Through a series of presentations, panel discussions, audience interaction and networking sessions, the delegates engaged over a potentially momentous development for the social sector – the new Clause 135, popularly known as the CSR Bill, in the recently enacted Indian Companies Act 2013 which requires companies that meet a certain financial criteria to set aside 2% of their annual net profits for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). According to the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), established by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs of the Government of India, nearly 7,000 companies in India will come under the ambit of the new law, creating a funding pool of INR 12,000-15,000 crore (USD1.9-2.4bn) annually.
Lakshya 2013 began with welcome remarks by Shrinath Bolloju, Group COO India, who was shortly joined by Gunit Chadha, Co-CEO Asia Pacific, and Ravneet Gill, CEO India, for a traditional lamp-lighting ceremony. Chadha, in his keynote address, set the tone for the day by underscoring the need to strengthen corporate-NGO partnerships in this new era of CSR. He suggested that the Bank explore technology-led partnerships with other responsible companies such as TCS to help further enable the Lakshya platform.
The first session, ‘Decoding the Bill’ was helmed by Noshir Dadrawala, Chief Executive, Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy (CAP), who offered a detailed and sharp decoding of Clause 135 of the Companies Act 2013, as well as other regulations affecting corporate responsibility. The delegates got a 360-degree view of the rules, interpretations and implications for the social sector.
The next session on ‘Establishing Partnerships’ began with a presentation by Dr. K K Upadhyay, CSR Head of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) on how FICCI can help NGOs establish partnerships with the government and corporate sector. Dr. Upadhyay stressed that the current scenario was one of inclusive development and advised NGOs to get into the ‘project mode’ of development to garner greater support from corporate CSR departments.
Dr. Upadhyay then anchored a panel discussion on the Indian corporate sector’s approach to CSR and working with NGO partners. Public sector major Oil India Ltd, private sector leader Godrej Industries and Deutsche Bank spoke about their policies and guidelines for corporate responsibility initiatives. The panel made it evident that the corporate sector is interested in developing long-term partnerships with NGOs and achieving common goals in a transparent manner; an approach that goes well beyond the traditional chequebook philanthropy.
After lunch, the workshop turned to discussing the nuances of ‘Gearing up for the new era’. Nitin Orayan, Founder of Learning Space Foundation, first presented the NGO perspective on the challenges and benefits of partnering with the corporate sector, which was then followed by a panel discussion on how NGOs can equip themselves to build effective interaction with the corporate sector and have a better chance at receiving development funds. The panel comprised Dhaval Udani, CEO, Give India Foundation, S P Selvi, Executive Director of Credibility Alliance, Gayatri Divecha of Dasra Foundation and Noshir Dadrawala of CAP, with Ruchira Roy of Positron Services anchoring the discussions. The panel advised NGOs to push for more transparency, better understanding of corporate requirements or ‘corporate speak’, and also achieving third-party accreditations. A spirited discussion on third-party accreditations underscored their advantages in strengthening internal processes, while enhancing transparency and credibility for the perspective of corporate donors.
It was clearly a hectic day of learning, exchanging ideas and networking for the delegates. Animated discussions developed around most of the topics, underlining the energies and attention invested by the delegates and speakers on the Lakshya platform. Bolloju summed it up in his vote of thanks, saying, “The energy in the room and the high level of debate and discussions clearly indicates that the workshop is on the right track.”
The subsequent positive feedback from the delegates has served as just the right tonic for the organisers and volunteers to strive to develop Lakshya into a catalyst for strengthening the social sector and building closer corporate-NGO partnerships.