CSR sector set to grow as society and corporate citizens turn more responsible

Anand Bhisey: Associate Professor
Centre for E-Learning & Development Communication
The roles of the individual components of society – whether citizens, the State machinery or corporate entities – are evolving as the world progresses towards a more liberal and responsible society.  Corporate entities are now expected to, and, indeed, are, functioning in a more transparent and responsible manner than ever before as the world has come to realize that they are as much “citizens” of society as any person.

Companies may be inanimate legal entities, but they have as much an obligation towards society as any single person.  All over the world, corporations are making greater effort to ensure that their functioning is responsible and that they repay their debt to society in general and to the communities in which they function in particular.  This is being done through the route of Corporate Social Responsibility, also known as CSR.

The concept of CSR is not new and has existed for years.  It was being fulfilled in an informal manner and was often seen as philanthropy.  Not any more – it is now considered obligatory.

In India, CSR has become a legal responsibility for companies.  The government recently amended the Companies Act to make it mandatory for companies to spend part of their profit on CSR activities.  The government has also made rules to specify which activities will be allowed as CSR and which will not be allowed.

Which companies is CSR mandatory for?  Section 135 of the Companies Act says that a company has to spend a specified amount of its net profits on CSR if it meets any one of the following criteria:

  • Its net worth was more than Rupees 500 crore during any of the three preceding financial years

  • Its turnover was more than Rupees 100 crore during any of the three preceding financial years

  • Its net profit was more than Rupees 5 crore during any of the three preceding financial years

The Act specifies that such a company must spend at least 2% of its net profit on CSR activities.  The CSR commitments of companies in India have already touched almost a whopping Rupees 20,000 crore annually in the four years since the amendments came into force, and this figure is expected to increase exponentially in the years to come.  In fact, the top ten CSR expenditure by companies accounted for Rupees 3,000 crore last year, right from Reliance Industries with Rupees 651 crore to Rupees 172 crore by ICICI Bank, according to a report.

Top 10 CSR spends:

That’s a huge amount, indeed, and companies need a huge number of people to plan projects under CSR, implement them, monitor them, evaluate their effectiveness, keep records of the money spent, measure the impact created, and analyse the outcomes of the CSR projects, and, moreover, document, report and disclose all these actions to the stakeholders.

According to industry estimates, the new CSR rules apply to nearly 10,000 companies in India.

At this rate, the companies in India will need literally thousands of CSR professionals, and this represents a very lucrative and satisfying career option.  Individuals can either start their career with CSR or even consider a change-over to CSR from some other sector.  Either of these can be done by undergoing a proper training and acquiring a formal qualification in CSR offered by any institute of repute.

A qualification in CSR combined with development communication will go a long way in creating a skilled professionals, since the budgets for CSR are spent primarily on development projects in sectors like education, health care, environment, ecology and gender equality.

There are very few institutes in the country that offer a formal course in CSR.  Moreover, these courses focus only on CSR.  Ramoji Krian Universe (RKU), based in Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad, offers a course with a unique blend of CSR, development communication, law and ethics, social entrepreneurship, advocacy, new media, social media, and media technology.  It offers a One-Year Diploma course in CSR, Development Communication and Media Technology.  The aim of this course is to create professionals who are adept not only at CSR and Development Communication, but can also handle all kinds of media technology in sectors like print, television, radio and the internet so that they become self-sufficient in completing their tasks.

The course, which lays stress on imparting practical skills, lasts over two semesters over a period of 12 months.  Of these, ten months are the actual coaching, with the remaining two months consisting of compulsory internship in an organization of repute.  The course is mentored and taught by experts who have long professional as well as academic experience.  Moreover, the emphasis in this course, and, indeed, in all other courses at RKU, is on practical skills so that students who pass out from the institution are absolutely industry-ready and ready to take on the challenges of the real world.   The new batch of this course is slated to commence in January 2018.

*****


Anand Bhisey is a media professional with nearly three decades of experience in the newspaper, news channel, internet and e-learning sectors.  He has contributed to major media outlets like The Independent, The Pioneer, Maharashtra Herald, Sunday Observer and rediff.com.  He has been a visiting faculty for news reporting, editing, page-making, QuarkXpress and new media as well as for Business Communication at various institutions.  He is a UGC-NET scholar.

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