‘India, a laboratory of social innovation’

John Elkington, a global authority on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability, was ranked 4th in a CSR International survey of the top 100 CSR leaders.
Elkington, who conceived the ‘triple bottom line’ philosophy — which dictates that a business’s success must be measured by people, profits and planet (its economic, ecological and social goals) — will address the CRY Corporate Responsibility Summit in Mumbai on Friday.
Excerpts from an interview with HT.

Do you think the Indian environment is conducive to social entrepreneurship?
Social innovation is hugely interesting in India right now. A new breed of entrepreneurs has entered this space over the past five years or so, in India and other developing countries such as Brazil and South Africa. These are very well-educated, business-oriented people, very different from those traditionally associated with this industry. For this new generation, social innovation is not a side-business but a way to a scalable, profitable business — without profit being the overriding motive.
However, while one the one hand India is currently this astonishing laboratory of social innovation, I would be very concerned about political corruption here. Without government endorsement and funding, these entrepreneurs are forced to think in narrower, short-term goals.

What can India do to promote sustainability and address environmental issues?
What is striking about India is its ability to stay in denial about some issues, such as climate change, particularly about Himalayan glaciers melting, as though there is an option to disbelieve science. Individually, Indians should invest in education, of themselves and their families. They should also be willing to take a stand, get policy-makers to listen to their voices, as they have with the recent protests in Delhi after the gang-rape case.

What are your expectations from the CRY Corporate Responsibility Summit?
I participated in this summit last year as well, and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with established speakers like [Infosys co-founder] Nandan Nilekani about what businesses are doing to bring about social change, and what the internal barriers are. The issue of child rights definitely needs to be advocated more, particularly in a country like India, where 26 million children are born every year. I look forward to the summit, and learning from the many established speakers that will participate in it.


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