Corporates urged to make use of CSR to result in societal reform

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Corporate India should start looking at Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as an instrument to usher in “societal reform” and design programmes and projects that can have a far reaching impact, according to Piyush Goyal, Minister for Railways, Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

“CSR should mean committed for societal reform. It should have a far reaching impact. When we do CSR it should not be about giving somebody alms or one meal or a one-time benefit,” Goyal said in his virtual address at an ICSI event on National Awards for Excellence in Corporate Governance 2020.

He urged Company Secretaries and corporates to pick one particular aspect that excites them and focus on that agenda so that outcomes could be maximised at the societal level. “You (ICSI and company secretaries) should become agents of change,” he added.

At today’s event, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman Aditya Birla Group, was conferred honorary membership of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI). In his virtual address on the occasion, Birla said good governance at the core is about ensuring fair outcomes. “The prerequisite to achieving fair outcomes in the eyes of all stakeholders is to first build trust. Trust is the foundation of corporate governance. I will therefore argue that corporate governance has to be taken in the broader context of corporate citizenship,” he said. He urged company secretaries to push the frontiers of good corporate citizenship.

A modern corporation must not only balance competing interests of its own diverse stakeholders, but must also earn the implicit licence to operate in society, Birla said. It is almost as if the corporation is not merely an inanimate thing but is expected to be a humane, ethical thing having empathy and be a caring friend of society, he added.

It may be recalled that Birla had over two decades ago chaired the first SEBI committee on corporate governance, which was given the daunting task of drafting the first ever code of governance for Corporate India.

Birla noted that over the last 20 years, the governance framework of Indian companies had improved sharply. Much of that change had been driven by company secretaries, he said, adding that despite notable contributions, the community of company secretaries doesn’t get its due recognition and many of them remain “unsung heroes”.

While ITC bagged the award for the best governed corporate in the listed company and large category, Reliance Industries received the CSR Excellence Award (in large category).

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