The International Lawyer


Seema G. Sharma


The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gained increased significance in recent years. The growing focus on CSR has changed the attitude of businesses all over the world, and India is not an exception. The concept of CSR is not new to India; historically speaking, social responsibility of companies is a well-established phenomenon in India, and the country has one of the world's richest traditions of CSR. In its oldest forms, CSR in India included the concept of corporate philanthropy and the Gandhian Trusteeship model. But the liberalization of the Indian economy in the 1990s led to a fundamental shift from the philanthropy-based model to a multistakeholder approach whereby companies are deemed responsible for all stakeholders, including financial stakeholders, employees and the community. The liberalization of the economy also led to the increased presence of large global corporations such as Microsoft, IBM, and others on Indian soil, which thereby exposed India to a highly developed regime of CSR initiatives. Additionally, a strong desire to compete and succeed in the global economy drove Indian business enterprises to integrate CSR into a coherent and sustainable business strategy. These enterprises, both public and private, have realized that their long-term success depends on the satisfaction of their stakeholders, and that ignoring them could jeopardize the company's future prospects in the community. This article discusses the concept of CSR as understood by Indian businesses in the past, and the changing interpretations of the concept in the age of globalization and expanding markets. The article firther discusses the efforts toward community and social development made by both state-owned enterprises (SoEs) and private-sector businesses. After a detailed analysis, the article concludes that the future of CSR in India is bright, and that its importance will continue to grow even further given the increasing importance accorded to CSR world-wide, and India's own realization that it needs CSR to achieve long-term sustainability in the world economy.