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Tag: corporate social responsibility

Philanthropy’s role in South Asia and the US

From left: Alnoor Ebrahim, Rohini Nilekani, and Geeta Pradhan

By Abhishek RahmanMDiv Candidate, Harvard Divinity School

Are corporations improving their environmental, social and governance footprint? According to the panelists at a SAI Special Event on November 18th titled ‘The Use of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility for Social Change in South Asia and the US,’ there is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.

Moderated by Alnoor Ebrahim, Harvard Business School, the event, which took place at the Harvard Faculty Club, highlighted models of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in India and the U.S. and included panelists Rohini Nilekani, chairperson of Arghyam Foundation, and Geeta Pradhan, an executive at the Boston Foundation.

Drawing from their diverse experiences in the private and public sector, the panelists agreed that progress in the field of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in the past decade has been driven by a combination of evolving global guidelines, increased stakeholder expectations, and more demanding corporate disclosure requirements.

Recalling her personal trajectory in the social sector space, Nilekani talked about how the definition of philanthropy in India has changed from “having a big heart to now having big wealth.”

Commenting about the influence of her left-of-center political beliefs on her philanthropy, she told the audience, “I believe, in a country like India, only when we build a strong society or samaj, can development happen. So, I spend my philanthropic capital to build people’s institutions, which can resist the oppressive forces of the state and the market.”

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‘A pool for do-gooders’ by Tarun Khanna

Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School, wrote an op-ed in The Indian Express about corporate social responsibility, arguing that targeted investments should be driven by a knowledge of how CSR fits into company strategy.

The prospect of mandated corporate social responsibility (CSR), as directed by the India’s Companies Act, 2013, prompts revealing reactions from all and sundry. For the sceptics of organised, especially large-scale, enterprise, CSR is an oxymoron. For those who fear the encroaching hand of the state, it smacks of an incremental tax by another name (and, worse, another one that people will evade).

Nonetheless, CSR mandated by law is now a fait accompli, under the new Companies Act. Publicly traded companies exceeding certain size and profitability thresholds must spend 2 per cent of their net profits on CSR. Even prior to this, Indian corporations, like others worldwide, engaged in a spectrum of activities they deemed their social responsibility, for better or worse. Virtually all the websites of the top 10 (by revenue) publicly traded enterprises in each of India’s public and private sectors trumpet their CSR efforts. Companies feel that a stated commitment to CSR will burnish their brands and attract talent, or it might just be a managerial perquisite, that is, a licence for managers to spend on their favourite activities in the guise of doing something seemingly legitimate.

Click here to read the full article.

Harvard faculty share corporate social responsibility lessons with leaders in Mumbai

Tarun Khanna (left) at the workshop

The Harvard University South Asia Institute collaborated with the World Bank and the Government of India’s Department of Public Enterprise to organize a four-day Executive Development Program titled “Non-State Players in Human Development – Achieving India’s Goals” The workshop took place at the Harvard Business School Classroom (a replica of a Harvard University campus classroom) at the Taj Land End Hotel in Mumbai, India.

From February 3rd to February 6th, 2014, the workshop was conducted by Harvard Professors V. Kasturi ‘Kash’ Rangan, the Malcolm P. McNair Professor of Marketing at the Harvard Business School, Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the Harvard South Asia Institute, and Ashish Nanda, Robert Braucher Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School, currently serving as Director at IIM Ahmedabad, his alma mater. Assisting with the program was Shashank Shah, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Management Studies. The 47 participants were mainly top-level managers and executives from the large and medium-sized Indian public sector corporations, and some private sector companies. In India, public sector units have a great potential to effect social change due to their size and reach.

Kash Rangan speaking to the group

In view of the legislation on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India, the main objective of the program was to strengthen the capacity of a cadre of senior managers of corporations. Through the case study approach, best practices and strategies in CSR development were highlighted. The workshop was modelled after the highly successful Strategic CSR executive education program developed at the Harvard Business School. It includes case study sessions, sharing of ideas, experience and opinions via discussion groups and opportunities to recap and reflect on the learning.

The 12 cases studied were from across the globe – examples of best practices, as in the case of Charles Veillon, S.A., a Swiss mail order and retail company, and the highly evolved business philosophy of India’s home grown Jain Irrigation Systems Limited, as well as cases showing instances of business failure and collapse due to the complete lack of social responsibility as demonstrated in Bolivia’s Cochabamba Water case and the case of India’s Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. Questions on personal ethics and leadership were brought to the fore through the Harvard classic – ‘Parable of the Sadhu.’

The best-of-Harvard faculty included Kash, Tarun and Ashish, who are all leaders in their field. They brought their brilliant, complementary and inimitable teaching styles to the table – testing, tweaking and cajoling the interest and enthusiasm of seasoned corporate bosses.

The main takeaway from the workshop was that a strategically planned and managed socially and environmentally responsible code of ethics by corporates, not only results in increased profits, but will also sustain the business in the long term. Such a code of ethics should be embedded in corporate policy and should be followed in letter and in spirit. Several suggestions to facilitate true CSR ensued.

Read a LiveMint interview with Tarun Khanna about corporate social responsibility here.

‘Harvard University conducts CSR programme for Indian PSU executives’ in Business Standard.


SAI Director Tarun Khanna interviewed by Live Mint/Wall Street Journal

Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School was interviewed by Live Mint/Wall Street Journal about the role of corporate social responsibility in Indian companies. Khanna says that Indian state-run companies are much better placed to implement meaningful programmes of corporate social responsibility (CSR) than their private sector counterparts, owing to the large scale on which they operate and their accessibility to the government.

Khanna is currently in Mumbai for the the Executive Development Program titled “Non-State Players in Human Development – Achieving India’s Goals”  that SAI sponsored with the World Bank.

Read the interview here.