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PR needs to incorporate service delivery component to handle CSR

Carol Cone, Global Practise Chair, Business and Social Purpose, Edelman, told over 300 delegates at PRAXIS 2014 today that an emerging “citizen consumer”, driven by the freedom and transparency of mobile technology and social media, will provide a push towards CSR in India.

During an interaction with Carol Cone, N Madhavan, Senior editor and technology columnist, N Madhavan, Hindustan Times, it was pointed out that PR needs to incorporate service delivery to handle CSR activities in India.

Speaking to PRmoment India, Carol Cone sounded a note of caution saying that, “I don’t think all can do it. Those who have broad engagement with stakeholders, those who have public affairs components, and those who have handled public-private partnerships will be able to handle it. It’s not just about working with NGOs but also understanding their mind-set. I don’t think many PR teams will be successful, unless they have the depth and the vision to do so.”

Lavang Khare, Executive Vice President, LinOpinion Golin Harris said that, “It is definitely doable, however there is a need to have the right set of people, who have the experience, are trained and have the mind-set to take CSR programmes. These need not necessarily be PR people, but what is truly important is that these professionals are passionate and committed to the cause they undertake, they need to connect both in the in mind and the heart. That’s when the best results will emerge.”

N Madhavan observed that many companies in India, who are eligible under the Companies Act 2013, do not often have strong corporate governance programmes – let alone workable CSR programmes.

Carol agreed that in the beginning, “You are going to have missteps’; you are going to have bad actors and fluffy CSR programmes. But the market forces will create the push towards CSR. This is no longer a nice thing to do, but a have to do”.

Commenting on the recent recommendations of the Mukund Rajan report that has created of bands of monetary value to the time devoted by corporate executives, managers and CEOs volunteering for social causes, Carol told PRmoment India that such a move will have huge impact on the levels of up skilling and capacity building for the NGO community in India. In the US, such rates range from 16 to 26 dollars an hour for unskilled work and up to 120 dollars an hour for skilled voluntary work.

From April this year, it became mandatory for Indian companies with a net-worth of over 500 crores  to contribute 2 percent of their earnings towards CSR activities.

Carol Cone called this policy framework a gift and urged participants to think about the “Power of Possible” and ask themselves what issues they would like to solve.

Carol suggested a matrix of 5 ‘powers’ to think about while planning a CSR programme including strategy, products and innovation. Giving the example of Unilever’s Project Sunlight, powered by 100 million acts, Carol highlighted how Unilever were able to discover the best time when people were open to behavioural change and adopting practices which promoted sustainable behaviour. This is when they were just about to become parents.

Story Pictures by Anubhuti Goel, Symbiosis 

Watch out for more coverage of #PRAXIS2014 at PRmoment India

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