and measures to clean up all wrong doings & malpractices in the aforementioned space with an aim to make CSR work for the poorest of the poor, based on the recent observations and trends in CSR practices over the years. Instead of sensitizing donor communities responsibly, agencies are glamorizing and marketing issues irresponsibly in the name of CSR. It is becoming a business for service providers and organizations which are into consultation, implementation, award-giving, reporting and ratings.” He further argues, while companies are tirelessly glorifying their CSR programs, it is not benefiting the ones who need it the most – the poor, the marginalized, the vulnerable, and the weaker sections ofsociety. Ethos and spirit behind CSR are dying. How can you glamorize poverty, hunger and deaths caused by poor health?” Sudhir K Sinha, Gandhian and CEO of CSR Inc, questions. He further adds, CSR needs to undergo reforms and move away from a transactional CSR (philanthropy driven) to a transformational (impact driven) approach.
Towards promoting the agenda of reforms, CSR Inc has initiated the process of stakeholder engagement, therefore involving governments, businesses, NGOs, consultants, CSR leaders/managers, media and other agencies (rating, awards & reporting). Since CSR in India is primarily driven by an Act today, CSR Inc first finds MCA a major stakeholder to engage with for making the ACT and the Rules work better.

Debate over the contentious issues of the CSR Law

All four roundtables discussed and debated CSR Inc’s pre-identified eight provisions in the CSR Act and Rules which were found to be erroneous. It called for an urgent attention of the Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) for making the Act robust and pro-people.
The regional Panchayats –Multi-Stakeholder Consultation Roundtables were successful from the perspective of meeting the objectives which were to allow a free and fair debate over the nine contentious issues of the CSR Law and then build consensus for making recommendations. CSR Inc has captured the consensual views that stakeholders gave. A consolidated report of all four roundtables will soon be out and be submitted to the MCA, and possibly to the newly constituted High-Level Committee whose mandate is to review the Act and its rules relating to CSR.

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UNSUNG HERO

Breaking the social stigma for trans women

By Lakshmi Singh

Thirty-two-year old Prerna was either laughed at by people or had to beg to make her ends meet. “I faced rejection all my life. Society always looked at us as laughing stock. Depressed and nowhere to go, beggary seemed to be the only solution to survival for us, ”shares Prerna, a transgender. Established as an artist hence leading a confident and happy life today, Prerna owes her success to Sahodari Foundation, found by transgender activist, Kalki Subramaniam.“Kalki used art to vent out our inner self, so that society could accept us the way we are,” says a jubilant Prerna.

Reclaiming identity in society

At the age of 13, Kalki used to draw, paint and write poetry to express her internal struggle. Kalki realized that art was a therapy that could heal, pacify and empower. It was in 2008 that she formally raised Sahodari Foundation in Tamil Nadu that has been working towards the welfare of underprivileged transgender women, providing counselling and support services for them. Kalki’s “Wall of Kindness” is an enterprise that uplifts transwomen by opening a new world of possibilities to them through art. The artists, who are involved in the beautification process, also get remittance for their participation as a source of income. By colouring the walls of rural and tribal institutions these brave individuals are reclaiming their identities and trying to create a compassionate society. Even the paintings reflect gender fluidity she identifies with. Titled ‘Love beyond Gender’, ‘The Rainbow Queen’ and ‘Free Spirit’ epitomized by a horse, to name a few, her works of art reveal Kalki’s preference for a unisex approach to life rather than conform to a conventional male-female outlook as prescribed by societal norms, “I am someone who loves to celebrate life and not just get tied down to a mere mundane existence on earth.”

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The agony

“The transgender community has been oppressed by different types of discrimination and cruelty. Shunned by family and society, they have restricted access to education, health services and public spaces. Till recently, they were excluded from effectively participating in social and cultural life. Politics and decision-making processes have been out of their reach. Thanks to the passing of the 377 Bill, otherwise the transgender people have difficulty in exercising their basic civil rights,’’ says Kalki.
Reports of harassment, violence, denial of services, and unfair treatment against transgender persons have come to light. “Majority of Indian transgender population surveys state that 4.88 lakh are not educated, mostly ostracized by the family, thrown out of homes and have lost the opportunity to study at school or college. This rejection makes us disqualified for well paid jobs and pushes us into the street for begging and sex work to make money to meet all the needs. While food and shelter become a priority, education fades away as a distant dream for us. Art is something not on our priority and need list at all, we see it only in films or occasionally in newspapers and ignore.

Art as therapy

A transgender woman who was one of the lucky few to be accepted and adored by the family, I had the privilege to get educated and travel the world, and as an artist, knew the importance of art in our lives; transgender’s lives. “Hence I created Sahodari Foundation for our community, taught them art which is a therapy in itself. We have been painting the walls of schools in rural areas. The kids enjoy our company. Interacting with the kids at this age is kind of sensitizing them. They understand that we are not abnormal. We are like anybody else who have creativity and talent,” claims Kalki.“I consider the Supreme Court’s verdict in our favour as a huge landmark and the first step to integrating the community into the mainstream society,” says Kalki, the vociferous campaigner for bestowing legal status to third sex in India.

Awards & felicitations

Kalki has earned her space by being the most celebrated transgender activist in the country. She was among the 12 women with inspiring social media presence honoured by Facebook Inc., and is a proud recipient of the Achievers Award from Coimbatore Lawyers Association and Transgender Welfare Association. She also holds a place for herself as one of the nominees in the L’Oreal Paris and NDTV’s -‘Women of worth’, a joint initiative by the brands to acknowledge the unsung heroes of our country. With a tag of being the first-ever transgender in India to play the lead in a motion picture, Kalki debuted as an actress in the 2015 release Narthaki.
Responding to her choice of name, she elaborates: “Kalki, the tenth and final reincarnation of the Hindu God, Vishnu is a destroyer of evil. I identify with that and the name is a tribute to my own bold and fearless nature.” Each day of Kalki’s life is hence a living tribute to herself to celebrate who she really is deep within.

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‘CSR should not merely be a percentage but seen as integral part of corporate function’

The Bridge India India Editor- in- Chief Seema Jairath interacts with Dr. UD Choubey, CMD SCOPE to learn about the approach of PSE’s towards social responsibility along with the best practices adopted by them for effective implementation of CSR. Excerpts from the interaction:

TBI:  How does the Public Sector view Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

Dr. Choubey: Set up with the twin objective of economic development with social justice, Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) consider social goal at par with commercial objectives and accordingly have assigned high priority to the ideals of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  PSEs have undertaken innumerable social welfare and community development initiatives which are spread across wide geographical areas.  Their CSR programmes and activities have been aligned to national priorities specially skill enhancement, infrastructure development, empowerment of the community, employment generation, meeting the basic needs of the society like literacy enhancement, providing drinking water, environment protection etc. During the year 2016-17, 129 PSEs have contributed Rs 3360.50 crore towards CSR activities out of the allocated amount of Rs 4933.10 crore. Their positive contribution to the economy has been appreciated at the highest level in the government. Hon’ble Prime Minister of India  recently said that in one way, the correct meaning of PSE is – Profit and Social Generating Enterprises which means that they earn profit not just for shareholders but generate benefits for the society.

TBI:  Recently, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation said that the mandate to spend two percent of their profit towards CSR activities provides an “excellent legal framework” to create a bridge between society and corporate. Do you agree with him?

Dr. Choubey: Yes. I totally agree with him. It strengthens the bond between industry and the society, helps in earning community goodwill and builds a positive and socially responsible image as corporate citizen. The mandatory provision to spend two percent of their profits towards CSR activities, has motivated companies to incur CSR spend.  According to a report, total CSR spent by top 500 companies in the country since the applicability of mandatory CSR in 2014 is likely to cross 500 billion by March 2019.

TBI:  There is a growing demand for corporate disclosure from stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, employees, communities, investors and activist organizations. What prompted this move?

Dr. Choubey: IT revolutions, emergence of new technologies and growing media coverage have expedited the access to information. This combined with globalization and liberalization have merged us with the world economic order. Greater evolution has resulted in growth and size of companies, both horizontally and vertically, but at the same time has resulted in complexity of transactions thereby necessitating transparency and openness. Today, all stakeholders including, customers, vendors, employees, prefer to deal with the companies which meet the test of sustainability, transparency and accountability.

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Q 4:   SCOPE is initiating a study on Women in Leadership and Management in the Public Sector in India.  Please elaborate on this?

Dr. Choubey: SCOPE has conducted this study in collaboration with International Labour Organization (ILO).  The study is  the first time ever conducted in PSEs with a multi level approach which comprises online Survey of E4-E9 level women employees, Focused Group Discussions and Key Informant Interviews with decision makers chiefly CMDs, Head of HR, besides Women Directors in PSEs.

The study has come out with notable recommendations.  It has emphasized  that organizations need to make conscious efforts to draw more women into the organizations, identify the talent pool and groom them in their career advancement so that there are adequate number of women for Board Level, High Level positions in PSEs.

TBI:  What are the best practices adopted by PSEs for effective implementation of CSR?

Dr. Choubey: PSEs have attained sufficient maturity and have structured mechanism and well laid out policies in place which inter alia include Board approved policy on CSR, budget allocation in the beginning of the year based on their past performance and requirements of the current year, base-line survey/need assessment survey in consultation with stakeholders, innovative practices and effective steps towards generating awareness among employees.  CSR activities have been carried out in project mode with defined deliverable and timelines. Effectiveness of implementation is measured through robust monitoring mechanism which helped in continuously improving the CSR activities and aligning it with national goals.

TBI:  What are the steps taken by SCOPE to promote best practices of CSR?

Dr. Choubey: SCOPE has been conducting programmes on regular basis to help PSEs in discharging their CSR activities effectively. To encourage and recognize the good work done by PSEs, SCOPE has also instituted SCOPE Meritorious Awards on Corporate Social Responsibility and Responsiveness.  SCOPE’s monthly journal KALEIDOSCOPE regularly publishes and highlights the contributions made by PSEs in these vital areas.  With the fast emergence of digital technology, SCOPE has launched SCOPE Youtube Channel which will provide a platform for PSEs to showcase their achievements, contribution to national cause, CSR activities, etc.

TBI:  What are your suggestions to address the challenges faced by corporates in meeting the development needs of the country?

Dr. Choubey: All corporates should develop CSR strategies with genuine concern for social values, ethics to supplement the efforts of the Government.  CSR should be seen as integral part of corporate function and not merely a percentage that is given away to ensure that the fruits of growth reaches the end beneficiary. To measure a company’s actual social performance against the social objectives, emphasis should be given for social audit.  Moreover, social audit of CSR would introduce checks and balances and help in achieving a balance between the need of the community and the business conduct.

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Development Happenings

By The Bridge India India Correspondent

Run for children 2018

Prayas, the Juvenile aid Centre is celebrating 30th Anniversary by organizing 8th Annual Run for children. On November 14, people from all walks of life i.e. schools, corporations, celebrities, media, NGO’s will get together to run a distance of 4.5 Km with underprivileged children of Delhi. The Run would begin at 7:30 AM at Central Secretariat Ground next to Nehru Park. Along with the Run children have been invited to participate in cultural performances with their peers to showcase their talents and potential. The event is organized to promote children and provide them with a platform to showcase their talent. Prayas has been organizing the Annual Run successfully since 2011.

Round Table Conference on The Scourge of Sexual Harassment

International Consulting Professionals’ Institute (ICPI) and Delhi Management Association (DMA) organized a round table conference on Sexual Harassment at Workplace at India Habitat Centre on October 26, 2018. The objective of the Round Table was to discuss how to curb the prevalence of sexual harassment at the workplace and to find realistic steps and share best practices adopted in various organizations. The conference was attended by professionals from all sectors, viz., Management Consultants, Corporate Managers, Lawyers, HR professionals, Social Workers, Students, etc. All the participantsactively debated on the various prevailing laws soas to ensure that the awareness about the same reaches everyone.
The important points discussed were:
No person can be condemnedunheard; No one can be the judge in her / his own cause and every person should be given justice. We need to follow the Principles of Natural Justice.
Importantly, the work culture at everyworkplace should be respectful and the work ethos actually starts from the top management. It is important that they should be sensitized including the board members.

Training programme on Result Based Management

A three-day training programme on the topic ’Result Based Management’ is being organized for senior and middle level professionals from corporate, Public Sector Enterprises, Institutional Agencies, National and International Funding , Foundations and Trusts, Voluntary Organisations , NGOs including representatives from the Ministries namely MWCD , MHW & MSD by The Bridge India India from November 26-28 at GMR Varalakshmi Foundation.
Results Based Management is about effective Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) in organizations. The programme is being organized for senior, middle level functionaries and persons who are responsible for project planning, monitoring or personnel coordinating or using PME in their respective jobs. The training will be conducted and facilitated by Munish Kaushik who is a trainer, facilitator and evaluator of development projects and programmes and NGOs. He brings over 18 years of experience along with him.

Please do comment on this issue