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Rich in imagery & insight

Let me confess that most ‘large format books’ (the technical name for coffee table books), especially the ones at airport lounges, are hagiographic exercises with an excellent element of design, art paper, and production. The text is often ‘incidental’, and the illustrations and mug shots take the centre space. When Amit Sachdeva and Mugdha Arora presented me ‘Responsibility’ after a lovely conversation at their very charming office in the IT Park, Dehradun, I kept it along with my fairly extensive collection. However, because in the course of conversation Amit and Mugdha had talked about the correlation of CSR with SDGs, ESG as well as Mahatma’s constructive programme, I decided to flip through the pages. Beginning with ‘Aligning CSR with ESG’ by Amit and ‘The Power of CSR Storytelling’ by Mugdha, before I realised, I was hooked on to it, not just for the content, but for the setting of the context.

Thus, we cannot look at CSR and ESG in separate silos; they are interconnected, just as we learn that the seventeen SDGs draw from the eighteen cardinal principles laid down by the Mahatma. Although several leading corporates have started sharing their ESG profiles with their stakeholders, Amit makes out a strong case for mandatory reporting of ESGs. This, in his view, will lead to enhanced transparency, besides helping the firm to identify and manage current and potential risks, and improve competitive edge—both in domestic markets and global circuits and ensure regulatory compliances. Also Read - A missed milestone Human beings are human because they love to tell, hear, and share stories. The more the merrier; and Mugdha tells us that CSR stories help “weave narratives that resonate with human experience, thereby making corporates relatable and accessible, besides creating emotional links that nurture brand loyalty and advocacy”.

CSR has encouraged corporates “to be a Force for Good”, says Rajashree Birla who regards the CSR law “as the fountain head from where a deeper responsibility transcending business interests emanates”. She is proud of the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, which is, in many ways, built on the trusteeship model which the Mahatma had always striven for. Payal Kanodia of the M3M foundation talks of the principle of Vasudeva Kutumbakam – also the motif of the very successful G20 initiative – that we are all one family, and the concept of social responsibility can be traced back to the scriptures, the Vedas, the Puranas, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. Also Read - Dance with the dragon! In the ‘Idea of Justice’, Amit shares the very innovative sentences of Justice Nazmi Waziri of the Delhi High Court in which he issued directives to “plant trees and saplings as part of the judgements handed out by his court”. Thus, court decrees have led to the planting of over three hundred thousand trees in Delhi since its inception in 2018 in Insaaf Bagh (Garden of Justice) and Mafi Bagh (Garden of Forgiveness).

If more judges were to follow suit, India would soon be able to resurrect its green cover! In ‘The Sound of Music’, by Pragnya Ram, we become aware of how the Aditya Birla group has sponsored thousands of cochlear implants for children with hearing disability from birth. “Deafness is as severe a handicap as is blindness, perhaps worse. For as Helen Keller observed ‘while blindness separates people from things, deafness separates people from people”. Also Read - Legacies of the iconoclasts To harness India’s demographic dividend, Sudarshan Suchi, the CEO of the Bal Raksha Bharat (globally called Save the Children) suggests “transformative partnerships with the youth from a long-term perspective”, as societal changes and development discourses take time to bear fruit. These will involve collaboration amongst various stakeholders, including the government and the private sector, civil society organisations, educational institutions, and youth-led initiatives. Praveen Karn has a very innovative way of looking at the five stages of CSR in India. Stage 1 was the Garbhavastha (incubation) stage in which gestation and conceptualisation occurred. This refers to all the voluntary initiatives taken by companies before 2013, for they felt that they needed to give back to society, and drew their inspiration from the ideals of the Mahatma in general, and MDGs in the specific sense.

Then came Stage 2 – the Balyavashta or infancy – this was the period from 2013 to 2015. This was driven by the enactment of the Companies Act of 2013, which made this activity compulsory, but many sceptics regarded it as just another tax. The baby steps towards professionalisation of CSR had just about begun.

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