‘There is need for a change in the governance and functioning of public and business institutions in the current Indian context, especially the way they interact with stakeholders and the society at large’. These were some of the remarks made by Shri Arun Maira, Member of the Planning Commission of India, while speaking at the National Policy Forum of a project entitled, ‘Exploring the interplay between business regulation and corporate conduct in India’. This event was organised jointly by CUTS and the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) and held in New Delhi on 8th October 2012. Shri Maira also observed that there is an urgent need to evolve the understanding of institutions about ‘rights’ – given that the definition of ‘rights’ has evolved considerably over time.
CUTS has been implementing this project (referred to as the BRCC project, www.cuts-ccier.org/brcc), across four states of the country (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal) in order to assess the drivers and challenges for promoting responsible business behaviour in the pharmaceutical and private healthcare sectors in them.
Speaking at the occasion, Director General of the Indian Institute for Corporate Affairs (IICA), Shri Bhaskar Chatterjee opined that the two sectors under this project have often been targeted for operating in an irresponsible manner. There is an urgent need for these two sectors to respond to such a tendency and embrace elements of responsible business in their core business model. He added that the 9 principles enshrined in the National Voluntary Guidelines on the Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs) can offer workable options for these two sectors to improve their performance as responsible businesses, and shield them against any uninformed onslaught.
‘The time is right for the discussions on CSR and perhaps India is the most appropriate place to have these discussions now’, observed Arvinn Gadgil, Secretary of State for International Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affiars, Norway. The BRCC project is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affiars, Norway. He asserted that there is a direct correlation between inequality in a society and the level of mistrust prevailing in it. Under the circumstances, optimal business regulation and responsible behaviour can offer the way forward. He, however, cautioned that there cannot be a universal definition of ‘responsibility’. Any such definition of ‘responsibility’ has to be mutually agreed between the providers and the ultimate beneficiaries.
Shri Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS reiterated the need to infuse trust among business, government and people alike. He indicated that CUTS has continued its work agenda of analysing the interaction between business and society for a long time, through research based advocacy. This project is one among the various initiatives that CUTS is currently implementing in this regard. He concluded that CUTS has organised such discussions on responsible business behaviour at the state level under this project already – and would take it to some other states as well to initiate forward thinking on this issue.
Over 60 participants representing government department/agencies, regulators, business associations, academicians, activists and media from the four project states and the national level participated in this event.