Indian education sector and CSR: The collaborative path to growth

Jasleen Kaur Taneja
Jasleen Kaur Taneja Sep 29 2017 - 4 min read
Indian education sector and CSR: The collaborative path to growth
Well-designed corporate social responsibility programs increase revenue by as much as 20 per cent, command price premiums up to 20 per cent and increase customer commitment by as much as 60 per cent.

Corporate social responsibility or CSR points to the fact that organisations have moral, ethical, and philanthropic responsibilities in addition to their responsibilities to earn a fair return for investors and comply with the law. It denotes business practices involving initiatives that benefit society. With institutions today consuming resources from nature, it becomes their responsibility to return the favour in some or the other way.

Well-designed corporate social responsibility programs increase revenue by as much as 20 per cent, command price premiums up to 20 per cent and increase customer commitment by as much as 60 per cent, according to a study commissioned by Verizon and Campbell Soup. These figures are proof how important CSR activities are for an organisation, be it any sector.

CSR activities can take various forms:

Philanthropy: This form of social responsibility deals with donating to national and local charities. Institutes have a lot of resources that can benefit charities and local community programs.

Environmental efforts: One primary focus of corporate social responsibility is the environment. Educational institutes, regardless of size, have a large carbon footprint. Any steps they can take to reduce those footprints are considered both good for the company and society as a whole.

Ethical policy for faculty: By treating faculty and other staff fairly and ethically, educational institutes in India can also demonstrate their corporate social responsibility. Institutes should have good employee policies and treat them with respect.

Volunteering: Attending volunteer events speaks a lot about an institute's sincerity. By helping others without expecting anything in return, they are able to express their concern for specific issues and support for certain institutes.

Benefits of CSR

People, planet and profit - known as the triple bottom line form one way to evaluate CSR. ‘People’ refer to fair treatment of staff. ‘Planet’ refers to sustainable environmental practices and ‘Profit’ is the surplus generated by institute. This measure helps institutions be more conscious of their social and moral responsibilities.

A CSR program can be an aid to recruitment and retention, particularly within the competitive graduate student market. Potential students often consider an institute's CSR policy. CSR can also help improve the perception of an institute among its staff, particularly when staff can become involved through fundraising activities or community volunteering. CSR has been credited with encouraging student orientation.

Managing risk is an important responsibility. Reputations that take decades to build up can be ruined in hours through corruption scandals or environmental accidents. These draw unwanted attention from regulators, courts, governments and media. CSR can limit these risks.

CSR can help build students and staff loyalty based on distinctive ethical values. Some institutes use their commitment to CSR as their primary positioning tool.

Some educational institutes use CSR methodologies as a strategic tactic to gain public support for their presence in global markets, helping them sustain a competitive advantage by using their social contributions as another form of advertising.

The practice of CSR

At present, many educational institutes are involved in CSR activities. They understand the need for serving the environment and people for their upliftment. At the same time, they understand how CSR is also one of the key contributing factors for their growth and visibility.

According to Professor CP Shrimali, Director, MDI Gurgaon, Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the major areas that the institute looks at. “Similarly, financial inclusion is another area. If that grows, I should be doing a lot of conferences, consulting and research work in that field, so that our policies get to the ground level. So, while the objective is not money, but if the initiative is good, money automatically comes in. We may be creating some more research chairs. If the government allows CSR funding to be invested in these kind of purposes, then we should be able to create a holdings company or something like that,” he adds. Giving us some examples of CSR activities, Professor Shrimali adds how the students of MDI go to rural areas and build toilets and even help the residents keep them clean.

India’s premier B-school club of the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) is also highly active with CSR activities. “We are interested in building socially sensitive managers and leaders from our institute. This figures in various ways. We have a compulsory course on ethics and CSR. Our institute itself is involved in a lot of CSR activities. We have adopted 5 government schools in the vicinity of our institute. We help them in different ways in terms of providing infrastructure, conducting classes. In addition, the institute also encourages students to take up a lot of CSR activities across our programs. They have active CSR clubs,” says Professor Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, IIM-Indore.

As the quote by Mahatma Gandhi goes, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Educational institutions in India follow this and are out there approaching CSR in an all-inclusive manner where students, teachers and all staff alike are involved in such activities. 

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