CSR Collaboration as a Force for Good in Business

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Kunal Sood

Steve Jobs was a visionary who believed that great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people. When two outstanding companies collaborate on social initiatives, they create new growth opportunities and enhance leadership in the industry.

Since the advent of The Companies Act 2013, the CSR process has been majorly streamlined, and corporations are striving to achieve compliance concerning Section 135 of the Act (Chapter IX – Account of Companies – Corporate Social Responsibility). According to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, since 2014, companies with a net worth of Rs 500 Crore or revenue of Rs 1,000 Crore or a net profit of Rs 5 Crore need to spend two per cent of their average profit in the past three years on social development activities such as sanitation and education.

CSR collaboration can pool resources (both financial and human) between multiple organisations, address complex industry threats and opportunities, increase sales and customer loyalty, motivate long-time employees, and give companies significant ability to attract new talent. 

CSR collaboration has the power to transform business. The impact of these activities includes eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition; promoting preventive healthcare; increasing access to education; promoting gender equality; climate action; sustainability, animal welfare, and the protection of Indian national heritage sites for art and culture. Equally important are the measures to fund, train and nationally recognise Olympic and Paralympic sport athletes, and contribute to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund or any other fund set up by the central government for socio-economic development and relief for underserved populations, minorities and women.

The overall benefits of CSR collaboration can drive growth and become a force for good in business. In the digital age, CSR funding can create solutions that improve society by fostering learning, promoting innovation, gaining access to new markets, hiring more women while harnessing new skill sets and strengths, and achieving better brand recognition and reputation. CSR collaboration can pool resources (both financial and human) between multiple organisations, address complex industry threats and opportunities, increase sales and customer loyalty, motivate long-time employees, and give companies significant ability to attract new talent.

Collaborations can enhance a company’s image and increase value by creating solutions that better serve the local community. Such collaborative approaches involve a wide range of stakeholders working together to achieve a shared outcome with the added benefit of inspiring and motivating employees. When people experience deep meaning and purpose through their work, they become valuable brand ambassadors for their company.

Tata Trust, Maruti and Michelin India are a handful of organisations achieving great success through CSR collaboration. For instance, The Nudge Foundation works with more than 50 partners (NGOs, government, foundations and companies) on skill development to pull one million people out of poverty. Tata Trust and Infosys Co-founder Nandan Nilekani are attached to The Nudge Foundation as philanthropic partners, while companies such as Mphasis and Maruti are working with the Foundation as part of their CSR initiatives. PVR works with Michelin India on their CineArts programme, an ingenious CSR initiative to teach school children about safe driving while letting them create original content on road safety showcased at movie theatres.

This demonstrates that collaborations can enhance a company’s image and increase value by creating solutions that better serve the local community. Such collaborative approaches involve a wide range of stakeholders working together to achieve a shared outcome with the added benefit of inspiring and motivating employees. When people experience deep meaning and purpose through their work, they become valuable brand ambassadors for their company.

Millennials and Gen Z are the most diverse, environmentally aware and socially-driven employees in the workforce. According to the Deloitte Millennial (Generation Y) Survey, by 2025, the millennial generation is predicted to comprise 75 per cent of the global workforce and will foster innovative thinking and positive contribution to society. This generation represents an unprecedented sector of society with the economic power to support companies and purchase products that align with their values for people and the planet. A 2018 study by Deloitte found that millennials care deeply about how their organisations address issues like income inequality, hunger and the environment. Eighty-eight per cent believe that employers should play a vital role in alleviating these concerns, and 86 per cent agree that business success should be measured by more than profitability.

According to research by Cone Communications, 75 per cent of millennials would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values. As millennials advance into leadership positions, the focus on impacting social change is likely to grow even more. Global research by McKinsey found employees who feel their jobs have meaning, or that they can make a difference, exhibit greater levels of loyalty.

Forward-thinking companies now recognise CSR as an opportunity to significantly strengthen their businesses while building human relationships with stakeholders and implementing strategies that promote planetary flourishing.

Successful partnerships could also mean building partnerships with universities, nonprofits, and other field experts that can also boost a company’s credibility and show that it is taking corporate social responsibility seriously, not just collaborating for the sake of marketing.  

CSR collaboration must involve well-designed implementation plans and quantifiable actions that can be verified, measured and implemented across India. By evaluating the results and refining the CSR strategies involved, organisations can grow exponentially.

Opportunities for action across all organisational levels, from the most junior positions to the board of directors, have the potential to deliver real social impact. Here are four ways to achieve this outcome:

  1. Find the right initiative: Alignment is key. Both companies must identify a social impact initiative that aligns with an existing business interest. If an organisation can find a cause that aligns with what the company already does – and the expertise of its employees – then it will be better positioned to gain community trust and make a long-term impact.
  2. Evaluate what the other organisation brings to the table: It is crucial to have an authentic connection with the social impact initiative and your existing goals. Take advantage of what both companies hold in abundance and actively deliver value to the global community while improving your corner of the planet.
  3. Build long-term partnerships: When we talk about CSR collaboration, it does not bind you to collaborate only with brands. Successful partnerships could also mean building partnerships with universities, nonprofits, and other field experts that can also boost a company’s credibility and show that it is taking corporate social responsibility seriously, not just collaborating for the sake of marketing.  
  4. Live your values in action: The mission and vision should be visible in the actions the company undertake. Partnerships matter. Organisations must authentically commit to creating social change, make real business investments, form cross-sector partnerships, and be willing to take a stand and showcase outcomes in real-time. Companies that live their values in action build brands that people love.

CSR collaboration has the power to positively impact the future of organisations and improve human lives. The establishment of an ever-evolving CSR strategy will help companies develop and implement crucial policies over decades while having procedures in place that integrate social, environmental and consumer priorities into business operations and core strategy – all in close collaboration with stakeholders.

Kunal Sood is the Founder of WeThePlanet.