“The challenge is what can businesses do to become leaders in making a better society.” said Arun Maira, Session Chair and former member of the Planning Commission as he initiated the first panel discussion at IRBF 2017.
The panel discussion was centered around leadership strategies for Indian businesses to adopt inclusive and responsible business practices. The panel featured leading names from the world of business, administration and government.
Referring to the findings of the World Values Survey done in 2007, he said, “Businesses are not hearing people but they have a moral responsibility. They must encourage the growth of wealth for the entire society…businesses and society are talking at each other and not to each other.”
Lack of business responsibility
Pradeep Bhargava, Director, Cummins India, expressed his concern about corporate India not taking enough responsibility. He said, “Companies are only limited to compliance. This is a self-imposed restriction. A whole lot of the industry is not taking responsibility.”
Calling on companies to take more responsibility, Mr. Bhargava said, “Currently stakeholders are not treated as equally as shareholders. The society and environment are stakeholders and we need to acknowledge it. Companies need to own up their responsibility, get focused and get their employees engaged by creating a human workforce which cares.”
Mr. Bhargava also spoke about the corporate sector’s lopsided expectations from the government. He said, “People treat the government like a BPO – outsourcing all the welfare work. This is a very myopic and perverted approach.”
He said, “Large corporates need to go beyond their borders. No unilateral strategy would do. There has to be a multilateral approach”.
Finding the golden mean
Sunil Arora, DG & CEO, IICA, stressed on how companies have to change their way of thinking. He said, “There are no answers like instant coffee. They have to be found collectively. Going beyond, which is the theme of this conference, means a basic change in mindset.”
Mr. Arora also talked about having a more balanced approach to regulate the corporate sector. He said, “Over-regulating the space won’t help. Not having any regulations cant help either. The golden mean has to be found.”
While acknowledging that the government needs to invest in skill building, he said “Domain expertise in MSME space is lacking. We need to train people for that.”
Community engagement can create change
“Engagement is the key to driving impact”, said Rumjhum Chatterjee, Chairperson, CII Northern Region & Group Managing Director, Feedback Infra.
Talking about the benefits of engaging communities in land acquisition, Rumjhum said, “If you do business the right way, there is gain for all stakeholders…People must feel that they are a part of forming regulations.”
A few responsible companies
“We have to acknowledge the good and not so good guys. Not everybody in the industry is a villain”, said Mr. Bhargava.
He said, “Godrej was green before green became the buzzword.” He also spoke of Tata Steel’s Suraksha scheme wherein if a contract laborer dies during duty, the company provides pension to the deceased’s family.
Making a case for positive CSR, Mr, Arora said, “CSR is as old as the industry. TISS and BITS were CSR efforts.” He pointed out how JCB started a capsule for rural girls to train them at their manufacturing plants and they engaged their parents too.
Ms. Chatterjee shared a few examples her own company’s CSR policies. She said, “Feedback Infra is not company which has to pay 2% CSR as it is not listed (among the top 100). It has 39 women’s SHGs in Orissa who take care of the meter reading, billing and collection of Rs. 9.5 lakhs in 4 district of Orissa. The inclusion levels of these women have doubled in the last 3 years and there has been no additional cost for the company at all.”
Ms. Chatterjee talked about how her company is working with local communities, “We have created Dalit Ekta Camps in slum clusters in Delhi and made them open-defecation free in 6 months.”
She also mentioned another successful example where her consulting company spoke to an industrial house in Pune and land acquisition was done in a couple of hours.
The second panel discussion at IRBF was about ‘What is driving companies towards responsible and inclusive action?’ Read about it here.