Corporate giants and business entities are pitching social reforms to the countries at a time when finding a convenient and fulfilling lifestyle for the common man has become the primary objective. Corporate entities facilitating technological growth, employment, and economic improvement, have become forbearers of change in our society today. The social awareness urging to illustrate an elaborate plan focusing individual growth in our society has taken a more tangible form as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
As better men said, ‘It is through unison that we can perceive success through growth’, it is clear that a community or society (global or national or local) cannot grow if even one of its fractions fall behind. However, our global social structure is layered in a manner that keeps distinctive differences between economic classes. To re-structure the whole model is a job that will take a considerable amount of time and effort, and CSR ideology can be the stepping-stone. CSR rules that came into effect on 1st April 2014, explain a perfect path to bring symmetry to the society through contribution and active assistance. The rule dictates that companies with revenue of INR 1,000 crore, or net worth of INR 500 crore, or net profit of INR 5 crore, should contribute at least 2 percent of their average profit in last three year’s time frame on education, health-care, poverty alleviation and in other forms of social development. Obviously, CSR initiatives by corporate entities can translate into sound growth if engaged in earnestly.
The Initiative Needs a Face
With CSR spending on education and skill development showing a whopping INR 1,703.9 crore in FY 2015-16 (an 11% increase from FY 2014-15), it is affirmative that CSR is being considered seriously in India. And although the new Companies Act has made CSR spending mandatory for corporate entities that fall in the eligibility criteria, CSR in India is not just chequebook philanthropy. The corporate entities in India often surpass the agreed percentage of their contribution to reach out to the parts in our society, where help is very much needed. However, CSR cannot be represented as the bailout money for corporate entities that damage the environment (regularly) in their business operations. As CSR is all about active contribution for mutual growth of the community, environment damaging entities taking the lead brings out the connotation of a trade, which is the direct opposite of the core value of the idea.
It is fairly easy to understand that CSR objectives, which revolve around wellness, education, health, job creation, etc. are all extensions of a sustainable society. And since green energy generation is a key source for restoring sustainability in the environment and eco-system, the solar industry is the chosen shepherd to lead the initiative to success. The solar industry, being the torchbearer of the green energy transition in the country, can align environment restoration ideology with social re-structuring, helping boost the socio-economic quotient of the country.
The energy and power sector in India has already contributed more than INR 1,994 crore, (which is nearly 39% of the total expenditure) a major part of the expenditure under CSR. This indicates that our social awareness and strategies to improve the scenario are on the same page. However, more efforts are needed from the solar sector to bring about drastic social and economic changes through CSR.
Focus on Awareness: Focusing on education through CSR can strengthen our roots and allow the next generation to make the right decisions for national and global growth. Solar manufacturers leading education campaigns can make students aware about solar, which our country is aggressively pursuing. This will involve not just current but the next generation in the green energy pursuit, spelling success.
Focus on Wellness: Since Indian is still facing energy shortages in cities and grid unavailability in at least 5000 villages, solar manufacturers can provide energy solutions for communities, helping the common man to add convenience in their lives. Solar manufacturers leading the initiative can spread awareness regarding green energy, illuminating lives literally.
Focus on Skill Development: Besides children, CSR fund can be spent on skill development, instilling job-oriented knowledge in individuals, which will better the economic stature of farthest corners of the country. With increasing demand for solar, new green energy jobs are coming in the market, and skill development through CSR can offer individuals a better and full lifestyle.
Progress is real but needs a nudge from Solar
CSR initiatives have witnessed a warm welcome in India. And records show that CSR spending is increasing in India faster than in any other country (CSR spending had increased 27% in 2015, highest among 45 countries surveyed). These developments showcase a genuine push from the core of corporate business models to contribute in CSR, which also promises social reformation.
Statistics show that out of INR 6,490 crore fund of CSR in India, about INR 5,115 crore have been spent in 2015. The health sector received 20% of the amount, while the education sector accounted for 19% of the same. Among the states in India, corporate entities in Maharashtra are leading the initiative with 205 projects under CSR while states like Karnataka (152), West Bengal (123) and Tamil Nadu (122) are also increasing their efforts in contributing to social growth. Even companies that failed to reach the 2% target in FY 2014-15, have successfully crossed the agreed contribution percentage in FY 2015-16.
These are all encouraging developments and it was indeed a responsible and forward-looking decision of the Indian Government to implement CSR in the business sector. It is apparent that India needs large-scale social innovation/reformation to accept and utilise the new opportunities. And CSR initiatives can help the country grow internally. The government can also consider highlighting the biggest spender (green energy sector) in CSR in every three years, creating an inspiring environment within the corporate sector, increasing the CSR expenditure eventually. Bringing audit mechanisms that can help in creating a ranking system is another great idea to keep track of funds and expenditure.
And obviously, more contributions from the solar industry are needed to keep the initiative in a positive light and to raise awareness regarding the green energy shift that our country is aggressively pursuing.
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