A promising field
CSR is essentially a concept whereby companies decide to spent a certain per centage of their net profit either voluntarily or on the account of the legislation, to contribute to make a better society and a cleaner environment. CSR strictly speaking does not imply charity, sponsorship or philanthropy. It is a process through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social obligation. CSR is now viewed as integral part of business strategy to minimize the business risks linked to uncertainty. In terms of the provisions made under The Companies Act 2013, CSR entails projects or programs relating to activities specified in Schedule VII to the Act; or projects or programs relating to activities undertaken by the board of directors of a company (Board) in pursuance of recommendations of the CSR Committee of the Board as per declared CSR Policy of the company subject to the condition that such policy will cover subjects enumerated in Schedule VII of the Act.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Sector is emerging as a rapidly growing and promising career domain. It is very true that there is a lot of hype today in the CSR domain. This has happened on account of several reasons. First of all, India is the only country that has brought out legislation on CSR. Every public sector or private sector company that fulfils certain criteria has to spend two per cent of its net average profit of the immediately preceding three years. This is mandated by Companies Act 2013 and the New CSR Rules 2014 that has come in to effect from April 2014. As per media reports one lakh jobs could be created over the next six years, 16,000 companies could come into the CSR Fold and 22,000 crores could be generated. Moreover, the liberalized and globalised Indian economy is witnessing shrinking role of state and growing role of Corporate and Business in overall development of country. Corporates with their wider reach, professionalism, innovation and wealth have the ability to influence the way in which social organization work.
The sector unlike other spheres is diverse, the reason is distinct nature of activities of the parent organizations. Due to this opportunities exist within the private, public and voluntary sectors. It is important to highlight that many CSR roles may not be titled as such but their job content may reflect CSR activities. In private sector larger companies may have CSR departments or have CSR functions located within particular areas including marketing, communications, environmental management, public affairs, investor relations, finance, operations and human resources. Opportunities are also opening up in the large accounting and consulting firms, many of which are trying to compete with the niche CSR consulting firms by offering their own CSR client services. Whereas in Public Sector CSR career options can be found in national government agencies, PSUs and international organizations.
There are a wide variety of NGOs, industry associations, think tanks and academic institutions engaging in learning and/or advocacy within the CSR arena. Such groups promote and examine the use of CSR concepts within the private and public tackle the grievances of nearby population and engage the stakeholders. In green field projects we have seen corporate giants and governments struggling hard to get the land acquisitions and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) issues solved; here also CSR professionals are in great demand.
CSR is yet to develop as a distinct career path and there is no single professional body at present that represents the needs and interests of all those working in the CSR domain. This is due to the diverse disciplines involved and also the complexity of the successful CSR professionals. These relate to business skills, people skills and technical skills.
Business skills include building insight, communication skills, decision making, commercial awareness, IT, innovation, strategic awareness, leadership, handling complexity and problem solving. People skills relate to adaptability and empathy, developing others, influencing without power, open minded, integrity, political awareness, self-development and learning, building partnerships, team working and questioning “business as usual.” Finally, technical skills include technical expertise, understanding impacts, stakeholder dialogue, internal consultancy, selling the business case, understanding human rights and understanding sustainability.
From above three skills, primarily six core competencies are listed for managers involved with CSR in organizations. These are, understanding society, building capacity, questioning business as usual, stakeholder relations, strategic view and harnessing diversity.
CSR sector recruits its major workforce from the professionals who are in to social work, rural development and other developmental fields to undertake and manage the CSR activities of company. There are an increasing number of qualifications becoming available at Masters Level and as part of MBA courses. The professional courses like Master of Social Works (MSW), MBA in rural development and Post Graduate Diploma in Rural development etc. offered by different universities and reputed institution may be right option for career in CSR.
It is a challenge for those who are just getting started in the CSR Sector, as most Corporations would look for candidates who have some relevant CSR Experience. Getting on board with a specific company can sometimes become a challenge. Hence, a possible solution would be to opt for internship for a couple of months and gain experience.
Many direct CSR roles require specialist knowledge and business experience and therefore may not be open to those on graduate programs or just starting out with a company. You may have to take a longer term strategy and build up your skills and experience in relevant areas first.
Any career opportunity won’t be sought after unless a healthy remuneration is associated with it. Remuneration expectations among other factors decide the career path of an individual. The type of remuneration which can be expected while working in a CSR wing of an organization is; Junior level (Rs 5 lakh per annum), Mid-level (Rs 15 lakh per annum), Senior-level (Rs 40-60 lakh per annum). Further, exceptional and top CSR Positions can go up to Rs 1 crore for CEOs. The perks associated with CSR are good enough to grab the eyeballs but the pertinent issue is how one can get these jobs. There are many institutes which offer courses that could land one a job in the CSR sector.
In short, CSR as a career has just started to take off in India and because of the diversity of the social work and the lack of experienced people in this arena makes it a hot career for those who want to stay in corporate sector, but also care passionately for society and environment.
The writer is a Program Head (CSR) DLF Ltd, DLF Foundation