Arguably businesses are created for the purpose of wealth creation. I’d like to suggest that perhaps it is their duty to create the wealth in a socially responsible manner. This is where corporate social responsibility (CSR) comes into play. CSR has become a popular notion in most corporations’ lexicon. The view in vogue is that mere philanthropy will not suffice and that social responsibility will have to become an integral part of all business practices. I’d like to propose that rather than treat CSR as an “add on”, businesses ideally should create products and services in accordance with what is best for society.
I would also like to extend CSR as a concept to individuals for whom the standards need to be more explicit. It is not enough to think of philanthropy or charity as an act separate from one’s daily life. It is not enough to reserve a specific pocket of time and money for socially responsible behavior. The needs of the disadvantaged are so great that we will have to raise the bar for ourselves and not feel satisfied that we did one good deed for the day, for the week or for the month! Indeed, we should delete the word “charity” from our thinking as this word demeans the receiver. Instead we should recognize our privileges and as a responsible behavior of society think of meaningful work as our duty, an obligation, a “must do” rather than take the attitude that “I will do what I can and when I can”.
Mahatma Gandhi was well ahead of his time when he exhorted the capitalist “………..to regard himself as a trustee for those on whom he depends for the making, the retention and the increase of his capital.” Gandhiji’s prescient words encapsulate the ideals of social responsibility, to which an increasing number of corporations are swearing allegiance in today’s world. Similarly, just as I suggest that businesses integrate the principles of CSR, individuals too should integrate the principles of socially responsible behavior.
Meera Kumar, AI Board.