Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

As per the UNIDO Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders. CSR is generally understood as being the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives (“Triple-Bottom-Line- Approach”), while at the same time addressing the expectations of shareholders and stakeholders. In this sense it is important to draw a distinction between CSR, which can be a strategic business management concept, and charity, sponsorships or philanthropy. Even though the latter can also make a valuable contribution to poverty reduction, will directly enhance the reputation of a company and strengthen its brand, the concept of CSR clearly goes beyond that.
Promoting the uptake of CSR amongst SMEs requires approaches that fit the respective needs and capacities of these businesses, and do not adversely affect their economic viability. UNIDO based its CSR programme on the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Approach, which has proven to be a successful tool for SMEs in the developing countries to assist them in meeting social and environmental standards without compromising their competitiveness. The TBL approach is used as a framework for measuring and reporting corporate performance against economic, social and environmental performance. It is an attempt to align private enterprises to the goal of sustainable global development by providing them with a more comprehensive set of working objectives than just profit alone. The perspective taken is that for an organization to be sustainable, it must be financially secure, minimize (or ideally eliminate) its negative environmental impacts and act in conformity with societal expectations.
Key CSR Issues
Environmental management, eco-efficiency, responsible sourcing, stakeholder engagement, labour standards and working conditions, employee and community relations, social equity, gender balance, human rights, good governance, and anti-corruption measures.
Advantages
A properly implemented CSR concept can bring along a variety of competitive advantages, such as enhanced access to capital and markets, increased sales and profits, operational cost savings, improved productivity and quality, efficient human resource base, improved brand image and reputation, enhanced customer loyalty, better decision making and risk management processes.    

CSR Rules under Companies Act, 2013
Corporate social responsibility (CSR, also called corporate conscience,corporate citizenship or responsible business) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a self-regulatory mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards and national or international norms. 
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has notified Section 135 and Schedule VII of the Companies Act 2013 as well as the provisions of the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Rules, 2014 to come into effect from April 1, 2014.
With effect from April 1, 2014, every company, private limited or public limited, which either has a net worth of Rs 500 crore or a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or net profit of Rs 5 crore, needs to spend at least 2% of its average net profit for the immediately preceding three financial years on corporate social responsibility activities. The CSR activities should not be undertaken in the normal course of business and must be with respect to any of the activities mentioned in Schedule VII of the 2013 Act. Contribution to any political party is not considered to be a CSR activity and only activities in India would be considered for computing CSR expenditure.
The net worth, turnover and net profits are to be computed in terms of Section 198 of the 2013 Act as per the profit and loss statement prepared by the company in terms of Section 381 (1) (a) and Section 198 of the 2013 Act. While these provisions have not yet been notified, is has been clarified that if net profits are computed under the Companies Act, 1956 they needn't be recomputed under the 2013 Act. Profits from any overseas branch of the company, including those branches that are operated as a separate company would not be included in the computation of net profits of a company. Besides, dividends received from other companies in India which need to comply with the CSR obligations would not be included in the computation of net profits of a company.
The CSR Rules appear to widen the ambit for compliance obligations to include the holding and subsidiary companies as well as foreign companies whose branches or project offices in India fulfil the specified criteria. There is a need for clarity with respect to the compliance obligations of a company as well as its holding and subsidiary companies.
The activities that can be undertaken by a company to fulfil its CSR obligations include eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition, promoting preventive healthcare, promoting education and promoting gender equality, setting up homes for women, orphans and the senior citizens, measures for reducing inequalities faced by socially and economically backward groups, ensuring environmental sustainability and ecological balance, animal welfare, protection of national heritage and art and culture, measures for the benefit of armed forces veterans, war widows and their dependents, training to promote rural, nationally recognized, Paralympic or Olympic sports, contribution to the prime minister's national relief fund or any other fund set up by the Central Government  for socio economic development and relief and welfare of  SC, ST, OBCs, minorities and women, contributions or funds provided to technology incubators located within academic institutions approved by the Central Government and rural development projects. 
However, in determining CSR activities to be undertaken, preference would need to be given to local areas and the areas around where the company operates.
To formulate and monitor the CSR policy of a company, a CSR Committee of the Board needs to be constituted. Section 135 of the 2013 Act requires the CSR Committee to consist of at least three directors, including an independent director. However, CSR Rules exempts unlisted public companies and private companies that are not required to appoint an independent director from having an independent director as a part of their CSR Committee and stipulates that the Committee for a private company and a foreign company need have a minimum of only 2 members.
A company can undertake its CSR activities through a registered trust or society, a company established by its holding, subsidiary or associate company or otherwise, provided that the company has specified the activities to be undertaken, the modalities for utilization of funds as well as the reporting and monitoring mechanism. If the entity through which the CSR activities are being undertaken is not established by the company or its holding, subsidiary or associate company, such entity would need to have an established track record of three years undertaking similar activities.

Companies can also collaborate with each other for jointly undertaking CSR activities, provided that each of the companies are able individually report on such projects.
A company can build CSR capabilities of its personnel or implementation agencies through institutions with established track records of at least three years, provided that the expenditure for such activities does not exceed 5% of the total CSR expenditure of the company in a single financial year.
The CSR Rules specify that a company which does not satisfy the specified criteria for a consecutive period of three financial years is not required to comply with the CSR obligations, implying that a company not satisfying any of the specified criteria in a subsequent financial year would still need to undertake CSR activities unless it ceases to satisfy the specified criteria for a continuous period of three years. This could increase the burden on small companies which do not continue to make significant profits.
The report of the Board of Directors attached to the financial statements of the Company would also need to include an annual report on the CSR activities of the company in the format prescribed in the CSR Rules setting out inter alia a brief outline of the CSR policy, the composition of the CSR Committee, the average net profit for the last three financial years and the prescribed CSR expenditure. If the company has been unable to spend the minimum required on its CSR initiatives, the reasons for not doing so are to be specified in the Board Report.
Where a company has a website, the CSR policy of the company would need to be disclosed on such website.

Tuesday, 08th Dec 2015, 11:45:33 PM

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