How Tech Platforms are Helping CSR in India
Facilitating 'good' - The need to give CSR efforts the right direction through technology
Everyone is looking to do their bit for the greater good, whether big or small, and corporates are making sure it is part of their ethos too. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been on the rise in the last decade. A rule passed by the Indian Government in 2014 mandated corporates with at least INR 5 Cr profit, INR 1000 Cr turnover or INR 500 Cr net worth to spend 2 per cent of their three year average annual net profits on CSR activities each financial year. This historic decision made India the first country to make CSR mandatory and was a welcomed change for the most part.
However, there were, and still are, several corporates and social service organisations that felt that this rule would cause forced philanthropy or various forms of corruption. Most have been sceptical about the efficiency of the rule, as they felt they could not be sure that the money was actually going towards the causes they were donating to or working towards. There is concern about the overall monitoring process as well.
Why Small NGO’s are Not Covered?
Apart from this, several organisations partake in CSR activities and campaigns voluntarily and frequently, from before the government rule was passed. There has, however, been a lack of credible resources for the longest time. Additionally, due to the absence of any structure, it is difficult for most corporates to find causes that align with their CSR goals and strategies. Well, known NGOs are mostly in the radar for CSR but smaller NGOs that are doing good work often get left out due to lack of exposure and accessibility.
According to a KPMG 2017 CSR Report, CSR spending was 47 per cent higher than what it was back in 2014. However, most CSR projects tend to be allocated closer to where a company is based. As a result, a lot of industrialized areas get preference over underdeveloped areas that may be in actual need of support. While CSR executives are aware of this geographic bias, they have been limited by tools and platforms to engage with and monitor credible NGOs in regions that are farther away.
With the increase in technological inventions today, we have reached a time where there are solutions available across industries to connect enterprises with NGOs and social service platforms that are doing the work that fits the vision of an enterprise. Several online CSR solutions, including social marketplaces, have been on the rise. They aim to provide streamlined and transparent processes to fill the gap that exists between NGOs and their causes, donors, volunteers and corporates who want to get involved with them. Essentially, driven by technology, these platforms serve as the fundamental thread facilitating the exchange between every stakeholder of the sector. They also enable all parties to work together and monitor activities remotely. Interested corporates, volunteers and donors thus have more incentive and information - enough to get involved and continue to be.
Online social marketplaces enable CSR activities for corporates by connecting them to NGOs directly. AI algorithms can help suggest relevant campaigns and NGO activities to those looking to work towards particular causes. The platforms have a number of NGO partners and they put up information about their causes and campaigns. Corporates can browse through and check which of these align to their CSR goals and can select accordingly, using the platform to reach out to the NGO to partner, volunteer or donate to them via the platform. Some of these platforms have apps too, which enables one to have all the information and status on-the-go.
Corporates may require NGOs to document employee efforts while participating in a program, along with budget spend and outcomes, to meet regulatory requirements. Despite the good work that they do, many NGOs may not have sufficient funds to invest in program management, M&E and outcome management. Tech-driven Social work platforms are an inexpensive alternative to traditional methods and help streamline all the important data.
Using technology-based platforms for CSR makes for more efficient tracking of activities. Companies can measure the outcome of their CSR plans and get a fair idea of the impact and reach. Being directly in touch with NGOs and their causes will mean increased transparency and collaboration. Key areas such as the utilisation of funds, project timelines and deliverables are available for both parties to keep track of via a report. This helps when focusing on long term goals as well, since collaboration leads to relationships being built, as opposed to a transactional equation. This can be beneficial in the long run, to have an ongoing, mutually beneficial setup, working collectively for the greater good.