India’s Corporate Sector Critical to MDG Achievement

Sep 30, 2013

Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative addressing a plenary at the National Summit on CSR titled 'Embedding CSR into Business Strategy' organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry [Photo: UNDP India]

 New Delhi

The private sector has an important role to play in making the world a better place, because they are not only accountable to their shareholders, but also to society. With only two years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the Confederation of Indian Industry brought together representatives from the Indian corporate sector to discuss progress on MDGs and how corporates could contribute. 

Speaking at the Summit, Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Coordinator pointed out “Analyses from around the world shows conclusively that progress on the MDGs can be accelerated when business and the private sector join in coalition with other development actors.” “When business joins the race, the end is reached much more quickly and often more efficiently,” she added. 

While India is on track to reach either fully, or nearly, the MDG targets on universal primary education, gender equality and HIV/AIDS, the country is still worryingly home to more hungry people than anywhere else in the world. The highest numbers of people defecate in the open and 40 percent of children are malnourished. According to Dr. S.Y Quraishi, Former Chief Election Commissioner and Chairman of the Center for Life and Ethical Leadership, the corporate sector can play an important role in bridging these gaps. 

Ms. Grande made a strong case for increasing private sector participation through two approaches. The first, as outlined by the Companies Act, mandates that companies [1] spend at least two percent of their annual profits (averaged over three years) on activities linked to their Corporate Social Responsibility policy. 

The second approach is for companies to create shared value while profits are being made. This approach is grounded in the reality that companies do not operate in isolation but are affected by, and in turn, affect the infrastructure and conditions that surround them. Recognizing the impact that activities in the value chain have on natural resources, availability of water, health and safety of workers or people in their vicinity, for example, can create win-win solutions for both companies, and society at large. 

[1] The Companies Act mandates that companies with a net worth of US$ 100 million or more; turnover of US$ 200 million or more; net profit of US$ 1 million or more) spend at least two percent of their annual profits, calculated over a period of three years on corporate social responsibility. 

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