The Ministry of Corporate Affairs' recent revisions to the corporate social responsibility guidelines, which makes CSR Impact Assessment mandatory, have significantly influenced the CSR landscape in India. With the new Corporate Social Responsibility Impact Assessment compliance now applicable, monitoring and evaluation have become a focus bringing credibility and accountability in the development sector. CSR is slowly coming of age with shift in the approach from philanthropy to creating sustainable impact.
The new amendments require all Corporates with an average CSR obligation of Rs 10 crore or more in the previous three fiscal years to do CSR Impact Assessment Studies of their projects through independent agencies for projects above Rs.1 crore. Impact Assessment assists corporates in assessing how their CSR projects are impacting communities and in tracking the on-the-ground impact of their CSR efforts. The increased regulatory compliance has affected all aspects of the CSR lifecycles and will guarantee that CSR activities are planned, implemented, and assessed with greater rigor, resulting in the desired social outcomes.
While CSR Impact Assessment studies have been a vital element of CSR reporting around the world, similar methods are still in their infancy in India. Professional CSR firms, such as SoulAce, have been advocating for and implementing Impact Assessment Studies for their clients. Earlier companies were doing it voluntarily but now with the new regulations in place, it is pushing companies to focus on setting up measurement indicators including output, outcome and impact.
"SoulAce began its first project in 2009, with CSR Impact Assessment, even before the word "CSR” became popular and CSR Compliance came five years later. We believe that measuring any activity is a vital factor in any business decision, and the same should be true for CSR initiatives and activities. As the nature of the project varies across thematic areas such as Health, Education, Water, Sanitation, Sustainable Livelihood, and Women Empowerment, it's critical to have an in-depth subject matter expertise as well as a strong geographical presence," explains Adarsh Kataruka, Managing Director, SoulAce.
Impact Assessment evaluations encourage a long-term perspective on CSR efforts. Firms use these CSR Impact Assessment to strategically build their CSR programmes as they are able to measure the effect their programs are making and helps in planning for scaling and replicating impactful initiatives in other geographies. It also helps in identifying gaps and helps in timely course correction.
Impact Assessment measurement comprises of quantitative and qualitative approach with the Beneficiaries, Implementing Partners, Project Stakeholders & Local Govt. Representatives among others.
"Over the last 10-12 years, SoulAce has concentrated on conducting CSR Impact Assessments and championing its value to its clients and the sector. We have been fortunate to work with like-minded corporations that believe in CSR, not just as a window dressing, but with a solid monitoring and assessment framework in place to produce long-term effect," Mr. Kataruka adds. Following the recent shift in CSR Compliance, in addition to previous clients, SoulAce noticed a considerable surge in CSR Impact Assessment onboarding of key clients such as Tata Sons, Maruti Suzuki, Colgate Palmolive, Arcelor Mittal Nippon Steel (AM/NS), Dabur, Ambuja Cement, Larsen & Toubro, Adani Ports, Panasonic, D-Mart, IndusInd Bank among others.