This article is written by Devina Poonia from Ansal University, Gurugam. This article deals with the analysis of the interplay between the role CSR plays in the development and protection of the environment to maintain the ecological balance.
In the words of Chris Maser a noted author, international speaker, and facilitator described the dependability of the environment in his words as, “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and one another”. People recognized that it was essential to protect the environment as it plays an important role in regulating air and climate and is an Environmental Protection is defined as the protection of the ecosystem’s constituent parts from unwanted natural changes.
It has become a progressive approach in the business sector that corporates invest in initiatives namely Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), so that a company’s environmental and business activities can align to serve the greater needs of the society. The businesses had to look beyond the financial constraints and integrate social concerns of the environment into their strategic management to improve their brand value, providing goods and services at reasonable prices and motivate people for the optimal use of resources.
India understood the need to undertake CSR and became the first country ever to amend the Companies Act, 1956 to Companies Act, 2013 in which Section 135 talks about CSR “Every company having a net worth of rupees five hundred crores or more, or turnover of rupees thousand crore or more, or a net profit of five crores or more, during any financial year, shall constitute a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of Board consisting of three or more directors, out of which one director shall be an independent director”.
It is the commitment towards the society by the shareholders and the stakeholders of a company for a sustainable environment. Companies invested more towards the well-being of the poor sections of society which not only increased the employment opportunities but also people developed new skills.
The increase in the activities of corporate responsibility, business and brands is now recognized by the society and people are now aware of the market and the available brands
This not only helped in recognition of the brand value but the industry now focused more on the quality and quantity of the product.
Environmental protection and CSR
CSR activities are not only about social uplifting but also contribute immensely in terms of environmental protection as day to day activities of people increase the level of pollution which releases harmful toxicants. For the sustainable environment and protection of people’s interests, the companies have accepted the legislation framed by the parliament to contribute effectively for the larger benefit of the society.
Elements of Protection of Environment and Sustainability under CSR
Out of all the activities, CSR undertook some major elements of environmental protection that are essential. Various elements are elaborated in this section of the article to understand the implication of the provisions of CSR.
- Environmental Sustainability: It is concerned with whether environmental resources will be protected and maintained for future generations. Depleting water levels, non-disposal of toxic and chemical wastes, the supply of clean energy are some of the environmental issues faced globally. CSR has taken initiatives to mitigate the adversities and harm done to the environment by undertaking and promising to protect the integrity of Mother Earth.
- Ecological Balance: It is defined as a term that maintains the balance between the environment and the living organisms, if an ecological flow is disrupted then problems such as overpopulation, contagious diseases, depletion of resources, no management of waste would pose a threat to the environment. CSR through activities and conduct surveys to promote the flow of essential and optimum use of resources.
- Protection of Flora and Fauna: Fauna refers to the animal life and flora refers to different plants like herbs and shrubs that are present and belong to a particular habitat. Deforestation, illegal trade, poaching of tigers, loss of habitat, development of industries near the forest reserves, toxic pollutants and fumes polluting air in the forests result in the extinction of certain species and harm the existing plant life, CSR identifies these problems and develop a list of them to target specific areas and zones. The government has also in their various notices and ordinances have declared certain sites to be protected and have taken strict measures against the companies who violate the rules. CSR initiatives correct the wrong and harm done to the environment by undertaking such projects.
- Animal Welfare: The life of animals are of equal importance to maintain the balance in the ecosystem so to maintain their physical and mental well-being proper construction of shelter houses, nutrition and food, services of the veterinarian, protecting the needs of the stray animals, strict measures for cruelty against animals, immunization and birth control practices can be broadly undertaken.
- Agroforestry: It is a cultivation practice of shrubs, trees, the integration of crops and livestock in an agricultural system which yields higher results based on low-cost equipment. It uses technology that optimally utilizes the resources, it secures the rising demand for agroforestry products like fuel, timber, fodder, fiber, food. CSR activities are taken to further protect the environmental security in continuity to the inflow of essential agro products.
- Maintenance of soil, water, and air: The overuse of natural resources and factors affecting the deterioration of water include untreated sewage, disposal of garbage in rivers, lakes, and oceans harming aquatic life, contamination of soil by spraying fertilizers on the produce, soil erosion and natural calamities. CSR can undertake numerous projects to boost the productivity in the ecosystem by encouraging R&D development, spreading awareness and constructing reforms on the disposal of industrial waste, promotion of dustbins in every locality, use of eco-friendly biocultural produce in conducting agricultural activity, rainwater harvesting, constructing reservoirs such as ponds and tanks.
CSR Initiatives by Indian Companies
Many Indian Companies to boost the economy and promote the welfare of the society take initiatives every year by forming strategic plans to encourage and make people aware of how to put natural resources to use and conduct awareness programs to educate people.
TATA Steel along with the State of Odisha incorporated the target “Mission 2020 for Agricultural Development” which aimed at improving the lives of poor farmers by increasing employment opportunities and addressing the issue of poverty and food security. It aimed at increasing the income of 7000 household farmers by giving them proper training and development in the field of horticulture, modern practices of irrigation.
The creation of a self-help group was necessary for the implementation of the project and promotion of employment opportunities for women and the aim to convert three-acre of cropland through irrigational facilities.
344 farmers benefited by the development of ponds and irrigational facilities. 60-acre wasteland under the National Horticulture Mission were converted for the cultivation of cashew, mango, and lemon plantations.
Coca Cola, a leading beverage company, took the mission “Alag Karo Har Teen Din Bin” which aimed at easy disposal management and segregation of wet and dry garbage. Coca Cola foundation took this project in January 2017 in Gurugram in partnership with NGO Sahass, TetraPak, and GIZ.
Gurugram produces 600 tonnes of waste which was not disposed of in an effective way to segregate the waste at the source itself like homes and offices the Municipal Corporation gave guidelines on the proper disposal of waste in three categories i.e. wet, dry and rejecting waste.
This initiative aimed at achieving the following:
- Spreading awareness among 150000 people
- In 60 selected areas 9000 households were to segregate the waste at source
- Awareness of waste management system and recycling among 50 schools and 50 commercial outlets
- Prevention of waste dumped in landfills.
Under Environment Protection Act 1986, Section 16 explains the Offences by Companies which says that a person who has committed the offence who is directly in charge of the company, and who was responsible to, the company for the conduct and management of the business shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence committed.
However, if a person proves that due diligence was exercised and the offence was committed without his knowledge he will not be liable under this section. The government holds companies that are not responsible for environmental protection and commit acts in contravention with the statutory laws.
Environment Management Principles
The principles of the environment measure is essential for every corporation and governance to follow as they act as strict measures for people so that they do not violate the rules and regulation of the act. They act as guidelines for the judge and decision-makers and help in interpreting the law. The following are the main five principles:
- Precautionary Principle: It allows the protective measure to be taken before the damage increases or materializes when there is the uncertainty of risk involved.
- Prevention Principle: It anticipates and tries to avoid the environmental damage that is foreseeable in the near future by planning policy.
- Environmental damage rectifies at source: It ensures that the source where the environmental damage occurred must be rectified and actions to be taken to prioritize the balance of the ecological system.
- Polluter pays: It punishes the person who litters the environment by imposing fines and paying the cost of damage.
- Integration principle: For sustainable development, it ensures that all the departments of the government are responsible for their actions towards the environment.
In the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, the famous Taj Trapezium Case which involved one of the wonders faced a big threat from the acid rain and the pollution caused by the Mathura Refineries and other industries which emitted toxic substances in the air. A Public Interest Litigation was filed in the year 1984 comprising a strict action to be taken against the violators which posed a great threat to the Taj Mahal due to atmospheric pollution. The landmark judgment was passed by the Apex court in 1996 banning the use of coal and coke and advising to switch to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to the industries.
In the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, the court had to direct the administration of Delhi to set up sixteen plants in June 2000, it had been four years but the authorities failed to set up the sewage treatment plants nearly 50 percent of which is generated is now flowing into the Yamuna river directly. It was directed to the authorities to raise the capacity of sewage treatment plant up to 502 mg, in the year 1996, the Delhi Jal Board did not take up the necessary action and again it was directed by the court to raise the capacity to 764 mg by 2005, the action to construct the treatment plant was taken and they constructed 11 plants out of which another was underway. The traffic police ensured the arrangement of work can take place unhindered.
The dynamic environment brings new culture which is adopted by the industries, government, state bodies, and municipalities. Industries have changed their path to philanthropy and are more sensitive towards the society and working for the betterment of the society and the environment.
CSR is the best policy incorporated by businesses both large and small where everyone can benefit from them. The increasing recognition and developing policies for the economic stability and sustainable development has proven the philosophy of CSR which benefited the country, due to the pressures of technology and population, the environment is being degraded slowly which is why corporate responsibility comes into play and puts a restraint on the activity of the people and promoting more eco-friendly methods that must be adopted by the people.
Environmental programs of firms mainly derive from the guidelines established by the government agencies. As CSR is a new profession business ethics, environmental management and community development are valuable.
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