Need for Collective Actions for promoting Business Responsibility

Need for Collective Actions for promoting Business Responsibility

Shimla, August 31, 2012

“Business Responsibility is a new, contemporary and extremely important issue that needs to be tackled through a co-ordinated and collective approach by all relevant stakeholders at the state-level”. This is what was conveyed by Shri Sudripta Roy, Chief Secretary, Government of Himachal Pradesh, while inaugurating a state-level meeting of the BRCC project implemented by Gunjan Organisation for Community Development and CUTS here in Shimla today. Participants in this meeting were drawn from the state government departments, state level regulators, private hospital association, pharmaceutical firms and civil society organisations.

The BRCC project (entitled, Exploring the Interface between Business Regulation and Corporate Conduct in India) is being implemented in four states of the country with the prime objective of promoting responsible business conduct in two key sectors – Pharmaceuticals and Private Healthcare. The three other states where the project is being implemented are Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal.

It is important for the private sector today to align their business model, especially in these two sectors, given the considerable public interest element in these two sectors. It is a fundamental requirement in this country that the pharma sector and the private healthcare sectors behave in a responsible manner. Evidences suggest that players in these two sectors have not always acted responsibly, and in some cases even blatantly violated the regulatory requirements. Rijit Sengupta, Director, CUTS International observed, “It is not only in the interest of society, but also for long-term benefits for the firms that such a trend in these two sectors are reversed, and they become more responsible.” In order for this movement on responsible business to gather further momentum and speed in the country – it is important that the Government (National and State), Regulators (National and State), Business Community (Chambers and Sectoral Associations) and the civil society to understand their role in this process and work together.

The National Government has offered the initial drive for this process by developing the National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business (referred to as the NVGs). The NVG provides a framework (comprising 9 principles) for defining what constitutes Responsible Business. There is still a lot of confusion and lack of clarity about what constitutes Business Responsibility among the stakeholders; therefore, the adoption of the NVGs by the Government and its popularisation is a sound start. Gayatri Subramaniam representing the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) oriented the participants in this meeting about the NVGs and shared the plan of the Government for operationalising the NVGs, especially in sectors.

It was evident that businesses need to incorporate the elements of business responsibility (as described by the NVG Principles) in their core business model, and not look only at philanthropic activities to meet their responsibility towards society. The focus of responsible business has to be more on the ultimate impact on beneficiaries, and not driven by the narrow urge for projecting a good public image only.

Shri Takendar Panwar, Deputy Mayor of Shimla Municipal Corporation indicated that weakening state of public health institutions in the state of Himachal Pradesh is a concern. This is probably one of the main reasons behind the proliferation of private health institutions, which is making it difficult for ordinary consumers to access healthcare in the state.

Shri Roy asserted that the Government of Himachal Pradesh would be very keen and interested to take cognisance of the findings from this study in the state, and take the recommendations forward by incorporating them in relevant policies and initiate regulatory actions.