‘Integrated’ Corporate Social Responsibility!

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(No that's not a software 'module' from SAP)

Every firm loves to boast their customers on their websites. With all their brands and logos. But rarely of their suppliers and partners. I have a problem with this.

If a firm like Honeywell or Tata were to have "Be our Suppliers" option on their public websites, a large number of small businesses can express their desire to do business with them, notwithstanding if and who eventually reverts with a decision. This could be for any product, service or innovation. This could be for participating in auctions or provide skilled manpower or even participating in a new product design or offering efficient transportation services. There are enough small businesses out there who are willing to go that extra mile to deliver value with humility. The art lies in how to leverage these skills and talent that corporations may never even get to know for a start!

If there exists an incentive such that the buying firm gets some incentive from the state (that is usually so excited at the idea of doling out freebies to big firms), if they buy goods and services from businesses with a, b and c attributes, this in itself is a great act of corporate social responsibility. Though I am in no way hinting that state must do something extraordinary to help small businesses. There can be many ways of incentivizing such relationships, incl. recognizing the firms who have demonstrated their intentions to do business with small firms.

Can this be deemed socialism ? NO.

Because first there is competition and choice available to the firms and second corporations are not obliged in any manner to buy from x, y and z. Merit must and will speak. All they need is an opportunity and that need not always be 'risky' as the buying firms would have their shareholders believe.

E.g. If an organized retail firm directly buys from the farmers, EVEN with an intention to make 40 to 100 % margins, the small farmer is perhaps getting more than what the local feudal lords would be willing to pay. Unfortunately the same feudal lords are suppliers to firms like Reliance Fresh, Food Bazaar and Spencer's year after year. On the other hand the likes of Snapdeal.com, flipkart.com, Amazon and Jabong warmly welcome anyone who wishes to use their platform to sell their wares and services. The important thing here is warmth. Of course there is a pressure to sell at extremely competitive prices but at least they know how to behave with small business owners. This is much unlike large pricey corporations where purchasing managers will make vendors do merry-go-round for one year before they give some business and that too not without reminding a dozen times that they have done a big favor to a 'worthless' vendor who did not have a great 'brand' value and reputation to begin with.

Corporate social responsibility need not be an isolated obligation to the society. It can be integrated into Business as usual. All it needs is an introspection into corporation's existential purposes. Money need not be forsaken here. It need not always mean stealing from Peter to pay Paul. It need not be charitable 'department' either. Just walk the talk. No consultants, advisers and NGO's needed either. They can be more 'risky'