Category Archives: Environment

CSR & Business gupshup

By Celin Thomas

Consider myself lucky to be able to be a participant in a CSR conclave orgnanised by Yes Bank & IICA in Mumbai on the 8th June 2012 at the Nehru Centre.

Hon. Min. Veerappa Moily was present and gave his valuable inputs and feedback on the topic of discussion. The one good point which was nicely brought out was the trust deficit primarily triggered by irresponsible business practices that lead to the global financial meltdown in 2008, which was bravely accepted by the Minister himself in his speech.

Peoples loss of faith in corporations and government was primarily due to the fact that they were being perceived as greedy and least considerate about business practices, environment and community welfare. According to Mr. Moily, businesses can bridge the trust gap by adopting effective CSR initiatives. CSR is Corporate Social Responsibility. Which is often confused as charity by many even today.

Considering the global industrial scenario, CSR which was also the main topic of discussion in the conclave- is considered or rather was projected as the saviour by the eminent panelists.The panel consisted of  noted academicians, experts from consultancies, IICA, planning commission & ministry. The best part of the conclave was the knowledgable panelists who belonged to some of the reputed firms and industrial houses such as Deloitte, Tata, Jindal, Godrej, ITC, etc.

Financial contribution to CSR fund debate
I began to wonder if Mr. Moily and IICA were lobbying with the corporates here in Mumbai through this conclave to promote the 2% of PAT contribution to CSR agenda. Which is BTW being successfully implemented by PSUs in India.
This topic bought upon funny and intriguing revelations. Like how does one go about spending 2% of the PAT and into what? Define CSR activities or whatever that may fall in the gamut of CSR initiatves? There was talk about necessary CSR guidelines that would answer all the queries which were raised.

I guess the only concensus that the conclave agreed upon was to work amicably on a set of guidelines that set the precedent for spending on CSR and how to go about the implementation of activities.

Creating social value
CSR is definitely the new mantra to revive businesses and their reputation whilst reinstating faith of people in their government. For extractive industries, CSR is huge mandate. Earlier product and businesses revolved around inducing demand and upscaling lifestyle. But after the recent economic meltdown, everyone is slowly coming to senses that available natural resources need to be used judiciously and that very soon there’ll be hardly any means to live luxurious lifestyle.

Pretty soon, having a luxurious life may seem like an outdated concept or worse could even be fined just as the largely debated carbon tax, there could also be a lifestyle tax. So things that are additional or excess may soon turn into baggage or liabilities.

Here is where social entrepreneurs and corporates can find the purpose and the future trend. Which implies in a simple manner that, produce or provide a service that adds value to life. Instead of creating a buzz and demand, therby plundering natural resources. It is better to switch your business model to suit future requirements. I think in the long run, only those companies will survive that have capacitated themselves with processes that support products and services that generate value rather than support Greed!

Two decades ago
Companies never had corporate governance or any structured policy and value system. But today a corporate functions like a huge family tree, with the head of a family and several stakeholders. The onus lies amongst the senior most to decide and act upon responsibly for the wlefare of the vulnerable stakeholders. Instilling values mid-way will be very difficult, it is always better to begin with a good set of values; however having no values can leave a company clueless about its stand on certain matters that may have legal & regulatory implications.

It is of utmost importance, to map out each and every process of the company and also its supply chain for all the applicable norms and check for compliances, here is where one can always start & never go wrong. Policies and guidelines, charters, laws, acts, regulatory bodies have sprung up to monitor and gauge performance & compliance. Performance & compliance are the first mandatory steps.

The real measurement of the company’s life comes from its social investment. This investment can be in terms of its policies,practices and processes that lead them to produce products and serve their stakeholder accordingly. Social investment or responsible businesses essentially generate value in the long haul. They command respect for the organisation and its representatives.

Certain developmental inititaves have reflected government and corporate apathy. These initiatives have given birth to naxalism, maosim even terrorism. While there have been certain inititaves and policies on the regulatory and corporate level that have bought about social awakening and reforms such as diversity & inclusivity, equal opportunity, affirmative action, etc.

It is clear that corporates play a big role in abolishing and at times even creating social evils. Needless to say, it is imperative that the corporations must have values based on ethical systems that would provide the necessary impetus in influencing profits, people and eventually the planet.

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Natural disasters by Natural forces

by Celin Thomas

A disaster is usually accompanied by loss of life , destruction to property and a long-term effect on one’s mental, physical and economical well-being. Disasters are well-known for wiping out species, giving rise to new ones, also dislocation of certain native organisms to a different location where they have to restart the process of adaptation and also fight to survive the new environment and adjust to new neighbours.

If one tries to rationalise a disaster, it not only means catastrophe and destruction but it also reasons survival against all odds. Disaster is a challenge , it’s a test of one’s tolerance, patience, ability to handle a crisis. Disaster is a threat to the ruling party and a boon to the opposition party to malign it for mismanagement. Disasters are those forces of life as well as nature that we cannot control .

Ever wondered why are prophecies and holy books written? Perhaps just to confuse us ,is what some of us might think but some of us might also get an idea as to how to accept disasters as a part of life and try to return to normalcy by learning the underlying truth that there is nothing above nature not even Man himself. The question is not how many of us believe in the supreme power but how many of us really follow the ideal path of life. These gospels and prophecies are meant to make our lives easier in terms of survival in this world and they also forewarn us our fate or probably what we are doing to this world now and what we would be doing to it in future and also what can be done so as not to further butcher it by our inhumane deeds. Natural disasters are meant to happen not to freak us but to bring us together to deal with the aftermath.

Natural forces that eventually lead to natural disasters are usually those events organized by nature that carry the weight of teaching us big lessons. Big lessons that include chapters such as value for one’s life, livelihood, a normal life that we live when things are fine. They also teach us humanity and the need for a well educated and reformed society that believes in rebuilding and restarting a new world for a better tomorrow. Techniques to predict disasters and measures to combat the consequences of catastrophes should be encouraged and fully supported by the people and the government.

Disasters have shaped the form of existence on this planet. They have wiped out the mighty Dinosaurs and Sabretooths and made way for other species to reign this planet. So while accusing disasters for their consequences one has to keep in mind that this is an obstacle that defines the core of our instinct to survive by chance or by natural selection of natural forces of nature.

In the end one has to learn to respect nature in its prestine glory and just learn to live in harmony with it. Panicking with what is in store for us in future should not stop us from living a normal life.

This write up was also published- Natural Disasters by Natural Forces, Panda Bulletin, WWF-MSO magazine [Vol.10(4),2005]

Working together towards a Common Future

Those days are long gone when to bring about a change we had to be a part of the system; and to be part of this system one had to be excessively qualified. And to attain that level of expertise and knowledge would take years and the person who was once a firebrand would eventually lose focus & determination and work only to make his ends meet. Perhaps there are many who are still working towards a similar future and maybe there is nothing wrong with it.

So maybe it isn’t actually about the age, it is the need after all. Man is so need and demand based that at times he can only realise a situation once he is thrown into the centre of it. Environment is one such neglected aspect which has fortunately gained huge momentum in the last decade. There are many pressing environmental issues like deforestation, loss of biodiversity, water woes, climate change, marine & air pollution, etc. that need immediate action. International organisations, bilateral bodies, government across the continents are all making an effort to work jointly to conserve our common future.

However, it is inappropriate to put the onus on the government and others and conveniently forget our role in the process of environment conservation. Most of these problems are a result of what we all do cumulatively. Now that this part is clear, what is next- is to do our part in reducing the load on environment. Mother Nature on its own has ways to rejuvenate; unfortunately many of us from our species haven’t really given her that ample opportunity or time to do so. In our effort to sustain a certain lifestyle which eventually has an irreversible impact on environment; continues to be the state even today.

Every member of the human race can contribute a lot by bringing simple changes in their lifestyles. For those who are aware have a greater responsibility to make others as aware and educated about the environmental concerns. Naturally, this requires effort on individual level which would reflect nationally as well. Being a citizen of a democratic republic like India; with a rich cultural and historical heritage- we must feel proud for the nation and at the same time responsible for our actions. Everybody can do something about their immediate environment.

We are a young country and many hopes ride on our shoulders including our own dreams and aspirations. We can realise all of this and more if we collectively work towards making our future sustainable. The energy and vibrancy that we as youth can bring to the nation’s economy and intellectual future, we can also do the same for the environment. Depending on cleaner fuel, car pooling, using public transport for longer distances, voting for the right candidate who addresses environmental concerns, are few of the things we can imbibe easily and effectively in our daily lives.

It is these small alterations that would bring about the big change we hope to see. To see youth actively participate in mobilising movements that can bring changes in the political and judicial system in a system-oriented nation of ours will see a huge impact in the way we hope to achieve our environmental goals. Climate change is one issue which we need to tackle collectively and I believe that young minds can creatively mobilise their peers and in turn influence corporations and even government by working together. College festivals, social networking, events, seminars, youth conferences are good ways to network with likeminded individuals who may lead us in the right direction and channelize our energies towards a better future.

A simple effort like this news letter will also contribute its share in making youngsters aware and more responsible towards their environment and our common future…

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Celin Thomas-Article is a part of the e-Bulletin C-Shor of Rotaract Club of Bombay, Juhu Beach