Last week I wrote about a seminar regarding opportunities in India for Norwegian companies. This week it was another seminar… This time the host was NICCI and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO). The agenda for this seminar was corporate responsibility and how to work in a responsible way in a country like India.
The tone was set by Mr. Erik Lundeby from NHO. He looked back in history and talked about how corporate responsibility has evolved in Norway. Some 150 years ago companies were very much involved in building societies in Norway. As Norway today is very much a developed country this is not that important anymore. But one important question for Norwegian companies is what to do when they want to establish themselves in countries where the society is not that well established? In some countries corruption is a big issue. And in some countries it is expected that companies take a huge responsibility in helping the society. If you look at a company like Tata, they have for a long time been famous not just for their earning but also from what they give back to the society. Check out the book Tata – The evolution of a Corporate Brand to read more about this. NHO have made a guideline that can be used for Norwegian companies. I would highly recommend that everyone read this guideline before entering a foreign market.
After Mr. Lundeby Ms. Gunelie Winum from Ethical trading initiative Norway spoke. She has firsthand experience in working with Norwegian companies that are cooperating with countries like India and showed a very interesting case study from India. The actual company, Beer Sten, traded with stone from India and was accused for using a subcontractor that were using child labor, didn’t have the right security and infrastructure for their employers and so on. By help of IEH the Norwegian company turned this situation around completely! It was very interesting to hear about the learning from that case. She stressed that long term partnership is important if you want to improve working conditions for your sub-contractors. This echoes much of what was said in the panel debate last week. A social audit is not really what you’re looking for. What you really need doing she said is to integrate this into the corporate culture for both the companies. She also suggested calling it ethical assessment not an ethical audit.
The last speaker was Dr. Bimal Arora, Chief Executive Officer in Center for Responsible Business (CBR). Being and Indian and working from India, he has some extremely good insight into the diversity of the Indian business. There were a number of really good points to take from his lecture. One of them is that India is one of the countries in the world with the maximum number of laws. This makes it difficult to set up a business there. This applies both to multinational companies and to small Indian companies. If you plan to ever set up a business in India you have to be aware of this fact. Representing an international company you of course have to work according to all the laws in the country. But you also have to be aware that if your partner in India is a very small company you can’t really expect them to know all the different details about every single law. And this applies even more for subcontractors to your Indian partner. These small companies will not have any CSR strategy or anything like that. It will be your responsibility to implement this in a proper way.
After having been involved with the a number of NGO’s in India and different CSR initiatives in Capgemini it was very interesting to hear how these experts talked about the topic. My support for the Nani Kalis will surely continue, but I will also continue to ask myself if there is something more I as an individual can do…
Talk to you soon