Communication for socially responsible initiatives.

AuthorSharma, Seema

This paper discusses the communication strategies adopted by the corporate while planning and implementing their CSR initiatives in India. Based on the data collected from five companies--a private sector, a public sector, a private-private joint venture, a public--private joint venture and a multinational corporation-the paper finds that the CSR communication within the companies is top driven. There are different levels of stakeholder involvement in CSR communication. With respect to the communication between the corporate and the communities, the paper contends that the companies simply may not have communication specifically focused on them. In addition, the communication strategies adopted by the corporate and implementing partners in the communities run the risk for the corporate houses of either hearing what they want to hear or of the communities' dominance over the company.


Communication plays an important role in determining how the CSR initiatives of a company are viewed by the stakeholders, more specifically the public at large. In fact, a large part of the literature on CSR communication is aimed at identifying the communication strategies adopted by the business houses to brand themselves as socially responsible organizations. However, besides this, an effective communication can play a very important role in the success of CSR interventions in the communities. The Companies' Act 2013 has mandated CSR for a large number of companies in India. While the companies are being encouraged to take up CSR initiatives especially in the communities which are in and around their business operations, it is very essential for the companies to deliberate upon the communication strategies that they adopt in the field for their CSR interventions. The prevailing communication strategies of the corporate aimed at the employees, consumers, prospective consumers or the shareholders may not work in the new context in which the corporate is being encouraged to engage with the communities. However, not much literature is available on the communication in the context of the community-corporate inter phase for CSR interventions in India. One may perhaps look into the available literature on development communication to understand the context in which the message is received and interpreted by the communities and also the suitable vehicle for this communication. While the literature on development communication emphasizes on the need for a communication strategy that can facilitate desired social change; the corporate world is yet to come to terms with the language that such communication requires and to make it part of their communication strategy. This process necessitates a dialogue amongst the stakeholders of CSR. This paper aims to highlight the communication strategies presently being used by the corporate for their CSR intervention. The paper is based on the data collected from five organizations in the course of understanding their CSR processes. The data collected underscores the need for research to identify effective communication strategies in the emerging social and legal environment within which CSR now operates. The paper takes the stakeholder's perspective on CSR. The stakeholders focused on in the context of CSR are the organization, its employees, the communities and the NGOs.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Carroll (2008) maintains that CSR is the product of 20th century. While the concern of the business community for society can be traced back to centuries through their philanthropic initiatives, however, the present form of CSR is a new phenomenon through which the corporate aims to achieve competitive advantage while also making responsible interventions in the communities. CSR may be defined as the fulfillment of economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities by the corporate (Ibid).In India the state has taken lead in defining and contextualizing CSR (Sharma, 2013). The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Government of India had defined CSR in 2010 in the following manner:

CSR is a company's commitment to operate in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner, while recognizing the interests of its stakeholders. This commitment is beyond statutory requirements. CSR is, therefore, closely linked with the practice of sustainable development. CSR extends beyond philanthropic activities and reaches out to the integration of social and business goals. These activities need to be seen as those which would, in the long term, help secure a sustainable competitive advantage (Department of Public Enterprises CSR Guidelines, 2010)

This definition has been further clarified in the revised CSR guidelines prepared by DPE in 2013. The new definition identifies the stakeholders of CSR and has also removed the term competitive edge from the earlier definition of 2010. The revised guidelines define corporate social responsibility and sustainability as the "company's commitment to its stakeholders to conduct business in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner that is transparent and ethical. Stakeholders include employees, investors, shareholders, customers, business partners, clients, civil society groups, government and non-government organizations, local communities, environment and society at large" (Department of Public Enterprises CSR Guidelines, 2013). In addition, the schedule V11 of the Company's Act, 2013 outlines the activities that shall constitute corporate social responsibility.

Stakeholders of CSR

Typically, stakeholders are a group of individuals who may affect or get affected by the business activities of an organization and these generally are the shareholders, employees, customers, supply chain and now the environment and civil society. The communities around the business operations of an organizations have, for long not been considered as major stakeholders in organizations' business activities in India on account of the fact that they did not wield power and their claims were never considered as urgent even if these may have been legitimate. The controversies surrounding land acquisition and rehabilitation by the business are a proof of that. The CSR mandate in India takes these communities as major stakeholders of CSR. The revised DPE guidelines clarify that the stakeholders of CSR are "the employees, investors, shareholders, customers, business partners, clients, civil society groups, government and non-government organizations, local communities, environment and society at large" (Department of Public Enterprises CSR Guidelines, 2013).

The stakeholders have traditionally been seen through the prism of power, legitimacy and urgency of the claims (Mitchell et al, 1997). The organizations with this perspective are likely to prioritize the competing claims of the stakeholders on the basis of these criteria. Consequently, they may end up giving more weightage to the power and urgency of the claims since these are seen to be having more impact on the business in the short term. However, this perspective needs a complete review in the present context of CSR in India.

Communication in CSR

The success of the CSR initiatives and their sustainability depends on the communication...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT