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Corporate Social Responsibility – HR Interview Question

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Every fresher should understand that CSR is a concept practiced by companies to portray corporate social and environmental responsibility with a larger goal in mind, which is to contribute to the well-being of the communities and society they are affecting and depending upon. When you face the HR interview question – ‘What is CSR’ or ‘What do you understand by Corporate Social Responsibility?’, tackle it without fear. You already know now that the full form of CSR is Corporate Social Responsibility. But what does this term signify? Here goes…

Corporate Social Responsibility

The meaning of corporate social responsibility is to basically demonstrate an international private business self-regulation. It aims to contribute to societal goals. By nature, CSR goals can be philanthropic, activist-oriented, or charitable. The idea is whether or not a business engages in supporting volunteering practices or ethical activities. Also, CSR falls under the purview of Sustainability. Milton Friedman, an American economist and Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences said that…

“I have called CSR a ‘fundamentally subversive doctrine’ in a free society, and that in such a society, ‘there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is participate in an open and free competition without deception or fraud. The theory of  profitability and growth is not the lone driver of a business interest of society and the environment by taking responsibility of the impact of their activities on stakeholders and all the members of public sphere. Its not at all an activity mandated by law but something expected of corporates as well. Its nothing but what an organization does to positively influence the society in which it exists.”

It is important to note that CSR is not the same as philanthropy! However it can be equated with benevolence despite the fact that companies might as well derive long term benefits  from CSR initiatives as well.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility, better known as CSR is a self-regulating business model. What is the purpose of CSR? Well for that matter, any company can become socially accountable to itself and its stakeholders (which includes the public). Corporate citizenship in companies is being conscious of the kind of impact they having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental aspects.

Corporate Social Responsibility in India

Corporate Social Responsibility in India has been through 4 major phases.

  1. The first phase came in via charity and philanthropy during the pre-industrialization period which lasted till 1850s. At that time, merchants used to share a part of their wealth to help the society get over paucity and outbreaks. They used to construct temples and schools to render education.
  2. The second phase came in during the independence movement. An increased pressure on Indian industrialists like TATA, Bajaj, Singhania etc. showed dedication of merchants towards the progress of society. Trusteeship became an important essence of CSR, thanks to Mahatma Gandhi.
  3. The third phase took place between 1960–80. This was the era of command and control in India. The then PM Jawahar Lal Nehru restricted foreign traders in India  as this was a vulnerable country. Only public sector thrived which later led to social developments.
  4. The fourth phase occurred between 1980–2013. In this phase, CSR was adopted as a sustainable business strategy. India was undeveloped and privatization had just been introduced by Indira Gandhi. The government attracted investments from foreign investors and this led to development .

CSR in the recent times

Under the Companies Act in 2013, companies having a net worth of Rs.500 crore or more or a turnover of Rs.1000 crore or more or a net profit of Rs.5 crore or more need to spend atleast 2% of their average net profit from last 3 years, on CSR activities, which is supposed to be teamwork or made in consensus and not the MD’s solitary strategy. These are specified in the schedule VII of companies act in 2013. SEBI has mandated the inclusion of business responsibility report as part of the annual report of the top 500 (earlier 100) companies in 2016. Thus competitiveness of a company and also the health of communities is mutually dependent.

Common CSR Activities

You might get asked a CSR related question in your GD round as well. So please read up about companies that have a strong CSR policy. Some common CSR activities undertaken by global corporations today are as follows:

    • Reduction of carbon footprints
    • Introducing corporate policies that benefit the environment
    • Improvement of labor policies
    • Participation in fair trade
    • Making socially and environmentally conscious investments
    • Undertaking charitable giving
    • Volunteering for the local community

Here are some critical social issue topics, other than CSR, to help you prepare for an upcoming group discussion.

Some brands doing CSR right

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a transformational practice mandated by the government of India and in other countries as well. CSR being a positive step towards upliftment of the society, has been rapidly adopted by business corporations in India and abroad. Following are some companies that are doing CSR the right way.

  1. Johnson & Johnson has reduced its impact on the planet for three decades
  2. Google’s data centers earned RI’s highest CSR score as their data center uses 50% less energy than others in the world
  3. Coca Cola’s new supply chain initiatives are intended to create a 25% reduction in their carbon footprint by 2020
  4. Ford plans to invest in 40 electrified vehicles (electric and hybrid) by 2022
  5. Netflix offers 52 weeks of paid parental leave while Spotify offers 24 weeks of paid leave
  6. By 2021, Bosch will have invested €50 million to support universities and research programs that are focused on the environment
  7. By 2025, Starbucks has pledged to hire 25,000 veterans as part of their socially responsible efforts
  8. Infosys provides programs of quality education to its citizens, increasing their IT skills and proficiency. The company has many campuses where the use of energy is optimized as they believe it has a direct impact on the environment
  9. CSR is integrated into the core operations of Bharat Petroleum Corporation
  10. The CSR initiatives of Hindustan Zinc targets harmonious and equitable growth

Thus, we know by now that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) lets a business, be it small or large, drive a positive change. It is the initiative of a company’s strategists who actually dare to think beyond the bottom line. CSR also encompasses building trust with consumers and other stakeholders around. As a fresher, and as a millennial or a Gen Z, please choose to work for a socially responsible company that has a strong CSR policy.



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