Is India leading the world in Social Purpose?

Two years ago, the Indian Government passed legislation mandating Indian companies to set aside 2% of post-tax profits to deliver social advancement. The ruling applies to companies with profits of circa £50,000 or more. This is a significant shift given that a number of companies tell us that they are currently sharing 1% through CSR programmes. The Indian Government has determined the key qualifying themes for funding as: Healthcare, Employment, Bio-Diversity and Gender Equality. There has been a three year lead in to allow companies to get their policies and approaches sorted. So companies will in theory be publishing their actions and focus within the next 12 months. However, whilst window watching is useful, there’s no substitute for talking to those responsible about their progress and the challenges and how work in India is correlating with social purpose advancement in Europe. Thus in February this year, we travelled to India to meet with business leaders and learn more about how the new legislation is influencing their work and whether there were learnings for us, our clients and our own social focus. We were fortunate to be able to speak with a range of experts – the majority, face to face in Mumbai, Pune and Chennai. We are deeply grateful to the likes of Tata & Sons, HSBC, Dow and Sandvik. We also caught up with ad industry peers Bates CHI and a number of social purpose champions. We learned that the market is grappling with its responsibilities, not least due to a lack of understanding about the detail of compliancy. There are numerous CSR consultants on the sub-continent working to support industry, but as yet clarity is not determined. Moreover, whilst models in the West are shifting towards an integrated perspective of social purpose – their inherent customer offers and operational re-alignments, described best as ‘profit from purpose’ – India appears wedded to a focus on profit funding philanthropy. The largest of the Indian conglomerates appear to be addressing the operational frameworks across their business interests, often setting up internal consultancy units to advise their family companies on how to proceed. Meanwhile, the Indian Oligarchy remain rooted in family control of philanthropic work as a response. Those companies that are regional divisions of global corporations are to a great extent at the mercy of the pace of their parentage and global policy, which as yet has not necessarily recognised that India’s trading environment is going to be different. For those immersed in purposeful work, a challenge they recognise is that social change cannot be one dimensional. Whilst they fully embrace their ability and responsibility for funding big infrastructure based initiatives, there is no co-ordinated approach to changing behaviours as yet. So, from our perspective we learned that there are opportunities to talk about our experience and skills in behaviour change campaigning and in delivering public/private sector partnerships to leverage the best results. From a social funding perspective, we see potential to use our own social fund to finance and train up micro-local communications champions who can support and lead campaigns within their communities. From our own corporate clients’ perspective, we see opportunities for them to bring together their peers in South East Asia and share their approaches to social purpose integration, to encourage knowledge share and capacity building. This might be amplified if mirrored Government to Government by our Public Sector faithful. For the Not for Profits for whom we work, there are new opportunities to co-create new and innovative support services and to engage with Indian companies as their activities expand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *