Business schools around the world are choosing to enter into partnerships with businesses and other organisations as a way to, as the 5th Principle of PRME states, extend their knowledge of the challenges in meeting social and environmental responsibilities and to explore jointly effective approaches to meeting these challenges.
In India, the Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH) has chosen to partner with the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry by becoming the assessor for the annual Businessworld FICCI CSR Awards. I recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Vineeta Dutta Roy, Associate Professor and Head of CSR at BIMTECH about their experiences with this partnership.
1. What is happening in the field of CSR in India?
There is a newfound urgency with respect to CSR in India, which is being felt throughout the corporate sector. The Indian Parliament is currently in the process of passing a bill that will make it compulsory for companies of a certain size (revenue greater than USD 200 million or profits of USD 1 million) to spend 2% of their profits towards CSR activities. Companies will also have to designate a three-member CSR committee. India is the first county in the world to mandate this kind of expenditure across the board. The scene involving companies’ design and implementation of CSR initiatives is changing fast.
2. Briefly describe the partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry around CSR.
BIMTECH has partnered with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to provide an assessment of Indian companies’ CSR strategies in order to determine the finalists for the Business World FICCI CSR awards. These awards have been organised for more than a decade now to recognise efforts of companies engaged in CSR in a strategic and systematic manner. The Award is open to all companies registered in India. The applications for the award are received under three main categories 1) CSR Award for Companies with turnover up to and above Rs. 1000 crore per annum, 2) CSR Award for Small and Medium Enterprises, and 3) Award for Innovation in CSR.
The assessment is a three-staged process. The first phase of the assessment is carried out by Grant Thornton India, a reputed International Accounting and Auditing firm, the second by BIMTECH; the third phase of assessment is done by a panel of independent jurors that evaluates each shortlisted entry presented to them for consideration of the award.
3. What is BIMTECH’s involvement in the awards?
BIMTECH is the onsite assessment partner for the Awards. To carry out this role, FICCI provides us the shortlisted applications and we conduct onsite assessments of the nominated companies. The visits give us the opportunity to double check the information provided by the company about their CSR activities. While onsite, we meet with the CEO, CFO, VP of HR, Chief of CSR, and sometimes Operations and Plant head of the company. Next, we examine the company’s CSR initiatives . We conduct focus group interviews with the beneficiaries of the company’s CSR programmes, the team handling the projects, local heads of community organisations, and other important opinion leaders. The manufacturing plant or the company head office is also consulted to better understand the company’s core operations, its products and services, and its sustainability programmes.
4. What are some of the companies that have done well in the Awards?
This year, three companies –ITC, Deepak Nitrate, and SRF – were awarded for their outstanding CSR initiatives. In the past, companies like Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Tea, Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Nevyelie Lignite Corporation, HINDALCO, Gujarat Ambuja Cement, Kinetic Engineering, Canara Bank, and Titan Industries, among others have been recognised for their work in the CSR domain.
5. How important is it for BIMTECH to enter into such partnerships?
The benefits of the partnership are shared by all parties involved. For instance, the corporate sector finds a neutral assessor in an academic institution that is eager to learn. The institution has an excellent opportunity to take experiential learning to the classroom, as well as to the larger public through research. It is also an excellent opportunity for the companies and institution to explore placement opportunities for the students. Affiliation with a prestigious body like FICCI lends credibility to the institution, and in return the companies find a willing partner to augment their research, documentation, and training. Moving forward, we have plans to expand our areas of collaboration to joint research, training, and other related activities.