A concept Paper on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) by
Dr. R. K. Dave, Senior Specialist (Policies and Plans), National Disaster Management Authority, New Delhi
India – Vulnerabilities and Risk
India’s geo-climatic conditions as well as its high degree of socio-economic vulnerability, makes it one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. It is a common notion that most disasters result from the action or inaction of people and their social and economic structures. This is a consequence of people living in ways that degrade their environment, developing and over-populating urban centers, or creating and perpetuating inequitable social and economic systems. Communities and population settled in areas susceptible to the impact of a raging river or the violent tremors of the earth are placed in situations of high vulnerability and adverse impact because of their socio-economic conditions. This is compounded by every aspect of nature being subject to seasonal, annual and sudden fluctuations and also due to the unpredictability of the timing, frequency and magnitude of the occurrence of disasters.
India is the second most populous (1.21. billion) country in the world and home to the largest number of people in need of basic amenities (poverty rate 37.2%). Poverty and hazard vulnerability are often closely related, as the poor often lack assets and entitlements that allow them some buffer from environmental degradation and variability. The interactions of multiple forms of stress—economic, social, political, and physical, with environmental change can amplify and attenuate vulnerability abruptly or gradually with unpredictable direction and magnitude.
The concept of resilience as applied to integrated socio-ecological systems may be defined as the amount of disturbance / perturbation / turbulence a system can absorb and still remain within the same state or domain of attraction, the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization (versus lack of organization or organization forced by external factors), and the degree to which the system can build and increase its capacity for learning and adaptation.
The increase in social andeconomic vulnerability as a consequence of reduced resiliencethrough land degradation, urban stresses, drought and other factors may cause losses of livelihoodand trigger tension and conflict over critical resources like fresh water and food. Increased vulnerability and fragility places a region on a trajectoryof greater risk to the panoply of stresses and shocks that occurover time. The process is a cumulative one, in which sequencesof shocks and stresses punctuate the trends, and the inabilityto replenish coping resources propels a region and itspeople to increasing vulnerability.
Corporate Sector & National Resilience
The concept and practice of corporate sector involvement in social development is not new in India. Groups like TATA and BIRLA have been imbibing the case for social good in their operations for decades. Inspite of having such life-size successful examples, corporate contribution in DRR has remained insignificant. Corporate social responsibility in DRR is still one of the least understood initiatives in the Indian development paradigm.
In current scenario - thecorporate contribution (CSR), so far, has been based on a policies and activities that do not directly address DRR. As per a survey - most of the companies implement the CSR projects through their own CSR project management initiatives, confining benefit to people living in the vicinity of the respective organizations. The survey also indicates that - the involvement of the corporate sector in CSR seems to have picked up after 1991 as 63% of the organizations started CSR initiatives during 1991-2005. About two-thirds of the private multi-national organizations (70%) and private national organizations (67%) initiated CSR during this period, and one third of the PSUs too started their CSR programmes in this period.
Government policy initiatives are also pushing the case of CSR – with a directive that 2% of profits of companies with some specified size etc. should be utilized for CSR. The situation is also changing with corporates’ improved understanding of negative impacts of disasters on the growth pattern and value addition of disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures. On the other hand, in the absence of any clear policy guidelines on CSR-DRR issues – popular corporate interventions continue to have a conventional focus on usual domain areas like Education, Health and Environment.
Relevant Indian parameters (population, diversities, and hazards) demand joint and shared efforts of civil society, activist groups, Government and corporate sector to create appropriate means and avenues for DRR. The scope is enormous as there are over 700,000 registered companies in India out of which about 6545 are traded on the various Stock Exchanges.
Needlesstosay, that there exists a huge, untapped potential for corporate sector interventions into DRR for enhancing National resilience. National CSR policy needs a review and revision, in consultation with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), for defining CSRinterventions for DRR (disaster risk reduction). The new policy should -
- Define CSR for DRR
- Define probable areas and projects for risk reduction and resilience enhancement (list of such projects can be prepared through expert consultation. Corporate entities can adopt any project out of the list.)
- Define incentives for CSR-DRR initiatives.
- Encourage integration of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector into CSR-DRR, in order to reach out to the more remote areas.
- Establish a Center of Excellence for –emergency resource pooling, adopting best practices, risk analysis and mapping of CSR –DRR initiatives.
- Define a modality for accreditation and impact assessment of CSR-DRR initiatives by an independent agency in order to help in identification of gaps and strategies for improvements.
- Make CSR and DRR as integral parts of the curriculum at management schools, as well as other relevant academic institutions – like medical and engineering colleges.
- Define CSR-DRR policy review, implementation and management mechanisms.
Appropriate policy guidelines on required interventions in disaster risk reduction (DRR) under CSR, will give direction to the corporate sector in India, which has the potential to make a significant contribution in enhancing National resilience.
As a small initiative NDMA, in collaboration with LBSNNA (Masuoori) is in process of establishing a NationalDisaster Expert’s Network which is intended to, not only connect experts experienced in DRR & DM but also to converge rare domain knowledge, abilities and skills (KAS) at one place.