Corporate Social Responsibility in developing countries such as India – using Tata Nano as a case study
A company’s main business objective is maximisation of shareholder’s wealth by means of achieving higher profit. Business managers are entrusted with shareholders money so that they could run the company efficiently and profitably. According to Sloan (1964) “the strategic aim of a business is to earn a return on capital and if any particular case the return in the long run is not satisfactory, then the deficiency should be corrected or the activity abandoned for a more favourable one.” This suggests that companies are run for profit motives and this should be the top most priority of any management.
However Globalisation has brought about a change in notion concerning the business objective of any company, arguments are being put forward that the business activities must take into account human and social welfare. According to Peter Drucker (1954), “the enterprise is an organ of society and its actions have a decisive impact on the social scene. It is thus important for management to realize that it must consider the impact of every business policy and business actions upon society. It has to consider whether the action is likely to promote the public good, to advance the basic belief of society, to contribute to its stability, strength and harmony”.
A business enterprise is a major user of nature, society and environment; therefore it must be responsible towards their protection and development. Depletion of natural resources and causes like global warming has brought a lot attention to the sustainable use of these resources and companies are going to play a major role in ensuring this. So this marks a shift in the company objective that no longer can they only be guided by the sole aim of making profit but they should be take actions to ensure the welfare of the society in which they operate. This brings out the concept of “Corporate Social Responsibility”: Corporations acting as citizens of a society in a responsible manner ensuring the well beings of others in the society. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) describes CSR as “a balanced approach for organisations to address economic, social and environmental issues in a way that aims to benefit people, community and society” (ISO, 2002).
1.1 Rationale behind the Research
Corporate social responsibility has gained widespread attention in most developed countries; policies & practices are being developed by corporations to abide by standards of environment pollution, use of human capital etc. However in less developed countries this is not a much heard or debated topic. According to Steiner & Steiner (2000), “In less developed countries there is often no indigenous sense of corporate responsibility.” There are a lot of loopholes in the system and business activities are not often concentrated on human/ social welfare. Austin (1990) argues that the extremity and pervasiveness of poverty in less developed countries places a special responsibility on business, as a vehicle for creating economic progress that will help alleviate this deprivation.
With developing economies a lot of importance is given to industrial upliftment and that might come at a cost of social welfare or benefit. This research aims to identify the CSR policies and practices being in use in developing countries such as India with a special reference to TATA Nano.
India is a developing country which has recorded a growth rate of more than 9% for 3 years upto 2008 and has seen a decade of 7% growth. (www.economicshelp.org: accessed on 10th January 2010). In spite of the global economic slowdown is slated to grow at around 7.5% for this year (2010). The rapid growth in economy has increased the standards of living and has created huge disposable income among Indians. The car manufacturers are taking advantage of this huge growth and are coming up with various models to tap into this growing market. TATA one of the most reputed business firms of India have come up with a car called TATA Nano – which is slated to be the cheapest car in the world. The price is kept at $2500 which is equivalent to 100,000 INR. The objective behind this to make four wheelers available to every common man in India; this is touted to be a very big success. I have my own reservations concerning it; what if masses can afford this car, will it not increase the fuel consumption, thereby creating more pollution? Will it not put a huge burden on roads which are already suffering from traffic congestion? This research aims to find out whether TATA is acting in a responsible manner by launching this car.
The research can be subdivided into four parts:
1. To identify the state of CSR in developing countries such as India
2. To evaluate public awareness concerning issues such as CSR in India
3. To evaluate the impact of TATA Nano on environment, traffic congestion, demand for fuel etc
4. To suggest a number of ways in which companies in developing countries can develop frameworks to act in a more responsible manner
2. Literature Review
There are numerous ways to classify the literature on CSR in developing countries i.e. in terms of content (thematic coverage), type (epistemological approach), and level (focus of analysis). The analysis would be done by each way separately:
2.1 Content Theme
We would use the same classification as Lockett et al. (2006) did, the CSR literature can be categorized into four CSR themes: social, environmental, ethics, and stakeholders. One point that immediately comes to light by applying this categorization to the literature on CSR is that, in contrast to Lockett et al.’s (2006) findings that most CSR articles in top management journals focus on ethical and environmental themes, most scholarly work on CSR in developing countries focuses on the social theme. Also social issues are in general given more political, economic, and media coverage in developing countries than environmental, ethical, or stakeholder issues (Schmidheiny, 2006).
2.2 Knowledge Type
Lockett et al. (2006) had also classified the CSR literature by knowledge type. He found even split between theoretical and empirical research. Lockett et al. (2006) found that 89% of theoretical CSR papers are non-normative, in the CSR in developing countries literature, the balance is far more evenly split. This is mainly because relatively large number of papers on the role of “business in development” tends to adopt a normative, critical perspective (Blowfield and Frynas, 2005). Also if we see empirical research, there are also differences. According to Lockett et al. (2006), the CSR literature is dominated by quantitative methods (80%), while CSR papers on developing countries are more likely to be qualitative. Most research on CSR in developing countries to date has either generalized about all developing countries (e.g. Frynas, 2006), or focused at a national level. In terms of generic literature, Corporate Citizenship in developing countries (Pedersen and Huniche, 2006) is a useful compendium, as are special issues on CSR in developing countries that have appeared in the Journal of Corporate Citizenship (issue 24, 2006), International Affairs (81(3), 2005) and Development (47(3), 2004). Despite the focus on countries in the literature, only about a fifth of all developing countries have had any CSR journal articles published on them. Of these, the most commonly analyzed and written about countries are China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, and Thailand. Analysis at a regional level (notably Africa, Asia, and Latin America) is becoming more common, but papers at the sector, corporate, or individual level remain relatively scarce.
Most of the literature concentrates on CSR in a global context and there is very little empirical research on the nature and extent of CSR in developing countries. One notable exception is Baskin’s (2006) research on the reported corporate responsibility behavior of 127 leading companies from 21 emerging markets across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe, which he compares with over 1,700 leading companies in high-income OECD countries. Looking at three generic indicators of CSR, Baskin (2006) finds that emerging market companies have a respectable representation in the Dow Jones “Sustainability Index” and show rising levels of take-up of the Global Reporting Initiative and ISO 14001. Baskin (2006) also showed that emerging markets lag the OECD significantly on reporting on business ethics and equal opportunities, are roughly at par on environmental reporting, and show comparable reporting variance on women on company boards, training and occupational health and safety . Despite the limitations of using reporting as an indicator of CSR performance and the danger of representing regions by just a few countries (e.g. only two of the 53 countries in Africa were included in the sample), the Baskin (2006) study does provide some insight into the level of CSR activity in developing countries, concluding that:
‘there is not a vast difference in the approach to reported corporate responsibility between leading companies in high income OECD countries and their emerging-market peers. Nonetheless, corporate responsibility in emerging markets, while more extensive than commonly believed, is less embedded in corporate strategies, less pervasive and less politically rooted than in most high-income OECD countries’ (p. 46).
Major coverage of the Asia in the field of CSR often focus on China (e.g. Zhuang and Wheale, 2004), India (e.g. Balasubramanian et al., 2005), Indonesia (e.g. Blowfield, 2004), Malaysia (e.g. Zulkifli and Amran, 2006), Pakistan (e.g. Lund-Thomsen, 2004), and Thailand (e.g. Kaufman et al., 2004). Other countries that have had less attention include Bangladesh (Nielsen, 2005), the Pacific Forum Islands (Prasad, 2004), Sri Lanka (Luken and Stares, 2005), and Vietnam (Prieto-Carron, 2006b). Birch and Moon (2004) noted that “CSR performance varies greatly between countries in Asia, with a wide range of CSR issues being tackled (e.g. education, environment, employee welfare) and modes of action (e.g. foundations, volunteering, and partnerships)”. In one of the survey on CSR reporting in Asia, Chapple and Moon (2005) find that nearly three quarters of large companies in India present themselves as having CSR policies and practices versus only a quarter in Indonesia and between these two extremes are Thailand (42%), Malaysia (32%), and the Philippines (30%). They also infer from the research that the evolution of CSR in Asia tends to occur in three waves, first being community involvement followed by successive second and third waves of socially responsible production processes and employee relations. In a comparative survey of CSR in 15 countries across Europe, North America, and Asia, Welford (2005) speculates that the low response rates from countries like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico, and Thailand may in itself be an indicator of CSR being less prevalent in developing countries. This seems to be borne out by the research findings, in which these countries fairly consistently underperform when compared with developed countries across 20 aspects of CSR measured by the survey.
The literature on CSR in Africa is predominantly based on South Africa (Visser, 2005a), while other pockets of research exist for Côte D’Ivoire (e.g. Schrage and Ewing, 2005), Kenya (e.g. Dolan and Opondo, 2005), Nigeria (e.g. Amaeshi et al., 2006), Tanzania (e.g. Egels, 2005), and Mali and Zambia (e.g. Hamann et al., 2005). Very few papers are focused on industry sectors, with traditionally high impact sectors like agriculture (e.g. Blowfield, 2003), mining (e.g. Kapelus, 2002), and petrochemicals (e.g. Acutt et al., 2004) featuring most prominently. Two of the best sources of literature on Africa are Corporate Citizenship in Africa (Visser et al., 2006) and the Journal of Corporate Citizenship special issue on CSR in Africa (issue 18, summer 2005). The latter concludes that ‘academic institutions and researchers focusing specifically on corporate citizenship in Africa remain few and under-developed’ (Visser et al., 2005: 19). This is confirmed by a review of the CSR literature on Africa between 1995 and 2005 (Visser, 2006a), which found that that only 12 of Africa’s 53 countries have had any research published in core CSR journals, with 57% of all articles focused on South Africa and 16% on Nigeria. The latter partly reflects the high media profile generated around corporate citizenship issues and the petrochemical sector, especially focused on Shell and their impacts on the Ogoni people (Ite, 2004). Economic and philanthropic aspects of CSR, rather than the legal and ethical responsibilities, will continue to dominate CSR conceptualization and practice in Africa (Visser, 2007).
Corporate social responsibility in South America is not as much covered subject as other underdeveloped countries (Haslam, 2007), the focus has been mainly concentrated on Argentina (e.g. Newell and Muro, 2006), Brazil (e.g. Vivarta and Canela, 2006) and Mexico (e.g. Weyzig, 2006), although Nicaragua (Prieto-Carron, 2006a) and Venezuela (Peindado-Vara, 2006) also feature. De Oliveira in 2006 has noted that the Corporate social responsibility agenda in South America has been heavily influenced by socio-economic and political conditions, which have invariably led to problems like, unemployment, in- equality, and crime. Schmidheiny has in 2006 stated that Corporate social responsibility has ushered a positive effect in South America. The trend towards increasing CSR in the region has been generally upward. For example, Correa et al. has reported in his article in 2004 that by 2004 there were thousand South American companies which were member of organization called EMPRESA (the hemisphere-wide CSR network), another three hundred companies were members of the “World Business Council” for Sustainable Development, also another fourteen hundred had obtained ISO 14001 certification, and one hundred eighteen had signed UN Global Compact.
Until now we have classified the CSR literature on a regional level. To further see the difference between the CSR in developing countries and developed countries we would now isolate motivations for CSR in developing countries, with the help of this we would be able to see why the CSR in developing countries is so unique. Some of the motivations for CSR that I have isolated with the help of literature review are:
2.5.1 Cultural Tradition
The term CSR has been widely used in western countries and hence there is a widespread believe that CSR is a Western thing but on the contrary there is evidence that CSR in developing countries has been around for centuries and its man pillar has been deep-rooted indigenous cultural traditions of philanthropy and business ethics. An excellent example was given by, Visser and Macintosh in 1998 they have quoted that “the ethical condemnation of usurious business practices in developing countries that practice Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity dates back thousands of years”. Another example was given by Frynas (2006) ‘business practices based on moral principles were advocated by the Indian statesman and philosopher Kautilya in the 4th century BC’. If we take South American context, Sanborn (2002), quoted in Logsdon et al. (2006) that ‘varied traditions of community self-help and solidarity stretch back to the region’s pre-Hispanic cultures, and include the mutual aid societies, trade unions and professional associations that emerged in the 19th and early 20th centuries’. Logsdon et al.’s (2006) stated that “One myth is that CSR in Mexico is new, another is that US firms brought CSR to Mexico, and a third is that CSR as practised by Mexican firms simply reflects the CSR patterns and activities of US firms”. Even if we take CSR for more modern times I have found that it was heavily influenced by local culture, Vives’s (2006) had conducted survey of over 1,300 enterprises in South America, his findings were that the region’s religious beliefs are one of the major motivations for CSR. Also Nelson (2004) founded that Buddhist traditions in Asia are aligned with CSR. Also for Asia, Chapple and Moon (2005) had reached a same conclusion, that “CSR does vary considerably among Asian countries but that this variation is not explained by [levels of] development but by factors in the respective national business systems”, this was consistent with Birch and Moon’s (2004) finding in his paper for the Journal of Corporate Citizenship special issue on CSR in Asia. If we take African the findings are same, Amaeshi et al. (2006) found that CSR in Nigeria is heavily influenced by local socio-cultural influences like communalism, ethnic religious beliefs, and charitable traditions.
2.5.2 Political Upheaval
CSR in developing countries are heavily influenced by the social and political reforms, which drives business behavior towards integrating social and ethical issues. De Oliveira (2006) has argued that “the political and associated social and economic changes in Latin America since the 1980s, including democratization, liberalization, and privatization, have shifted the role of business towards taking greater responsibility for social and environmental issues”. A recent example can be the case of South Africa, the political changes towards democracy and end of decades of apartheid have been a significant driver for CSR, through the practice of improved corporate governance (Roussouw et al., 2002), collective business action for social upliftment (Fourie and Eloff, 2005) has led to black economic empowerment (Fig, 2005), and business ethics (Malan, 2005). Visser (2005a) lists more than a dozen examples of socio-economic, environmental, and labor-related legislative reform in South Africa between 1994 and 2004 that have a direct bearing on CSR. Another excellent example can be given of many central and eastern European countries which have been recently inducted into European Union, these countries have now shifted towards CSR .(Baskin, 2006).
2.5.3 Social and Economic Conditions
It is often said that the CSR in developing countries is directly shaped by the social conditions and economic environment present in the country in which firms operate and the development priorities this creates. Amaeshi et al. (2006), had argued that “CSR in Nigeria is specifically aimed at addressing the socio-economic development challenges of the country, including poverty alleviation, health-care provision, infrastructure development, and education. This, they argue, stands in stark contrast to many Western CSR priorities such as consumer protection, fair trade, green marketing, climate change concerns, or socially responsible investments.” Schmidheiny (2006) had questioned the appropriateness of foreign CSR approaches, citing examples from South America, where the most important issues like poverty, illiteracy, crime and tax avoidance are not included in the CSR conceptions in developed countries, but if we consider locally developed CSR approaches, then they are most likely to respond to the many local social and environmental problems, such as deforestation, unemployment, income inequality, and crime (De Oliveira, 2006).
2.5.4 Poor Governance
CSR can be seen as a form of private or self governance or a response to poor governance (Levy and Kaplan, Chapter 19). A particular important aspect of the CSR for developing countries is the fact it is often seen as a way to plug the gaps left by weak, corrupt, or under-resourced governments that fail to adequately provide various social services. Furthermore, “as many developing country government initiatives to improve living conditions falter, proponents of [CSR and bottom of the pyramid] strategies argue that companies can assume this role”. Such proponents of CSR, Blowfield and Frynas (2005) observe, “an alternative to government” which is “frequently advocated as a means of filling gaps in governance that have arisen with the acceleration of liberal economic globalization”. A survey was conducted by “World Business Council for Sustainable Development” (WBCSD 2000) in their report they illustrated that, when asked how CSR should be defined, peoples in Ghana stressed ‘building local capacity’ and ‘filling in when government falls short’. Moon (2002a) in his paper has argued that, this phenomenon is part of a broader political shift towards ‘new governance’ or “alternate governance” approaches, here the local governments are trying to share responsibilities and to develop more effective modes of operation, the reason may be result of overload or of a view that they do not have a monopoly of solutions for society. This is often in the form of social partnerships with non-profit and for-profit organizations. Moon et al. (2005) has cited this phenomenon as an example of companies acting in a ‘civic republicanism’ mode. In addition to being encouraged to step in where once only governments acted, through the mechanism of either privatization or welfare reform, Matten and Crane (2005) also suggest that companies enter the arena of citizenship where government has not as yet administered citizenship rights, for example, improving working conditions in sweatshops, ensuring for employees a living wage, and financing the schooling of child laborers in the absence of legislation requiring this. However, this approach is not without its share of criticism ,Hamann et al. (2005) had argued that CSR is not adequate response to these governance gaps and that more proactive steps involving local government towards accountability and inclusiveness is necessary. Blowfield and Frynas (2005) had questioned the very logic: “Is CSR a stepping-stone on the path to better national regulation in developing countries? Or is it part of a longer term project for overcoming the weaknesses of territorially prescribed judicial and welfare mechanisms that is, addressing the limitations of the nation-state in regulating a global economy?” There are also serious questions about the dependencies this governance gap approach to CSR creates, especially where communities become reliant for their social services on companies whose primary accountability is to their shareholders. Hence, multinationals may cut expenditure, or disinvest from a region if the economics dictates that they will be more profitable elsewhere. There is also the issue of perceived complicity between governments and companies, as Shell all too painfully experienced in Nigeria (Ite, 2004).
2.5.5 Crisis Response
Crises associated with developing countries have in the past affected CSR responses. These crises can come in the form of economic, social, environmental, health-related, or industrial accident. An excellent example was quoted by Newell (2005) that “the economic crisis in Argentina in 2001-2 marked a significant turning point in CSR, prompting debates about the role of business in poverty alleviation”. Another example can be of climate change (Hoffman, 2005) and HIV/AIDS (Dunfee, 2006) these crises have bought CSR in developing countries into lime-light. Catastrophic events with immediate impact are often more likely to elicit CSR responses, especially of the philanthropic kind. The company’s quick response to the Asian tsunami is an excellent case (Fernando, 2007). However, companies can also have negative affect like industrial accidents. Examples include Union Carbide’s response to the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India (Shrivastava, 1995) and Shell’s response to the hanging of human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria in 1995 (Wheeler et al., 2002).
2.5.6 Market Access
Not all the intention of the companies in developing the CSR is for good, some companies may also see these unfulfilled human needs as an untapped market. This can be corroborated from the fact that there lies burgeoning literature on ‘bottom of the pyramid’ strategies, which refer to business models that focus on turning the four billion poor people in the world into consumers (Prahalad and Hammond, 2002; London and Hart, 2004; Rangan et al., 2007). CSR may be working towards enabling companies in developing countries which are trying to access markets in the developed world. An example in this support can be given from, Baskin (2006), he had identified that “competitive advantage in international markets as one of the key drivers for CSR in Central and Eastern Europe and Asia”, also Araya’s (2006) survey of CSR reporting among the top two hundred and fifty companies in South America found that “businesses with an international sales orientation were almost five times more likely to report than companies that sell products regionally or locally”. This is has become increasingly relevant as more and more companies from developing countries are moving towards globalization and in their effort they need to comply with international stock market listing requirements, including various forms CSR code compliance (Visser, 2005a). The above argument was also stated by Chapple and Moon’s (2005) study of 7 countries in Asia, which found a strong relationship between international exposure, either in terms of international sales or foreign ownership, and CSR reporting. CSR is also sometimes used as a partnership approach to creating or developing new markets. Another example in support towards this, is the case of , AED and Mark collaboration with Exxon Mobil that has created a viable market for insecticide-treated mosquito nets in Africa, while improving pregnant women’s access to these nets, through the delivery of targeted subsidies (Diara et al., 2004). Similalry, ABB used a partnership approach to CSR to deliver a rural electrification project in Tanzania (Egels, 2005).
There is a widespread belief that the Western countries has imposed CSR approaches on the global South, but on the contrary there is ample evidence present to suggest that CSR codes and standards are a key driver for CSR in developing countries. For example Baskin’s (2006) survey of CSR practices in emerging markets has indicated towards growing acceptance rate of ISO 14001 and the “Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines”. These codes are now used as a CSR response in sectors that are prevalent in developing countries, such as horticulture (Dolan and Opondo, 2005), cocoa (Schrage and Ewing, 2005), and textiles (Kaufman et al., 2004), as well as some social issues in developing countries, like child labor (Kolk and Van Tulder, 2002) or women in the workplace (Prieto-Carron, 2004). In general it is seen that CSR is driven by standardization imposed by MNC’s in striving to achieve global consistency among its subsidiaries and operations in developing countries. For example, Chapple and Moon (2005) found that “multinational companies are more likely to adopt CSR than those operating solely in their home country, but that the profile of their CSR tend to reflect the profile of the country of operation rather than the country of origin”.
2.5.8 Investment Incentives
Multinational companies’ investments in developing countries are generally linked to the social conditions prevalent in those countries (Gabriel, 1972). Now a day these investments are being screened for CSR performance. In response to this socially responsible investment (SRI) is becoming a major factor CSR in developing countries. Baskin (2006) had noted “that approximately 8% of emerging market companies on the Dow Jones World Index is included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, compared with around 13% of high-income companies”. In other developing countries, like South Africa, the SRI trend is well researched (AICC, 2002). The SRI movement in the 1980s had led to the anti-apartheid disinvestment phenomenon, also since 1992, South Africa has introduced twenty SRI funds which track companies’ social, ethical, and environmental performance (Visser, 2005a). According to research by the “African Institute of Corporate Citizenship “(AICC) (2002), the size of the South African SRI market in 2001 was already 1.55% of the total investment market. In an another major development, in May 2004, the Johannesburg Securities Exchange had launched its own tradable SRI Index, the first of its kind in an emerging market (Sonnenberg et al., 2004). A similar index was also introduced in Brazil. Closely linked to the literature on SRI in developing countries is the debate about the business case for CSR. Very few instrumental studies have been done, a survey done in Thailand by Connelly and Limpaphayom (2004) had showed that environmental reporting had not negatively impacted on short-term profitability and has in fact generated a positive relationship with firm valuation. More generally, a report by Sustainability (2002) uses case studies to illustrate various business benefits associated with addressing sustainability in developing countries. Furthermore, Goyal (2006) contends that CSR may serve as a signaling device for developing countries seeking to assess foreign direct investment proposals by unknown foreign firms.
In general the governmental has not got strong control or prohibitive laws over the social, ethical, and environmental performance of companies in developing countries, hence in its absence activism by stake- holder groups has become major source of CSR. Lund-Thomsen (2004) had described describes this as “an outcome of micro-level struggles between companies and communities over the distribution of social and environmental hazards which are created when global political and economic forces interact with local contexts around the world”. In research it was found that there are mainly four kinds of groups namely development agencies (Jenkins, 2005), trade unions (Kaufman et al., 2004), international NGOs (Christian Aid, 2005), and business associations (WBCSD, 2000) has emerged as the most impotant activists for CSR. These four groups had also provided a support for local NGOs. Another goup has also emerged in recent times namely media, it has also emerged as a key supporter for promoting CSR in developing countries (Vivarta and Canela, 2006). Activism by these groups in developing countries has taken various forms, which was classified by Newell (2001) “as civil regulation, litigation against companies, and international legal instruments”. Of these, civil regulation is perhaps the most common and effective. Bendell (2000) describes this as the theory that ‘businesses are being regulated by civil society, through the dual effect of negative impacts from conflict and benefits from collaboration [which] provides new means for people to hold companies accountable, thereby democratising the economy directly’. There are numerous examples of civil regulation in action in the developing world of which South Africa is a rather striking case in point (Visser, 2005a). This has manifested itself mainly through community groups challenging companies over whether they are upholding the constitutional rights of citizens. Various land mark cases between 1994 and 2004 suggest that, although civil society still tends to lack capacity and resources in South Africa, this has been an effective strategy. Stakeholder activism has also taken a constructive approach towards encouraging CSR, through groups like the National Business Initiative and partnerships between business and NGOs. Stakeholder activism can also be a source of criticism of CSR, arguing that it is an inadequate response to the social and environmental challenges of developing countries. The Christian Aid (2005) report Behind the Mask: The Real Face of Corporate Social Responsibility epitomizes this critical approach, and may be a driver for an enlarged conception and practice of CSR in developing countries.
2.5.10 Supply Chain Management