It’s the quintessential socialist argument: companies create wealth for themselves and a privileged few. The rest merely toil and waste away. That’s no way for society to prosper, so business must work for the larger good. After all, if the “rest” wither away, there’ll be no takers for their goods and services and, ergo, no business left. So, it makes infinite sense to nurture the unprivileged masses.
The capitalists accept that argument, to a point. Yet, at best, India’s business houses are just about warming up to the idea of corporate social responsibility and as for the rich, they are still to take to philanthropy in any meaningful way. Some would argue that this is understandable: it’s about our stage of prosperity. The wealthier you are, the more resources you have—and more inclined you are to give. As a nation, India is still not rich “enough” for people to give away their wealth, nor are companies prosperous enough to invest in societal causes. Recently, a leading business tycoon was even quoted in media saying strong family values compelled affluent businessmen to pass on their wealth to their children rather than give it away to the less privileged.
Both arguments are unjust. Giving is a culture—unfortunately, something corporate India has not taken to. While we have exceptionally ambitious businessmen in our country who are hell-bent on conquering the world, they have still not invested time deliberating on societal issues that will have a bearing on business sustainability. A survey conducted by The Nielsen Company on CSR initiatives of the top 50 business groups is deeply disappointing, as you will read on page 36.
But then, we ignore the society we live in only to our own peril. The greatest challenge we face today is inequitable distribution of wealth and opportunities. It is easy to blame the government for it, but business can do better, just as they have done for their own cause despite the government.
Once companies recognise that their actions (rather inactions) impact their future prospects, it will be easier to move CSR higher up the to-do list. Mind it, the alarm bells are already ringing as the have-nots are raging in several parts of the country. So, CSR today is our passport to a secure future. Every company has to have one.
th much anticipation, we bring to you this issue dedicated to giving, conceived and edited by Outlook Business’s Founding Editor Sonal Sachdev. With his rich experience, he has packed this issue with interesting projects, people, ideas and lots more. Hope you enjoy this read.