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Are corporates socially responsible?

October 11, 2004 10:53 IST

Corporate Social Responsibility, or the commitment of business houses towards social cause, has evolved as a concept. Instead of simply donating a hefty cheque, it has now arguably taken the shape of blending business activity with promotion of a cause.

However, do business houses, with one eye on their balance sheets, truly get involved with a social issue without sparing a thought about "what's in it for me"?

"It is vital for every business house to have a humane face and society's acceptance for its activities. CSR provides this, and it is a corporate's way of saying 'thank you' to the society," says Praveen Ricky, a public relations executive.

One of Ricky's client has been involved with SOS Children's Village and under the scheme of 'Corporate for a child,' it has sponsored many children's education and medical check-ups, besides offering street children an opportunity for education and 'meal a day'.

A well-known designer label recently came up with a 'Think Pink' collection, which is a fund raiser, dedicated to the cause of breast cancer.

"Colour pink, which is universally associated with breast cancer, is the focus of this designer line-up. When 'Savera', an NGO spreading awareness about the dreaded disease, approached us about this sensitive issue, we readily agreed," says Sanjay Kapoor, Managing Director, Satya Paul.

Kapoor maintains that since the target audience for 'Savera' and Satya Paul is the same, so the two decided to align together.

"We both are targetting the new-age upwardly mobile working woman in metropolis. Our line-up will spread awareness to this class of women by roping in celebs like Diana Hayden and Jaya Bachchan. Besides, where is the harm if this sensitive cause and our label progress hand in hand?" he says.

Forging a partnership is essential and employees at individual level too are looking at 'giving it back to the society', maintains Ricky. She says employees of FedEx recently spent a weekend at 'mercy home,' an old age home.

'Kutumb', an NGO which organises soccer matches, street plays and painting competitions for street children, takes the help of Hersheys, UTI and Night Queen in doing so.

"I feel CSR per se is nothing but a PR and marketing ploy. However, the corporates involved with us have done so for their personal satisfaction and not as a brand management activity," says Kapil Pandey, Director, Kutumb Foundation.

Child Relief and You (CRY), has also undertaken several ventures by joining hands with corporate enterprises.

"This is the fourth year of our partnership with Cadence for the 'CRY Cadence Corporate Cricket Challenge.' This cricket challenge unites corporates on the pitch for the cause of underprivileged children, re-emphasising our philosophy -- together there is nothing that cannot be achieved," says Meenakshi Kohli Assistant Manager (Communications), CRY.

In an age where certain corporates possess wealth greater than some countries GDP, they owe a huge deal to the society.

However, several small NGOs, which are away from the media glare, list various instances of how corporates throw tantrums when it comes to donating money to them.

"If the donation brings media attention with shutter bugs clicking, then it is fine. Otherwise it becomes hard to convince corporates to step forward for social issues," says Swati Vashishth, a social activist working with mentally challenged children.

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