Odisha Channel Bureau Bhubaneswar, Jan 27: Corporate should consider CSR activities as part of their growth strategy instead of just complying with it out of compulsions or mandatory legal requirements, said Odisha Chief Secretary Gokul Chandra Pati during a Multi-Stakeholder dialogue on Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) here today.The dialogue was jointly organised by Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs [IICA], Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, Centre for Youth and Social Development(CYSD) and National Foundation for India(NFI) with active participation of the Government of Odisha and in collaboration with UNICEF.“People’s participation in CSR is important as they are the key stakeholders in the process.In addition to that, corporates, civil society organisations, State and Central Government should join hands to make CSR reach to the last mile.Odisha Government has undertaken a slew of measures in the field of CSR,” said Pati.The main sub-objectives of the consultation were setting a clear and concrete agenda for CSR in Odisha, through the identification of areas of engagement and processes to achieve the same, building alliances between corporate entities, civil society organisations and the Government for effective implementation of the CSR agenda, besides, exposition of CSR standards, best practices and responsible corporate behaviour with a view to creating a CSR Learning Hub for mutual learning and innovations.So far CSR efforts from Corporates tend to be event based, sporadic and fragmented in nature.They seem to be symptomatic interventions and based on passion of individual corporate philanthropy or the passion of the promoters / Board.There is a need in Odisha for longer horizon projects and interventions not only at the symptom stage but at the underlying structural causes of poverty,” said experts during the discussion.It is worth mentioning that, with the introduction of Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013, giving legal weighting and direction to CSR activities in India, the Government has created a win-win opportunity for collaboration between the corporate houses, civil society organisations and the Government.It can also create meaningful synergies with the rich experience of civil society organisations in the State.Speaking in the opening session of the conclave, Jagadananda, Mentor of CYSD said, “Best practices and standards should be followed in CSR.Despite Odisha having a stable political environment and a growth rate of more than 8.5% (above the national average) during the last decade, the economic growth of the State has not been matched by a commensurate positive transformation in the society at large.” “There are many and deep development challenges in the State like; extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition, education, healthcare and sanitation, regional disparity and tribal development, which need to be addressed forthwith with proactive CSR measures,” he said.It is to be noted that, Odisha has a strikingly high poverty ratio with 32.59% of people living below the poverty line, in comparison to the national average of 21.91%, as per the latest (2011-2012) estimates of the Planning Commission, Government of India.The state continues to lag substantially in major economic and human development indicators published periodically by Central and International Agencies.As far as livelihood and poverty challenges are concerned, Odisha has remained the second highest poor state in India out of 14 poor states in UNDP’s fact sheet.Its Human development Indicator is 22 out of 23.That indicates its poorest of the poor economic and human development status in the country.Malnutrition (higher cases of undernourishment of calories than national index), chronic hunger, MMR, CMR, malaria and low purchasing power are the major issues in the State, in connection to poverty.Speaking on the occasion Bhaskar Chatterjee, DG & CEO of IICA said, “India is the only country with CSR legislation.CSR should be outsourced to the civil society sector for its effective implementation at the grass-root level.” “Stakeholders should work collectively with a positive mindset and the approach for implementing CSR should be empowerment-based but not charity-based.Corporates should join hands with Government for last mile connectivity in CSR field,” said Sanjay K Panda, Union Textile Secretary.“Tata Steel is all committed to spend a good amount towards CSR and corporate should bring in innovative processes to add value to CSR activities,” said T.V.Narendran, MD of Tata Steel, India & South East Asia.“Policy Commitments from Government should be there for protecting the rights of children that is part of CSR,” said Yumi Bae of UNICEF.There were four Sessions: Opening & Context setting; Business Session – highlighting issues & development gaps; Business Session-II – innovative approaches in collaboration, Business Session-III – way forward; led by a panel of representatives from the Corporates, Government and the Civil Society along with CSR experts.Speaking about emerging areas for potential CSR engagements U.N.Behera, Development Commissioner Odisha put emphasis on CSR spending on agriculture and allied areas.“India is a food surplus Country but certain food security issues lie.They are chronic malnutrition, high infant mortality rate etc.Certain food security programmes like PDS, MDM are providing space for CSOs, Government and Corporates to collaborate,” said Jan Delbaere, Country Director, World Food Programme, India on the occasion. One of the major challenges before the State is how to build a disaster resilient community through a community based disaster preparedness programme, as Odisha is prone to natural disasters such as floods and cyclones that derail many development initiatives.The Climate Change effect is no more a rhetoric.Besides, tribal underdevelopment is another major headwind for the poor economic state of affairs in Odisha, experts opined.“Most of the power infrastructures exist in disaster prone areas and also not subject to preventive maintenance.Finally, Odisha Government has come a big way in power sector reforms and now it is mandatory on the part of power generation, transmission and distribution companies to have a disaster management plan and adhere to Standard Operating Procedures,” said Santanu Rath, Director, HR, OPTCL.It is quite evident as despite the state has 62 officially recognised tribes of India; only 15 to 20 % of the reserved employment is meant for the tribal population in Odisha so far.Education and health services in tribal pockets are amongst the most neglected area of development in Odisha. Only about 7% of tribal population use toilets.It is a regular feature of underdevelopment in this region that every year tribals die of unknown diseases.Since most of the tribal areas are concentrated in the hinterlands of the State in mineral rich districts, tribal culture, language and their way of life is under continuous threat from new mining projects and loss of forest habitats.Similarly, sanitation and hygiene is a major social illness plaguing Odisha.Open defecation is a major problem with 78% of the households lacking toilets and sanitation facilities.While coverage of drinking water is higher than national average – equitable access to drinking water and safety of drinking water is an issue, according to a UNICEF report.Combined with poor sanitation practices and attitudes, it creates an environment of waterborne communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, anaemia and jaundice.“Nearly 88% of the global under five deaths are happening due to lack of access to water, sanitation & hygiene.6.4% of India’s GDP is lost due to inadequate sanitation,” Sunetra Lala of UNICEF Odisha said.On emerging areas of collaboration and synergy building in the field of CSR, Prafulla Kumar Sahoo, chairman of CYSD said, “CSR should be people and community centric.Creation of a think tank is required taking into account all stakeholders i.e.government, civil society, corporates, and last but not the least the people’s participation.Besides, periodic interface between Corporates and CSOs is required.” “CSR spending is subject to many headwinds like, no tax rebate available except donation to PM relief fund, manpower shortage to execute CSR programmes, 70% spending compulsory to be made for peripheral development etc.Besides, no database is available to choose to which NGOs to partner with for CSR implementation.Also more companies have to be brought down within the CSR ambit,” said Dilip Satpathy, Resident Editor of Business Standard.“Convergence of programmes relating to various social schemes should be done and the planning should be done with everybody’s perspectives,” Shaifalika Panda, CEO of Bansidhar & Ila Panda foundation said. According to former Chief Secretary of Odisha S.B. Mishra, while working towards CSR implementation, duplicacy of activities should not be there, as there are lot of NGOs operating in the State, mostly in Industrial areas like Dhenkanal and Angul.There is a trust deficit between government and corporates on one hand and civil society on the other hand.This has to be bridged for effective implementation of CSR activities.Despite myriad schemes, programmes and significant budgetary allocations – legal literacy, financial literacy and information literacy is still illusive in rural and tribal Odisha.In order to ensure optimal use of the resources and effective implementation of the programmes it is critical to promote a citizen led accountability system in the rural areas, experts opined during the seminar.Corporates by undertaking CSR activities can build positive reputational equity that would provide companies with a solid social anchor and ability to enhance their social reputation in society at large, besides, brand, service, product recall in their social space.Also CSR can be used as a ‘Talent Management and Retention Tool’ as employees stay engaged and loyal to those companies who they perceive to have a higher social recognition in their social and family circles, according to experts.
January 27, 2015