You would have noticed some prominent corporate ad campaigns in media that are tom-tomming corporate social responsibility initiatives. Tata Steel, Suzlon and the Mahindra Group are talking about their latest activities.
Recently, Anand Mahindra unveiled a brand campaign which the group claims goes beyond just brand building. His plan is to mould the image of his $12.5 billion tractors-to-aviation company to appear as a purpose-driven and socially responsible firm. With 'Spark the Rise', Mahindra has initiated a two-way dialogue campaign to 'crowd-source' ideas for change, and then fund the translation of these ideas into reality.
"The most powerful companies of the future will be those which not only create value for the shareholders but also for the community," the vice chairman and MD of the Mahindra Group said. "What we are doing is starting a movement. We are looking at connecting like-minded people who have genuinely good community-driven ideas and want to make a difference but lack a credible platform."
Mahindra will give away 48 grants totalling Rs 4 crore as seed capital. It has been advertising the initiative, which it says is more a corporate brand initiative than a CSR one.
Tata Steel recently released an ad campaign that talks about its values and brings to fore its CSR initiative to empower women and communities. The campaign certainly triggers memories of a two-decades-old "We also make steel" campaign by the company.
The current campaign is aimed at reinforcing Tata Steel's image as not only a global steel major but also a firm dedicated to social and economic sustainability, green-technology and community empowerment.
"It is a stand-alone corporate campaign showing that our commitment is beyond steel-making. Tata Steel stands for certain values but there is a need to reinforce them to everyone," said Prabhat Sharma, head - corporate affairs, Tata Steel.
Suzlon India's ongoing PALS - Pure Air Lovers Society - ad campaign has been prominent on television and online, where it invites people to join the movement to make it effective. Being in the business of renewable energy, Suzlon derives brand association advantages through the campaign.
Dabur's CSR initiatives are driven through Sustainable Development Society (SUNDESH), which works in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand
currently for the socio-economic development of the poor. Bharti Airtel's Bharti Foundation has started 240 schools in remote areas. Reliance Industries' Project Drishti works to restore the eyesights of the visually affected from among the poor.
Increasingly, though India's CSR movement is still small compared to a lot of other countries', corporates are beginning to realise their value for their brand in the eyes of consumers. The issues that are being taken up for CSR initiatives by corporate are getting bigger.
Corporates are realisingthat it is critical to build trust at a larger level to build ongoing relationships with consumers and their communities in a highly competitive environment.
"Today, corporates are much more in the social space and under the scrutiny of consumers and the public. In a way, CSR is one-part insurance and the other a genuine interest. Going forward, more CSR initiatives will come to the fore as brands realise its advantages," said brand expert, Santosh Desai. "To re-enforce the idea that they are the best, brands have to do more and sometimes advertise it too."
With global exposure increasing in business and social areas, multinational corporates are also extending their own global CSR initiatives to more local-specific ones. Coca-Cola's 'Drops of Joy' campaign and Procter & Gamble's 'Shiksha' initiative are examples.
Michael Boneham, president and MD, Ford India, said: "While we do not market our CSR initiatives, somewhere, it does trickle down to help the brand grow. Henry Ford's philosophy that a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business, is inherent in our DNA."
"It is not just about corporates and their social responsibility. Globally, people are increasingly becoming conscious and seeking awareness of how the products and services that they consume are created or sourced: the values that accrue to them and the impact it has on the eco-systems in which we all function is very much a part of what can be called 'Conscious Consumption'. CSR is a trend becoming more visible," said Prableen Sabhaney, head - brand affairs, FabIndia.
The KPMG India Corporate Responsibility Survey 2011 shows that only 16% of the top 100 listed companies in India have a corporate responsibility strategy in place. India lags far behind the global scenario wherein 73% of the world's 250 largest companies have defined objectives, 65% have key performance indicators related to set objectives, and around 60% report on such identified indicators. The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) 200 companies collectively earned a net profit of over Rs 2,20,000 crore in 2010, up from Rs 33,906 crore in 2000. Of this, little goes towards philanthropy, the KPMG report said.
As CSR efforts increase, we will see more advertising based on them. Meanwhile, the government, which had been trying to make it compulsory for Indian corporate to spend 2% of net profits on CSR, dropped the idea in mid-July and made the spending voluntary.