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Issue 7: CSR in India and Bangladesh

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As part of the ‘BRIC’ group of emerging economies, India has experienced substantial economic growth and development in the last few decades, with its domestic firms gaining increasing dominance in global markets and economies. Along with its neighbour, Bangladesh, these two countries represent a significant proportion of the world’s population, with a large number living below the poverty line. Together they present a diverse range of challenges across the full environmental, economic and social spectrums of corporate social responsibility (CSR). This part of South Asia therefore presents an ideal focus for this, our seventh issue of the magazine.

Michael Wareing’s account of the ‘Seeing is Believing’ trip to Bangalore, where business leaders experienced life at first hand, demonstrates the real benefits companies can provide through their CSR policies and activities. Understand, for example, about how the life of the young disabled woman, among others, was transformed firstly by the great work of the Indian NGO and secondly by the implementation of labour standards within Marks and Spencers’ supply chain. 

As Amita Joseph, a member of CSR360 GPN partner organisation Business and Community Foundation, lays out in her discussion of ‘CSR in India’, developments in understanding and activities around CSR are slowly trying to catch up with the rapid changes in India. The current Indian government, through the Prime Minister’s “Social Charter” and the voluntary CSR guidelines published in 2009, are clearly trying to build momentum behind an issue which has until recently been of little concern to domestic firms.

Drawing on the business activities of Business in the Community’s (BITC) member organisations, Supreme Creations and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) , reflect not only the truly innovative work being undertaken by firms in India but also how CSR can be successfully built into the business model, with benefits accruing to all stakeholders not just solely for the business. Read how Supreme Creations have led the way in the production of ethical bags, benefiting the environment through the reduction in plastic bag usage, but also the lives of those who are involved across the supply chain, from farmers to Supreme’s factory based workers in Pondicherry, India.

TCS have tapped into the growing use of mobile phones within rural India to develop their mKRISHI programme which enables, via a network of sensors and ICT equipment, rural Indian farmers to directly engage with agricultural experts. Using this mobile consultancy service, farmers submit pictures, texts and sounds for immediate and informative responses. Already governments, corporations and other industries both within India and globally have recognised the significance of this product.

Turning to Bangladesh, we draw on the work of Marks and Spencer (M&S), also a member company of BITC, who are ensuring a sustainable solution to the low wages workers in their supply chain receive. Through three ‘Ethical Model Factories’, which provide training programmes both to workers and managers at these factories, productivity and efficiency increases have led to workers benefiting from wage increases. M&S are undertaking this project as part of their wider Plan A initiative, through which they aim to become the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015.

Last but by no means least, we have David’s regular blog piece in which he talks about some of the interesting individuals he has met through his activities with the CSR360 GPN network – including a member of the Swedish Royal Family!

Russell Pritchard,
Member of Business in the Community International Team

In this issue

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