Corporate Responsibility Watch, India is a voluntary network of 14 organisations and prominent independent consultants that have come together to analyse and watch the corporate environment in India from a civil society perspective. Guided by the New Companies Act, 2013 and National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business, 2011, the members analyse key economic and social activities of large corporates in the form of Business Responsibility Reports (BRRs).
The members of our core team are experienced development professionals representing leading associations/development institutes such as ActionAid India, Business & Community Foundation, Centre for Responsible Business, Christian Aid, Consumer Voice, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, National Confederation of Dalit Organisations, National Foundation for India, OpenSpace, Partners in Change, Prakruthi, Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices and Socio Research & Reform Foundation.
The core team will operate and act as a think tank for the CSR sector, pooling resources and sharing domain knowledge among civil society and other stakeholders. This would be necessary and vital in institutionalising and legitimising the mechanisms developed to monitor CSR work and the impact.
Recognising the frenetic expansion of the private sector and the need for proactive action towards making it sustainable and equitable, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs launched the National Voluntary Guidelines for Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs) in August 2011.
Furthermore, SEBI mandated the Making Business Responsible – Analysis of disclosure of top 100 listed companies to report on their ESG performance through a Business Responsibility Report (BRR), Also, the Ministry of Company Affairsʼ addition to the Companies Bill, proposed that companies with a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or net profit of Rs 5 crore or more earmark 2% of their net profit for the preceding three years on corporate social responsibility. The criticisms, discussions and debates on the proposed change to CSR has taken the focus away from the NVGs.
Set against this backdrop, and in the absence of a known monitoring mechanism by SEBI or the Ministry, of the 100 listed companies and their BRR compliance, Corporate Responsibility Watch emerged as an initiative that recognised a gap in engagements across the civil society in accessing sufficient information, evidence and knowledge on challenging the growing power of large corporates. Within a human rights framework the role of the core group is to think through home grown-solutions and monitoring mechanisms for the Responsible Business practice space, in the context that voluntary codes will not work unless there is a vigilant regularity environment, media attention, civil society scrutiny and activism.