Corporation and the Community

Because our society is rapidly becoming a society of organization, all institutions including business, will have to hold themselves accountable for the quality of life of the society and will have to make fulfillment of basic social values, beliefs and purposes a major objective of their continuing normal activities rather than a social responsibility that restrains or that lie outside of their main function.

– Peter Drucker

A business organization is not merely an economic entity; it is also a social organism, a human community. So one of the higher aims of a business organization is to integrate or harmonise its communal life with the communal life of the surrounding environment. This must be the next step in the evolution of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement; it has to progress beyond some adhoc or isolated charitable projects to embrace the surrounding community as a whole. In other words, there must be an integration of CSR with the totality of the community development process. There is a natural process of human development in a community which can be accelerated by appropriate, creative intervention. Business has the competence to provide some of the most efficient and effective interventions acting as a catalyst for community development.

There is a concentration of resources, knowledge, competence and skill in a business organization, which it has to share with the community of which it is a part. Among business leaders, J.R.D. Tata had a clear perception of this responsibility and also the potentiality of business for community development. He said, “Every company has a special continuing responsibility towards the people of the area in which it is located. The company should spare its engineers, doctors, managers to advise the people of the villages and supervise new developments undertaken by cooperative effort between them and the company.” We must note here that JRD’s conception of corporate responsibility goes far beyond charity or sharing of wealth, towards sharing of capabilities.

But the CSR movement can also take one more step beyond community development to social transformation. In our modern age, business is the most powerful, resourceful and influential organ of the society. Among modern social organs, modern business has the most efficient, innovative and productive executive force with a great capacity to convert an Idea into material reality. If the Idea is sufficiently potent, creative and transformative, business can become a great instrument for social transformation.

In this issue, our primary emphasis is on practice and not on theory. The concept of corporate responsibility or community development is illustrated with the living examples of individuals and institutions that live the idea and walk the talk.

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