Sustainable social responsibility

Corporate affluence can be sustained only when social development takes place along with economic development, reminds K. N. Ajith in Corporates & Social Responsibility (Eeswaar Books).

Arguing that CSR (corporate social responsibility) is an investment, which can yield multiple returns to business and society, the author cites Y. C. Deveshwar's call for business models that would enable companies to co-create, with local communities, opportunities for sustainable livelihoods as well as enrichment of national capital. Also echoing the caution of E. Juholin (2004) that in times to come companies will be judged more by their social policies than on their delivery of products and services, Ajith seeks a widening of CSR to CSSR, where the first S is for ‘sustainable.'

The book refers to TERI Europe's CSR survey of 2001 which covered more than 1,200 individuals in five Indian cities, including workers, executives and the general public. Five major findings, as Ajith paraphrases, are that the IT (information technology) sector is regarded as the most responsible while the tobacco and alcohol industries are at the other end of the spectrum; that public expectations of corporations on social and environmental matters are high and growing; that a greater trust is placed on the media and NGOs (non-government organisations) than on business or trade unions, and global companies operating in India are rated low in terms of their trustworthiness; that gender discrimination is a prominent issue in the workplace; and that workers and management have sharply diverging perceptions of labour conditions including child labour issues.

Instructive read.

Barometer or thermometer

Chapter 6 in Injustice, a novel by Sajiv Bhatla (Crabwise Press), opens by puzzling how the health of an entire nation's economy is equated with the euphoria, or a lack of it, in the stock markets. The author wonders if the description of stock markets as the barometer of the economy must have been devised by the financial experts of those countries in which the economy had already reached a certain level of stoicism, and the stock markets, a certain level of maturity. As alternatives, he suggests in his tale that the stock market behaviour is more akin to that of the bubble of air in a spirit-level; and that the market is a thermometer — ‘a fever-measuring device, and that too not of the economy as a whole, but only of a bunch of crazy people who throng the bourses.'

One such person is J, the protagonist, who wants to make money quickly, rather than make big money. “J set about his task in an earnest and what he thought, a careful manner. He bought a number of scrips to constitute his ‘portfolio,' to minimise the ‘risk-factor.' His choice fell upon low-priced, neglected scrips — the logic being that from thereon they could only go up.”

A book that can keep you off the keyboard, what with the teji scene-changes that befall J.



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