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CSR law: A way to reduce trust deficit between NGOs and Companies

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By Jaideep Sarin

Manesar:  With companies that fall under the ambit of the new guidelines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) likely to report about their activities from next month, the trust deficit between them and NGOs is likely to reduce, a senior functionary in this field said.

“Over the years, a fairly large trust deficit has developed between NGOs and corporates (over CSR activities). Corporations, for their part, find it difficult at times to place their faith in NGOs. Their hesitation relates largely to issues of ethics and implementation capabilities.

“The new legislation will lead to a synergistic partnership between corporations, NGOs and the government which would also allow for greater transparency in the operations of all three agencies,” Bhaskar Chatterjee, director general and chief executive officer of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), told a media outlet in an interview.

“Government data can help guide CSR agendas into areas it is most needed, corporations have experience making sure the projects are streamlined and costa conservative, and NGOs have experience and knowledge of marginalized and underserved areas of society as well as experience in operational transparency. If a symbiotic relationship can develop between corporations, NGOs and the government, socially responsible programmes will have a measurable impact faster and more efficiently than if there is less transparency and no trust,” Chatterjee said.

The new CSR rules under Section 135 of the amended Companies Act, 2013 came into force from April 1 last year. Companies falling in the ambit of the new rules were mandated to spend two percent of their net profit (average of last three years) on CSR activities.

Rough estimates indicate that nearly Rs 25,000 crore (over $3.5 billion) could be spent by companies in CSR activities in the first year (2014-15) itself.

“Presently, it is estimated that nearly 14,000 to 16,000 companies are likely to come under the ambit of the CSR legislation. Actual expenditure will become clearer after companies do their CSR reporting and audited results are made available in the public domain from September onward,” Chatterjee said.

Except for large corporates and old companies, most of the companies falling under the ambit of the new rules are first-timers who do not have much expertise about CSR.

Corporate Social Responsibility
credits: willnevergrowup.com

Chatterjee pointed out that the spirit of the new CSR rules was not to have the government control the CSR funds of companies engaged in the activity.

“The role of the government is to create an enabling environment so that companies are motivated, encouraged and inspired to undertake meaningful, impactful, sustainable and result-oriented projects and programmes on the ground. The purpose and spirit of CSR law is not that the government is to use or control any funds either for management of CSR or for doing CSR management in any way,” Chatterjee pointed out.

The IICA, which is under the ministry of corporate affairs, was set up to provide a holistic think tank, capacity building and service delivery institution, operating through effective partnerships with corporates and professionals and institutions. It has set up a CSR Implementing Agency Hub to create an extensive database of the implementing agencies. It has also launched new courses to meet the burgeoning demand for trained CSR professionals from the corporate, public and NGO sectors.

With the new rules in force, the CSR sector activity is likely to be streamlined in the coming years.

“There was a time when development and corporate sector functioned in a mutually exclusive fashion. In fact, many a time, they found – and continue to find – each other as an adversary. The changing milieu, however, is encouraging them to come to the same table. The business regulations in India have already created a platform for NGOs to play a part by recommending the implementation of CSR projects through NGOs and development sector agencies,” Chatterjee said.

(IANS)

 

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)