Analysing the CSR Spending Requirements Under Indian Company Law

In Jean J. du Plessis, Umakanth Varottil & Jeroen Veldman (eds.), Globalisation of Corporate Social Responsibility and its Impact on Corporate Governance (Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2018) 231-253

28 Pages Posted: 20 May 2018 Last revised: 23 May 2018

See all articles by Umakanth Varottil

Umakanth Varottil

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 4, 2018

Abstract

The concept of social responsibility of corporations is not novel, and has been part of the indigenous thinking in India for over a century. After much debate, corporate social responsibility (CSR) found its place in the Companies Act, 2013 whereby every company of a certain size is to announce a CSR policy. More importantly, India is one of the earliest countries to require large companies to spend at least 2 percent of their average net profits made during the three immediately preceding financial years in pursuance of their CSR policy towards specified activities. During the legislative process, there was an intense debate as to whether the spending requirements must be made mandatory, but in the end due to a compromise the position resulted in a “comply-or-explain” approach although the wording of the statutory provision largely operates as a mandate. While there is strident criticism against such a broad and overarching CSR policy on various counts, the requirements are here to stay.

This paper analyses the merits and disadvantages of imposing CSR obligations through regulation as opposed to considering it as a voluntary mechanism to be adopted by companies as part of their business activity. The manner in which CSR is being implemented in India tends to equate CSR with corporate philanthropy. After discussing the evolution of CSR norms in India, the underlying rationale for their introduction, and the manner in which they are being implemented, the paper offers a critique of the Indian approach and suggestions for the future.

Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, CSR, corporate governance, India, comply or explain

JEL Classification: K22

Suggested Citation

Varottil, Umakanth, Analysing the CSR Spending Requirements Under Indian Company Law (May 4, 2018). In Jean J. du Plessis, Umakanth Varottil & Jeroen Veldman (eds.), Globalisation of Corporate Social Responsibility and its Impact on Corporate Governance (Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2018) 231-253. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3173945

Umakanth Varottil (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776
Singapore

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