How CSR Executive Education Spurred New Research in India

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When India made CSR a requirement for the public sector, the Xavier Institute of Management showed companies how to adapt.


India’s Centre for Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Corporate Social Responsibility (CRRCSR), housed at the Xavier Institute of Management, teaches companies how to implement corporate social responsibility (CSR). Subhasis Ray, cofounder of CRRCSR, shares the centre’s approach to CSR executive education and how it has advanced his own research.

In 2010, Subhasis Ray’s life got very, very busy. As a CSR researcher and coordinator of a research centre, Ray was inundated with corporate requests for help when India became the first country to make CSR a legal requirement for the public sector. Government-owned enterprises would now have to prove they were spending two per cent of their earnings, on average, on CSR.

“The regulation has caused a CSR tsunami,” says Ray.

Responding to New Requirements

A new “Companies Bill” is expected to take effect this year, extending the regulation to the private sector. It’s estimated this will result in 9,000 Indian companies spending a combined $2 billion annually on CSR.

Companies must understand the new regulation and develop CSR strategies. As a result, Ray and his team at CRRCSR have developed two executive education programs.

In 2011, the centre began offering a three-day program, intended to help companies understand the regulation and meet reporting requirements. After delivering the program to several companies, Ray discovered there was corporate appetite to learn more about effective CSR implementation.

In response to a request from Powergrid, India’s largest power distributor, CRRCSR designed and delivered a five-day course on CSR strategy, including:

  • Community participation and needs assessment: Powergrid was taught to assess the needs of the communities in which they operate and engage the community in project planning and execution.

  • Impact measurement: To validate claims that CSR activities have impact, it’s critical to have a baseline for comparison. The program taught executives how to create surveys and measure livelihood, income and literacy.

  • Project management:Powergrid executives were taught the Logical Framework Approach to project management, including defining program purpose, measurable goals and anticipated resources required.

  • Evaluating for sustainability: Executives learned to think about the long-term outcomes of their CSR initiatives. For example, using trucks to deliver clean drinking water is not sustainable, as the project can never be self-sufficient.

  • GRI reporting guidelines: Executives were taught to effectively communicate their CSR efforts to the public using GRI reporting guidelines.

How Executive Education Advanced Research at CRRCSR

CRRCSR’s executive education had positive effects beyond revenue. Learnings from company engagement drove new research on CSR in developing countries, an emerging research field.

“We learned that CSR issues need to be pushed up, not down,” says Ray. A company’s front line staff understand the issues on the ground, but feel unsupported by their managers.

Additionally, researchers commonly think of CSR strategy as being centrally coordinated. Working with a major power distributor, with highly dispersed operations, the CRRCSR team realized that management could be highly fragmented.

Ray presented these findings at the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) conference in July 2013.

Advice for Centres Developing CSR Executive Education 

  1. CSR challenges differ between developed and developing countries: The social and environmental challenges in developing countries are consistent: lack of access to clean water, health care and education. Because these issues differ from those in developed countries, Ray cautions against direct application of CSR literature from Western countries. Not all lessons are transferable.

  2. All industries have unique challenges: For example, a chemical production facility has a significant footprint in its community of operation. As a result, its CSR efforts may include large-scale local initiatives. Alternatively, a power distribution company may have many facilities across a country, each with only a few employees and limited resources to invest. In this case, CSR projects may be smaller and more numerous. Effective executive education must respond to these industry-specific issues.

  3. Corporate functional groups speak very different languages: Few companies have a dedicated CSR department. Sustainability executive education often targets employees from human resources to civil engineering. These functional groups can have different values and speak different languages. Be sure to understand the internal composition of your class and develop materials relevant to all parties.

MORE INFORMATION

Visit the Centre for Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Corporate Social Responsibility (CRRCSR) for contact Subhasis Ray for more information.

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  • Chelsea spent her master’s degree studying ecosystem health in Kenya and is the former Operations Manager for The Network for Business Sustainability. She’s also a certified life coach. Chelsea now splits her time between her two passion projects; sustainability writing and editing, and helping over-stressed mothers improve their mental health and find more joy in life.

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