A few weeks ago, I wrote about the proposal put forth by some business leaders in India, for identifying measurable metrics for CSR in an effort to increase corporate accountability and transparency. Today, The Financial Express reports that Indian companies can now file their CSR reports online with the ministry for corporate affairs (MCA).
The reasoning for this is two-fold. 1) There has been much pressure on India Inc. to become more active in the area of philanthropy and corporate giving. Business leaders have been struggling for a while now on how to demonstrate their companies' responsibility stances and this will be one way of advertising it. 2) The ministry wants to make this a comparable database to enable informed policy decisions. Having all the reports in one place will--or at least the hope is--help the MCA put regulations in place that will make companies accountable for their corporate and social responsibility as well as "showcase the responsible business practices of [the] Indian corporate sector to the whole world."
The ministry also goes on to suggest parameters for the report, "...[the] CSR policy of the business entity should provide for an implementation strategy that should include identification of projects, time schedule and monitoring, setting measurable physical targets with time-frame, organizational mechanism and responsibilities."
I have to say I like the idea. Although, it might not yield the highest standards of true accountability, it might just be enough to get more companies jumping on the CSR bandwagon and reporting what they give back to society and the environment. And the fact that the portal will serve a dual purpose by also helping form meaningful regulation for the business industry is a step in the right direction.
But that's India Inc. What about companies here in the U.S.? We get to see faint glimmers of their efforts to be responsible citizens every now and then, but their is no one organization or a mandatory set of standard benchmarks available that enable CSR reporting easy, all in one place and measurable. The SEC has attempted to address this vacuum by making it mandatory for businesses to report the risks of climate change to their bottom line in a divided vote in January. But it isn't enough and only moderately skims the surface of all the reporting that should be required.
Maybe, its time to take a lesson from India Inc.'s book? While more and more companies continue to institute "eco-officers" as a way of building their reputation as green and sustainable businesses, most have been mere marketing gimmicks. With Washington D.C. embroiled in health care and jobs bills, CSR is a far thought for the administration. And as a reader commented recently, "When corporate America refuses to take action, despite glaring evidence, regulation becomes the last resort to get them on the road to becoming responsible citizens."
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Read the full report on Financial Express.com.
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