Madhu Pandit Dasa
Chairman, The Akshaya Patra Foundation
Ours is a country characterized by immense diversity and while we are among the fastest growing economies in the world, with the estimated growth exceeding 7.5 per cent of GDP, it is also true that we are still improving in certain aspects; nutrition and healthcare among them. Many people argue that the Government should do more to deal with problems like hunger and malnutrition.These people miss the point that social welfare need not be the responsibility of the Government alone; the civil society can play a crucial role in the process of nation building. As a citizen of the country, each of us should do our bit for the society; being socially responsible can be the easiest way to begin contributing.
Individual Social Responsibility (ISR) subscribes to the school of thought which believes that each of us should be responsible for our actions, as these actions affect the community that we are a part of. We come across the concept of social responsibility mostly in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as a part of which, companies are expected to give back to the community. While most of the major companies in the country have long been pursuing philanthropic initiatives on their own, it was the Companies Act 2013 which put the concept into limelight by making CSR initiatives mandatory.
How can companies become socially responsible if the managers don’t follow the philosophy? In order to ensure that CSR is not limited to compliance with the law, it is important people in the position of power in companies carry a responsible attitude and do their bit for the society.
The philanthropic initiatives of the companies that fall into the CSR ambit will definitely have a strong impact on the overall idea of nation building and inclusive development, but to achieve success, reviewing where weas individualsstand on the social responsibility spectrum will be important.
CSR is slowly gaining traction, with around 20,000 crores being earmarked for social welfare annually. A large part of the credit for this goes to the underlying concept of Individual Social Responsibility, for it is at the root of CSR. Companies comprise of individuals. Each of these individual’s engagement towards the community is what ISR is all about. The combined effect of all these individuals’ social responsibility gives a boost to the company’s CSR initiatives. In essence, when ISR is practiced at the individual level, it gives fillip to the concept of CSR, thus, contributing towards socioeconomic development of the country.
Companies nowadays take individual social responsibility seriously, and therefore, they encourage their employees to invest their skills towards social welfare. Many companies tie up with non-profits, thus providing their employees an opportunity to volunteer for a cause. Then again, the decision makers in the company are individuals, which is why it is imperative that they abide by the notion of social responsibility.
Individual Social Responsibility goes well beyond charity, as such the individual’s engagement can merely be in the form of being aware of what is happening in the community or go to the extent of actively participating in problem solving. ISR can be a simple act of philanthropic behaviour as well as long as the individual is not working for the community out of his vested interests.
Also, good intentions prompt individuals to volunteer for social causes, but it is important that these good intentions translate into the will to do something for the society not just by spending considerable time, but also by spending substantial amount. Be it the CEO or an employee at the grass-root level, it is important that the traits of ISR are ingrained in them if the company as a whole intends to make an impact. In fact, those in the position of power ought to lead from the front when it comes to the company’s social responsibility initiatives.
The need to balance economic sustainability with social and environmental sustainability as proposed in the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) framework is more urgent than ever if we are to achieve inclusive socioeconomic development. How can companies become socially responsible if the managers don’t follow the philosophy? In order to ensure that CSR is not limited to compliance with the law, it is important people in the position of power in companies carry a responsible attitude and do their bit for the society.
If we are to make the most of CSR mandate, it is important that we start subscribing to the concept of Individual Social Responsibility; a simple act of philanthropic behaviour or even taking interest in the problems plaguing the community can be a good start and like they say, a good start is half the work done!