Good deeds must follow good thoughts

For many, Oskar Schindler is a hero – a German man who went out of his way to save the lives of over 1,000 Jews. The good deed that he did still reverberates and creates ripples. Oskar followed his thoughts of helping the Jewish people and went about his plan with confidence and elan.

Mankind by nature is believed to be ‘good’, wanting to do good for others. Most of us in our own individual capacities reach out to support fellow beings or family or loved ones when they are in distress. This instinctive reach out keeps the circle of virtuosity going.

Way back in 1953, noted American economist Howard Bowen, often called as the ‘Father of CSR’, (corporate social responsibility) connected the responsibilities of corporations to society. In India, the roots of CSR can be traced to the Mauryan history, wherein the great philosopher Kautilya emphasised the importance of ethical practices and principles while conducting business.  Mythologies and religious texts are replete with examples of good deeds done by rulers.

When it comes to organisations doing good, the impact is of course much more. Jamsetji Tata set up the JN Tata Endowment in 1892 to enable Indian students to pursue higher studies in England. Mahatma Gandhi propounded the socio-economic philosophy of ‘trusteeship’ wherein means wealthy people would be the trustees of trusts that looked after the welfare of the people in general.

India has certainly come a long way since then by leading the world to put in place a mandatory CSR law in 2014. The law has since then ensured that good thoughts need not just remain as thoughts. The law lays down provisions for developmental areas to focus on and create a chain of good deeds that aim to bridge the inequalities that exist in the society.

The Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility in 2014 examined more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries worldwide to better understand the impact of CSR on behavior. The study found:

  • 67% preferred to work for socially responsible companies
  • 55% were willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact
  • 52% made at least one purchase in the past six months from one or more socially responsible companies
  • 52% checked product packaging to ensure sustainable impact
  • 49% volunteered and/or donated to organizations engaged in social and environmental programs

With such compelling evidence of good deeds and the impact it can have on overall success of the business, it makes sense for organizations to put in place a strategic CSR framework that is a win-win for all involved, including the communities and shareholders.

CSR hence needs to be top-driven. The passion and commitment to create a visible change has to come from the very top. Employees are sharp enough to capture hollow promises. With every employee now an individual brand ambassador for the company, the potential to bring about visible change can no longer be pushed away. Compassionate and empathetic leaders clued on to the ravages of nature, climate change, depleting resources, increasing inequalities, poverty, and human suffering are in the frontline for doing their bit and bringing about change.

When leaders practice what they preach, the cascade of goodness is almost certain, and the impact multiplied a thousand times. In this distressing time of the pandemic ravaging across the globe, we have seen many organisations rising to the occasion and bringing humanity to the forefront through gestures of support, donations, relief work, and provision of nutrition and healthcare facilities.

We need to continue to build on this momentum. The impact of the pandemic will be felt for years to come. Corporates have a long road ahead and with their hearts in the right place, they can lead the charge to erase the painful devastation that the virus leaves behind and build a new revolutionary road towards redemption and peace.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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