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Indian Managers and their CSR Understanding: An Expert Panel Study

Filed under Columnists, Special Reports, What is CSR |

For the result of survey please write to Rusen Kumar (rusenk@indiacsr.in), Editor, INDIA CSR (India’s largest CSR Network), providing relevant information like Name, Designation, Organization, and Mobile No. E-mail id etc.

 By Rusen Kumar

NEW DELHI: Jeremie Jeannenot (MSc Student, EBS Business School, Germany) and Prof. Dr. Roger Moser (Senior Researcher, India Competence Center, University of St.Gallen, Dufourstrasse 40a, 9000 St.Gallen, Switzerland & Visiting Faculty, EADS-SMI Endowed Chair, IIM Bangalore, India) conducted a survey titled “Indian Managers and their CSR Understanding: An Expert Panel Study”. The study extends the understanding of CSR concepts among managers in the context of India and offers insights for researchers and managers a better understanding of CSR in India. The study is based on an expert panel approach evaluating the perspective of Indian managers on different CSR concepts.

Prof. Dr. Pablo Collazzo, Professor, Grenoble Ecole de Management, France is the Corresponding Author of the survey.

“The results indicate that Indian managers put different priorities and preferences on CSR than what the current literature suggests as the primary understanding among managers in the Western context.” Mr. Jeremie Jeannenot, MSc Student, EBS Business School, Germany and lead of the survey informed INDIA CSR.

“The results show that the understanding of CSR among Indian managers differs from the predominant Western understanding in the literature. The data encourages further research in evaluating the differences of CSR in different cultural and regional contexts. However, the study covers only a fraction of the Indian management community and further data collection is necessary to create additional insights.” Mr. Jeremie Jeannenot added.

The study shows how different CSR concepts are perceived among Indian managers. Companies, especially from the West, can use the data to optimally adapt their CSR investments and strategies for the Indian context.

The study is among the first that tries to evaluate the understanding of CSR concepts among Indian managers applying an expert panel approach. The quantitative and qualitative results offer detailed insights on the differences of CSR concept elements in the Indian context.

Since the 1990s, many multinational companies such as Nike, Ericsson or Shell were part of scandals resulting from assumed unethical behavior.

The recurrence of these types of scandals in the corporate world and the recent global economic crisis have led to an increasing mistrust of the civil society towards the corporate world.

Today, companies are generally held responsible for the degradation of the environment, the depletion of natural resources, and to some extent, for the still remaining poverty worldwide. As Porter and Kramer (2011) state, “companies are perceived to be prospering at the expense of the broader community”.

Consequently, companies have increasingly started to consider the impact of their activities on society and the environment. As the concerns of various stakeholders towards social and environmental issues are growing, increasing the positive impact of their activities has become critical for the long term survival of companies worldwide. As a consequence, many companies have officially implemented corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Both the internal and external dimensions of CSR programs allow companies to address the concerns of most stakeholders. However, beyond the narrow view of limiting the negative impact of a company‟s activities and what Visser (2011) calls the culture of “less bad”, companies are often expected to do “good” by contributing to the well-being of local communities and the protection of the environment. At this point, the major challenge for companies worldwide is therefore to find ways in which economic development, environmental protection, and social good can all symbiotically coexist (Beamon, 1999).

The motivation of this paper is to add more insights to a knowledge gap identified in the current literature on corporate social responsibility. It is actually striking that there are far more publications on CSR in developed countries than in their developing counterparts (Dobers and Halme, 2009).

It seems obvious that the social distress in the developing world calls for CSR more promptly than in developed countries where social and environmental goods are ensured by many more institutions and formal processes. In developing countries, companies are expected to fill the gap caused by a lack of institutions ensuring social and environmental standards (Dobers and Halme, 2009).

The literature acknowledges that the understanding of CSR among managers might vary depending on context and culture. According to Moon, Crane, & Matten (2004), the rules of application of CSR are relatively “open” because CSR overlaps and is often synonymous with different conceptions of business-society relations. They highlight the importance of the national context in defining CSR (Moon & Matten, 2004). Dobers and Halme (2009) refer to this aspect as the context dependency of CSR.

This paper follows this perspective and tries to contribute to a better understanding of the CSR concept among managers in the context of India.

CSR is a complex and evolving concept; so complex that no universal definition seems to prevail (Blowfield & Frynas, 2005).

In order to capture the understanding of CSR among managers in the Indian context, it is first necessary to consider the different definitions that exist in the literature.

Blowfield and Frynas (2005) suggest thinking of CSR as an umbrella term used to describe different practices. This paper follows an approach where companies have responsibilities that go beyond the simple legal compliance.

Second, companies have also a responsibility for the behavior of the stakeholders they do business with.

Third, companies have to handle their relationships with society for commercial reasons and/or to add value to the society. For the purpose of this study, four distinctively different understandings of CSR have been identified in the literature. In the following section, these concepts will be briefly introduced.

In a second section, the awareness and agreement to these models in the Indian context will be tested and discussed in an expert panel with Indian managers. Based on the results of expert panel study, conclusions about the understanding of CSR among Indian managers are drawn.

For the result of survey please write to Rusen Kumar (rusenk@indiacsr.in), Editor, INDIA CSR (India’s largest CSR Network), providing relevant information like Name, Designation, Organization, and Mobile No. Email id etc.

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