Contrary to our common perception of Corporate Social Responsibility being an act of giving back to society without having any vested interest whatsoever, invariably it turns out to be quite the opposite. With surmounting pressures on account of a few biggies having made a foray into CSR, most organizations today feel compelled to turn to CSR in order to be perceived as a responsible organization committed to the betterment of the society it thrives in. Adopting CSR in one form or the other is becoming more of a cult – with CSR being viewed as a commodity that adds to the credentials of the company.
Over the decades the concept of CSR has moved from pure play philanthropy to models that have a certain element of business relevance. While this can be perceived as a dramatic shift and raise questions on the ideologies of the organization following a “for – profit” approach to CSR, it is crucial to evaluate the impact before condemning the model. After all if a corporate entity creates a model that alleviates the woes of the society it exists in and in the process also churns out profits for itself –it is actually creating an extremely powerful platform that definitely contributes to the betterment of society. It’s eventually these win – win models that will go a long way in driving the change that organizations wish to bring in.
Most CSR campaigns start off with organizations earmarking certain budgets towards illustrious campaigns that are conceived jointly by the marketing, PR and advertising teams. The end result is invariably a big splash in the media with representatives from the organization making surreal claims of bringing about a positive change in society – clearly, a great way to ensure enhanced visibility for the company.
While I do not aim to take anything away from such companies as they do put in some amount of money and effort towards making a difference. However, I feel the approach should be such that it is sustainable. Social impact is a long term phenomenon and the claims that organizations make towards bringing about a sea change instantly through campaigns that span a few months seem very unrealistic indeed. In CSR 2.0, the focus needs to be on creating properties that can eventually become self-sufficient with time versus models that continue to empty the coffers of the organization – only then can we hope to witness a measurable impact in society. In the process, it would also be great if organizations let the success of their initiatives add laurels to their name rather than adopting the rather shallow braggart approach of garnering publicity by harping endlessly about their initiative.