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Become a Corporate Citizen first before initiating CSR activities - Dr Subhash Chandra

The philosophy of philanthropy is not new to the Indian society that boasts of a rich history of social, cultural and educational initiatives which have made significant contributions to the world.

In today’s corporate world, the concept of philanthropy has taken on several hues. Many a companies today run social endeavours called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

But has CSR reduced to a mere marketing activity these days? That's the question that this edition of the DSC Show explores. Do companies use CSR just to be seen as "doing good", or do they actually make an effort to make a difference?

By law, The Companies Act, 2013 states that it is mandatory for any corporation having a net worth of over Rs 500 crore, a turnover of over Rs 1,000 crore or a net profit of Rs five crore or more to spend at least 2% of its average net profits over the three years on CSR activities.

But, does CSR really benefit the society? What potential do these CSR activities have?

There are many key initiatives that have been ignited by the want of a social change by a few business houses, even before CSR became an accepted corporate term. Business houses practised philanthropy with the sheer intent of "doing good" for a section of the society by backing a social cause and a larger vision behind it.

Yet, there are several sectors in India, like education or health, where government intervention alone is not enough and hence CSR must be encouraged.

But are today's CSR activities carried out as a social endeavour or as a marketing gimmick?

Many corporates have contributed to a permanent social change in the form of CSR. ZEE for instance, approved a CSR Policy with primary focus on Education, Healthcare, Women empowerment and Sports. With a mission is to be a world-class entertainment conglomerate that makes a difference to the lives of many, ZEE has built libraries to benefit 2400 students, has partnered with 'Room to Read' organisation to enhance literary levels of students and organised a charity concert ‘Hum Hain Umeed-E-Kashmir' to raise funds and awareness for the flood-stricken areas of Jammu & Kashmir.

However, there are some companies who benefit themselves under the pretext of CSR by only supporting their own NGOs or initiatives where they see a merit for their own business.

"CSR is hypocritical if it is not solving a real issue or problem which exists in society," Dr Chandra said. Having adequate audit systems in place that monitor whether the money being allotted is being properly utilised is also important.

Are the CSR activities carried out by the large corporates adequate?

In fact, INR 20,000 crore as the potential contribution to CSR activities is only from PSU or listed entities - there is scope for more contribution for the good of the society once all corporate, SMEs and MSMEs chip in.

Many companies portray CSR to be just an activity to be displayed and promoted on their PR and social media channels. However, CSR should be more than just clicking a few 'feel good' pictures and uploading them on social media.

"It is more important to become a good corporate citizen before you get into any CSR activities," Dr Chandra said. Those who aid their company’s sales & marketing under a veil of CSR, is not true CSR. Even marketing the fact that a certain percent of sales would be attributed to a CSR cause cannot be accounted as true CSR.

In the end, answering the question, Dr Chandra said that the answer is really perceptive, yet it cannot be denied that there exist a sizable number of business houses that contribute to a CSR initiate with a true intent and a vision. However, one must give due encouragement and credit when necessary and initiatives must be highlighted and promoted to garner more positive outlook on CSR activities as a whole.