29 January 2006

CSR is selfish

Earlier this month, a leading financial daily in India carried a supplement on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The stories were interesting to read, coming from some of the largest Indian corporate houses, who proudly narrated their involvement in CSR and their caring for our country.

There is no doubt that India, with its billion-plus population, much of it still below the poverty line, and millions still struggling for their basic rights, needs caring. And, it was heart-warming to know that Indian corporates were not only aware of this, but they were actually acting in their best interests on several issues that have dogged our country for centuries.

However, when I noticed that most of the stories covered in the supplement were shadowed by advertisements from those corporate organisations, a doubt did arise in my mind on the intent of publishing those CSR stories. Wasn’t this blatant publicity? Shouldn’t they have used a little more subtlety?

Looks like, even talking about CSR costs money, let alone justifying the investment. So, what if those corporates get a little PR mileage out of it! CSR, like any business, needs a pay-off or two. The fact is, those corporates have invested in CSR for the benefit of the poor, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, and the marginalised in India. And that’s what counts.

As the headline in the opening story suggested: CSR is Selfish. So it seems.

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