The future of corporate social responsibility (CSR) was the theme of the second annual India conference, held in Mumbai, India, on January 4 and attended by more than 100 guests.
Making the distinction between isolated philanthropic acts and sustainable CSR practices, the conference’s featured speakers emphasized the need for making CSR integral to long-term planning.
Professor Geoff Heal started the conference by suggesting that this kind of strategy would reward shareholders with reduced risk and ultimately greater stock value.
Following these remarks, Professor Bruce Greenwald delivered a presentation asserting that improved management practices – rather than technological innovation – have led to living standard improvements. He contended that CSR practices must be carefully structured in order to leverage such improvements and productivity gains. Greenwald pointed out that governments can be uniquely influential in fostering good CSR by encouraging the “positive externalities” resulting from such practices.
Pankaj Baliga then presented a case study of Tata Consultancy Services’s corporate initiatives. Balinga described his company’s CSR strategy as sustainable because of diversification – encompassing projects ranging from corporate philanthropy to broad-based social outreach, such as adult literacy ventures.
A panel discussion moderated by Professor Suresh Sundaresan concluded the conference, featuring Samuel Riskin of Federal Express and Sorav Majumdar of Financial Express. The speakers emphasized the need to craft CSR as part of a company’s core competence, moving away from the corporate philanthropy model. They also spoke of the potential for government to establish accounting, disclosure and legal frameworks that would protect investors and customers, fostering good CSR and corporate governance.