Self-reporting and transparency promise to be the hallmarks of India’s new legal provisions on corporate social responsibility, but there are several grey areas that may hinder compliance. Vandana Chatlani reports
Starting this month, corporate projects tackling poverty alleviation, gender inequality and environmental degradation will no longer be confined to companies looking for a reputational boost or a means to gratify their social conscience. Instead, such activities are to become a regular feature of corporate life for many entities following the introduction of corporate social responsibility (CSR) provisions under section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013.
The Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Rules, 2014, which are effective from 1 April, are believed to be the first of their kind in the world.
The emphasis is on practicality and flexibility. Sachin Pilot, the 26-year-old minister of corporate affairs, said in a Google Hangout interview organized by CNBC TV18 and NextGen (an Indian CSR and sustainability management company) that he did not wish to “straitjacket” corporate India into a CSR policy and was keen to avoid imposing an “Inspector Raj” regime with the new rules. “Every company is different and not all of them will qualify for CSR, but for those which do, we want to make it very open and transparent in terms of what the companies can and should do,” he said.