The 2013 Companies Act has redefined the nature of corporate social responsibility in India, defining a mandatory 2% spend on activities of social benefits for companies with a net worth of rupees 500 crores, or a turnover of rupees 1,000 crores, or a net profit of rupees 5 crores.
NGOs need the large resources that corporate partners can generate, in terms of financial support, influence, and technical expertise. For companies, CSR is increasingly becoming more than a legal obligation, but a tool of good public relations and measurable goodwill in their respective communities and with the government.
NGO and CSR partnerships
While companies that are applicable for CSR spends have adequate finances to meet the minimum 2%, they’ve already positioned their best talents for business goals. Even after allocating CSR funding, and engaging employees with a mission of social good, companies struggle with their project’s sustainability. Companies, therefore, lack the bandwidth (employees, consultants and supervision) and expertise for executing effective CSR activities, as well as training manpower for CSR capability.
This is where leading NGOs emerge, offering customised approaches so that they can access a corporate’s unique and strategic resources. While NGOs benefit immensely from those who donate online, it is corporate assistance that gives them a real framework of support. Even if corporates do not need this direct NGO intervention, they will need to work with civil society to discharge their civic duties. Looking at the scale and dominance of Indian firms in the Asian market, it is clear that the right guidance will make them formidable engines of social change.
NGOs are the first port of call for corporate India in this situation, as they have demonstrated expertise in various social welfare situations, including attacks on ecosystems or demographics.
NGOs provide data-driven support to government bodies, empower local communities to fight for a more sustainable form of living and simultaneously draw international attention for sustainable development, eventually facilitating inter-governmental negotiations. Many of the modern world’s global treaties on hazardous wastes and emissions control agreements have civil society behind them.
While many corporates may consider NGOs as enemies of their business interests, NGOs teach them to exist ethically. They can successfully leverage multinational brands to exist with sustainability – clearly, a partnership would seem beneficial.
The Indian government, realising how corporate interests can ‘take’ from communities, has instituted the need for corporate social responsibility. It also regularly checks companies if they exercise harm over communities, environments, and consumers. The reverse is also true – companies are applauded for social investment in their domains of influence.
Brief case studies of some notable and effective CSR-NGO partnerships
1. Nokia and Bal Raksha Bharat
i. A Making Schools Safer programme covering 50 Delhi schools and over 2 lakh people – Nokia provided advanced communication connectivity, including access to safety maps and plans, alternate routes and safe zones, real-time coordination with community members, and mobile-based training and education. Deployed in six pilot villages, followed by projects across 350 villages and urban settlements (Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu)
ii. Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) or community health workers were armed with mobile phones that can store medical information and gave consultation to mothers on maternity health and infant health. Apps were used to schedule appointments and access patient records.
2. IKEA and Bal Raksha Bharat
i. The IKEA Foundation and Bal Raksha Bharat united for a €7 million programme for protecting 8 lakh children cotton laborers in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, after pilot debut across 1,866 villages of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Over 65,000 children have already been moved to classrooms from child labour, and farmers pledged to make farms child-labour free.
ii. IKEA Foundation helped provide malnutrition screening and access to the NGO’s Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre facilities. Pregnant mothers in flood-hit Assam learned cheap healthy recipes to improve children’s nutritional status. Families were engaged in safe hygiene practices.
Iii. Every solar power lamp sold by IKEA customers sees the company donate one to UNICEF and Bal Raksha Bharat.
3. Reckitt Benckiser and Bal Raksha Bharat
Reckitt Benckiser leads The Stop Diarrhoea Initiative, to mitigate diarrhoea and diarrhoea-related deaths across 5 Indian states, and preventing open defecation – major causes of diarrhoea. The initiative currently reaches over 2 million people (including 2 lakh children under 5).
Apart from renovating the infrastructure and making it child-friendly, the NGO strengthening the Mother Support Groups and ICDS for Home based care for malnourished children. A supplementary food Programme was undertaken, and referral service raised for High-Risk Cases.
i. In Chennai Bal Raksha Bharat launched ‘Aaharam’ to raise malnutrition awareness among mothers, families and communities
• Malnutrition screening of Children
• Case Management of undernourished children
• Following up on malnutrition afflicted children
• Increased access to nutritious food through locally available food items
Clearly, NGO-corporate relationships like Bal Raksha Bharat’s various CSR partnerships offer the kind of synergies for large scale, lasting social change. These create credibility that corporates can further leadership in their own arenas, while also sustainably helping communities. This new model of CSR makes corporations deeper members of society, enabling them to benefit and uplift communities. As CSR partnerships grow and expand, there is only more positive change that can happen.