CSR at TATA: What's the buzz all about?

csr-at-tataThere seems to be a renewed buzz around Tata these days and part of the reason is that Ratan Tata is retiring. The Tata group is extremely diverse with business interests in sectors such as cars, chemicals, salt, steel, software, trucks, tea and telecommunication. They are top performers in all of these sectors and their products are known for quality and reliability. They are also known as one of the most conscientious companies and have been investing heavily in CSR.

They were one of the first brands to introduce the concept of CSR into their way of doing business even before it was defined. They model of doing business incorporated the principles of CSR which focussed on community services and numerous charitable organizations that helped society at large. Under Ratan Tata, the group acquired the biggest European steel company, Corus, and car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover. In India Tata Motors expanded market share with the introduction of Indica, Ace and finally the Nano. He is also committed to many social causes and has pushed CSR into the fore-front creating a new Indian business model.

The Tata Group has set new standards of corporate responsibility. This has been highlighted in Morgan Witzel's new book The Evolution Of A Corporate Brand. According to Witzel, " the number one and the biggest single thing is the company's values, its ideals and its commitment to the community and the nation since it was formed. I think his vision was more about ideals and not business and money making, and that really reflects on the brand. People still think of Tata in terms of ideals".

The group does all this, with a strong commitment towards societal well-being and a very strong CSR ethics. “CSR is not a post-profit activity but a pre-profit activity, seen as part of the cost of steel making,” says Sanjiv Paul, vice-president (corporate services) at Tata Steel. The company introduced workmen’s compensation as early as in 1920 and maternity benefit in 1928. Tata Steel was recently awarded the CSR Excellence Award 2010 by the Assocham (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) National CSR Committee and CSR Organising Committee.

The Tata Group involves itself in various aspects of rural development, tribal culture preservation, family initiatives and urban services. They have different ways of monitoring progress and measuring their impact on society. They work with villagers to ensure income generation through agriculture and vocational training, improve education, health and sanitation. Tata BP Solar is supporting the Indian power sector by providing a low-carbon alternative for an energy-starved India. They also ensure that the group's activities are as sustainable as possible through numerous measures and are one of the few companies that have their CSR activities for public viewing on their website.

The new Taj hotel was recently opened and is rooted in tradition with a modern twist. The Tata group has a total revenue of $70 billion and 70% of this comes from outside India thereby making it a multi-national conglomerate and no long India-centric. To naysayers who think that companies that invest heavily in CSR sacrifice profit, they only have to look at the business model the Tatas follow for evidence to the contrary.

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