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  • The CEO forum: From Johannesburg - A Future Roadmap on the Social and Environmental Challenges for Business

    4 February 2004

    Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has grown beyond the literal meaning of the word was proved when some of the leading corporations in India walked away with the prestigious TERI-CSR awards presented today.

    Tata Steel won the first position in the large corporates category (Category III), followed by Bharat Petroleum Corporation. Hindustan Lever was given a special award in the large corporation category for their commendable work related to corporate social responsibility.

    In the second category of medium companies, drug manufacturer Novartis bagged the first prize. Engineering major L&T bagged the second position. No awards were given in the Small Company category.

    Speaking at the awards ceremony, noted economist and advisor to the UN Secretary-General, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs said it was heartening to see India's impressive growth. "The real story today is that there has been an economic shift to Asia. And India is an unmistakable member there." He said that if India could clock the same growth rate, it could easily have 25% of the GNP of the United States in a short time. "But to ensure this, India needs to have a thorough social engineering. They need to address social problems by which groups remain excluded for social and geographical reasons," he said.

    Giving away the awards, advisor to the Union Finance Minister, Dr Vijay Kelkar said he could predict a double digit growth for India by the end of this decade. "This is primarily because of our reassessment of human capital. Earlier this was looked upon as a liability. However, now it is proving to be a great asset," he said.

    The TERI-CSR awards function was preceded by a well-attended CEO forum, that took stock of the issues related to corporate social responsibility. Opening the session, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Mr Bjorn Stigson said: "Johannesburg issues are things of the past. The question that needs to be asked today is: how to achieve the millennium development goals that we have set for ourselves." He noted that a clear path has not yet been broken on this front. "At Rio, developed countries made a deal with the developing ones saying the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) would be doubled to $80 billion from the then existed $40 billion. However, in reality, it has come down."

    Director-General of TERI, Dr R K Pachauri said stakeholders, especially the corporates, should realize that sustainable development concept is not about charity or philanthropy. "It is in the interest of business. It is like 'seeding the earth'. With a long-term strategy such concepts would return rich dividends," he said.

    Charles Nicolson of British Petroleum observed that in the whole issue of corporates and sustainable development, each player needed to identify with certain values that are closest to them. "We have to identify what our strengths are. What are the boundaries. And what are our images. Today, these are slightly in the dark." He said it would be more appropriate to use 'Sustainable Livelihood' than to use 'Sustainable Development'.

    Yogi Deveshwar of ITC Ltd, said that in today's scenario, there were no incentives and disincentives demarcated to go for sustainable development. "Investments in a Greenfield project is primarily looked down by the market analysts and is marred by lack of incentives," he said.

    Dr J J Irani, Director, Tata Sons, said CSR practices at the House of Tatas dated back to a century. "We have differentiated between sustainable development initiatives and business. After generating wealth, the question we ask is what to do with the wealth," he said. He said that several of the Tata companies have been actively, but silently pushing such initiatives.

    Mr M S Banga of Hindustan Lever said that in India, the issue of CSR is hampered because of lack of proper awareness. "Many do no know what is it. Why to do it?" He said that CSR must emerge as a way of thinking. A way of life. He noted that at his company, they were active in the areas of water and afforestation.

    There were over 30 CEOs present at the roundtable. The CEOs included those from Thermax, Novartis, Bayer, British Gas, ABB, Usha Martin, Alcatel, NTPC, Toyota Kirloskar Motor.

    TERI CEO forum and TERI CSR annual Awards were organized by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) as part of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2004.

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