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Nishi Sharma - (IJAEBM) INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ADVANCED ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS MANAGEMENT Vol No. 1, Issue No. 2, 058 - 066

CSR Practices and CSR Reporting in Indian Banking Sector NISHI SHARMA*

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University Institute of Applied Management Sciences Panjab University, Chandigarh-160014, India

Corresponding author: Email id: jmdnishi@yahoo.com Phone : +911722727251

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CSR Practices and CSR Reporting in Indian Banking Sector Abstract- In recent years Corporate Social

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Responsibility (CSR) has witnessed an astounding ascendancy and resurgence at the global level. The concept of CSR recognizes an organisationâ€&#x;s commitment to operate in a socially responsible manner. It takes into consideration the social and environmental implications of corporate financial decisions. Growing complexity of business, increasing concern for sustainable development, need for stewardship of natural resources and call for enhanced transparency have not only magnified the resonance of Corporate Social Responsibility but also heightened the inclination towards integration of CSR principles in the corporate activities. In this regards, actions taken by corporate houses and regulatory authorities operating in developed nations are quite satisfactory. However in developing nations the scenario of CSR activities is not so rosy. Particularly in financial sector there is an absence of stringent provisions regarding compliance and reporting of CSR activities. This has further instigated organisations to remain silent to the issue till any mandatory provision is being enacted. In addition to this the academic publication on this fiery issue also reflects the Western centric nature of research work. In fact there is an availability of very limited research work in the context of implementation of CSR practices in context to developing nations. In this reference the present paper attempts to analyse CSR practices and CSR reporting in India with special reference to banking sector.

Responsibility (CSR). The integration of CSR principles in operating activities of business is very much imperative to ensure sustainable development of an economy. The potential benefits of CSR have generated interest of regulatory authorities, society, NGOs, employees, customers as well as international bodies to the issue. In financial sector several international initiatives like United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, Global Reporting Initiative, Equator Principles and Collavecchio Declaration on Financial Institutions are underway to ensure the adoption of CSR practices in normal business operations. These initiatives have favourably tuned up developed countries to behave in a socially responsible manner. But in developing nations, there is a dearth of deliberate and effective actions to the current need. In addition to this a very limited research work has been done to investigate the CSR practices in developing and emerging nations. In fact the academic publication on this fiery issue is primarily western centric. Belal1 (2001) also noted that most of the CSR studies conducted so far have been in the context of developed countries such as Western Europe, the USA and Australia and we still know too little about practices in excolonial, smaller, and emerging countries. In this context, the present paper attempts to examine the steps initiated by Indian scheduled commercial banks to portray their responsible behaviour. The second section unfolds some prominent dimensions of CSR practices world-wide. Next section entails the discussion of CSR practices in banking industry with special reference to Indian banks. It unfolds the thrust areas of public and private sector banks of India. It examines the recent initiatives of some leading banks of India. Fourth section analyses the CSR reporting practices around the globe. Last section summarises the limitations of CSR practices in Indian banking sector and put forward suggestions to improve the current scenario.

Key Words- CSR practices; CSR reporting; Banking Sector; Financial Performance.

I.

INTRODUCTION

Industrialisation and commercialisation of service sector have explored vivid avenues of progress to a nation but at the flip side it rooted the use of non-renewable energy sources, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions and rising levels of waste which have pernicious effects to the generation coming next. The growing concerns for sustainable development, environmental performance, encompassing pollution control and stewardship of natural resources gave mass recognition to the concept of Corporate Social ISSN: 2230-7826

II.

DIMENSIONS OF CSR

The concept of corporate Social Responsibility is not a new one. But its focal point changes with the changing requirements of business and varying social needs. In 1960, CSR emerged out from an attempt to link business with society. The underlying expectation in this era was to apply the resources in a socially responsible manner i.e., the promotion of social welfare along with the

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local communities. Uhlaner et al. , (2004) discussed the economic, legal, ethical, philanthropic aspects in regards to CSR. Juholin8 (2004) made a distinction between CSR as simple legal compliance and CSR as conducting business with a high regard for morality. Longo et al. 9, (2005) took stakeholder perspective to examine the CSR obligations and contributions of firms. Some studies like Quazi and Brien10 (2000) and Deniz and Suarez11 (2005) have made distinctions among classical, socio-economic, philanthropic, and modern views of CSR. In short during this phase the concept of CSR was showered with some divergent thoughts covering economic, legal, ethical, philanthropic and social aspects of business houses.

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economic development. The main argue was to employ economy‟s means of production in such a way that production and distribution could enhance total socio-economic welfare. In 1970‟s CSR was identified as the compliance to the business ethics. The basic idea was to enlarge the periphery of CSR implications from pure economical boundaries. In this regards, corporate house has to ensure the maximum possible use of business resources with no compromises to business ethics. The concept leads to profit maximisation without deception or fraud to any party i.e., lying within the rules of the game. In this period, a socially responsible firm was identified as one which balances multiplicity of interests instead of striving just for profit making for its stockholders. Davis2 (1973) described CSR as firm‟s consideration and response to different issues which may rest beyond the narrower territories of economic, technical and legal requirements of the firm. In this phase researchers pointed out that CSR encompasses the economic, legal, ethical and discretionary (philanthropic) expectations that society has at a given point of time. In 80s & 90s a need was being felt to give recognition to some new concepts like stakeholder theory, corporate governance, corporate social performance, corporate citizenship, corporate social innovation and communication of CSR practices through CSR reporting. Gray et al. 3, (1987) insisted upon the communication of social and environmental effects of organizations along with the economic actions to particular interest groups within the society. Further efforts were being made to operationalise the CSR practices for business houses. Wood4 (1991) explained operational view of CSR as a firm‟s social performance, which can be assessed by how a firm manages its societal relationships, its social impact and the outcomes of its CSR practices. Lee5 (1997) explained CSR as the company‟s commitment to operate in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, while acknowledging the interests of a variety of stakeholders and maximizing economic, social and environmental value. In 21st century a general attempt was to establish the linkage among economic, legal, social and ethical standards so as to bring sustainable development. World Business Council for Sustainable Development 6 (2001) explained CSR as the commitment of business to contribute towards sustainable economic development, working with employees, their families and the ISSN: 2230-7826

III.

CSR PRATICES IN BANKING INDUSTRY

Now-a-days across the globe, banking sector is under massive pressure from its shareholders, investors, media, NGOs as well as its customers to carry out business in a responsible and ethical manner (Bhattacharya et al.12 2004; Frenz13, 2005; Jeucken14,15, 2001; 2004). Recently, several initiatives have been initiated to promote CSR practices around the globe. For instance, United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEPFI) was launched in 1990s to promote sustainable development within the framework of market mechanisms. Likewise, Bank Tract network was formed by global coalition of NGOs to promote sustainable finance. Collevecchio Declaration also calls for environmental protection and social justice by banks. Some countries levied heavy penalties to banks for violating socio-economic principles. For instance US Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act in late 1980s has resulted in huge loss to the banks in the US for the environmental pollution of their clients and made them to pay the remediation cost. Further socially irresponsible lending banks have to face a lot of criticism for their actions many times. Jeucken15 (2004) illustrated that ABN AMRO attracted massive public criticism for its engagement in destructive mining practices in West Papua New Guinea. Hoare16 (2004) reported the criticism of the finance institutions of BP and Barclays for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project which was ultimately responsible for cutting across nationally protected wetland area and causing displacements of local population in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The exponential

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growth of information technology has caused great demand for adoption of CSR activities in banking sector. State regulatory bodies, media, NGOs, customers have significantly addressed social responsibility issues in banking sector (Jeucken14, 2001; Bhattacharya et al.12 2004; Decker17, 2004). Likewise, international organisation such as the World Bank also frequently exert pressures on banks to analyse social and environmental risk involved in projects to be financed. In addition to this, CSR practices of an organisation have significant impact on its reputation and resultant profitability. Many

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researches like Pava and Krausz18 (1996) and Preston and O'Bannon19 (1997) have found positive correlation between CSR and financial performance of the organisation. Some researches have also proved a

stakeholders. The major thrust areas for CSR practice in Indian banks are common in public sector and private sector banks. These areas include children welfare, community welfare, education, environment, healthcare, poverty eradication, rural development, vocational training, women's empowerment, protection to girl child, employment. However the core areas for reporting CSR activities are slightly different in both types of banks. The analysis of three core activity areas as depicted by these banks reflected some prominent fields for CSR activities. These areas could be shown by the following charts. The X axis of chart represents these fields and Y axis of the chart represents the number of banks, claiming these areas, out of the selected sample. Chart 1 reports the thrust areas of the public sector bank while chart 2 reflects those for private sector banks.

negative impact of socially irresponsible operation on share prices and brand reputation of a bank (Hopkin and Cowe20, 2003; Ian21, 2005). Around the globe, banking industry is showing a good commitment to CSR principles. Decker17 (2004) pointed out that banks have exhibited conscious efforts to comply with the relevant provisions to reduce the regulatory action through depicting a good environmental citizen image.

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A. CSR Practices in Indian Banks Banking in India has originated in the last decades of the 18th century with the establishment of General Bank of India in 1786, and the Bank of Hindustan set up in 1870 (however both of the banks are now defunct). The oldest bank existing in India is the State Bank of India and the apex regulatory authority of Indian banking sector is Reserve Bank of India. At present, the commercial banking structure in India consists of Scheduled Commercial Banks & Unscheduled Banks. Since independence, banking in India has evolved through four distinct phases: Foundation phase (1950s till the nationalisation of banks in 1969), Expansion phase (mid-60s to 1984), Consolidation phase (1985 to 1991) and Reforms phase (since 1992). Indian banking industry is found to be adopting an integrated approach of combining CSR with the ultimate customer satisfaction voluntarily. In recent years an attempt has been initiated to ensure socially responsible behaviour of banking sector in more systematic manner. RBI has also insisted upon taking measures for sustainable development of economy through realising the dire necessity of CSR. Reserve Bank of India22 (2007) stated that CSR entails the integration of social and environmental concerns by companies in their business operations and also in interactions with their

Chart 1: Core thrust areas for reported CSR activities in public sector banks

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Source: Compiled from respective websites of selected public sector banks Indian public sector banks most actively participate for alleviation of regional imbalances through initiating various activities for promotion of rural development. Besides it, they primarily focus on the issues of gender equality through women's empowerment. The major areas investigated for reporting CSR activities in private sector banks could be depicted by the following chart 2:

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Chart 2: Core thrust areas for reported CSR activities in private sector banks

B. Some recent initiatives by Indian Banks In order to address ecological and environmental concerns, Reserve Bank of India has decided to go for energy efficient buildings. Bureau of Energy Efficiency has awarded the first star rating labels to the Bank‟s building at Bhubaneswar and New Delhi. The four buildings located at Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata are recognised as 5-star building under the rating system. Nine buildings at Bhopal, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kanpur, Mumbai, Nagpur, New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram have been given 4-star rating. In consideration of Ozone Depleting Substances, bank has reviewed the airconditioning plant and planned to replace some of the plants. SIDBI (the prime financer to small and medium scale industries) has also incorporated environmental and social aspects in its core business activities so as to ensure sustainable development. It is providing concessional .and liberal credit to medium and small scale industries which are initiating energy saving projects and are adopting pollution control measures. Further stringent provisions have been implemented for financing industries consuming / producing ozone depleting substances. State Bank of India (SBI), the oldest bank has also adopted green banking initiatives in its lending operations. Recognising the warning of global warming bank has decided to initiate urgent measures to combat the climate change through envisaging two pronged approach viz. i) to reduce the Bank‟s own carbon footprint and ii) to sensitise the Bank‟s clients to adopt low carbon emission practices. As a signal of Bank‟s sincerity and urge in its efforts bank has installed windmills for the Bank‟s captive use with a view to substitute the polluting power with green power. IndusInd Bank has recently launched solarpowered ATMs. Many banks have participated in the Carbon Disclosure Project. Some banks are undertaking greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory exercise for calculating their carbon foot-printing and undertaking energy audits. ICICI bank has shown its commitment to corporate environmental stewardship and extended a great support to clean technology projects. It has also liberalised credit to zero emission vehicles. IDBI has set up carbon desk.

Source: Compiled from respective websites of selected private sector banks

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The major areas for reporting CSR activities in Indian private sector bank are to enhance the level of education and employment. The other prominent areas for their concern include community welfare, programmes for child welfare and protection of environment. As shown from the above graphs the CSR practice of the selected banks represents a wide spectrum of different activities including rural development, community development and social welfare, family initiatives, women's empowerment and environment protection. A significant part of the bank‟s annual earnings is used to support structures, events and individuals across diverse areas of child healthcare and education, entertainment, environmental beautification, human capital development and arts. The study of core areas as reported by the selected banks reveal that primary concern for both type of bank is social welfare. However both have different approach to promote the same. The general trend of selected public sector banks mainly practices for rural development and removal of gender inequality. On the other hand, the core operational areas for CSR activities in private sector banks are focused on education and employment for all and mitigating the risk of environment degradation through their green banking strategies.

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IV.

REPORTING OF CSR PRACTICES

During last few decades, as a result of increased consciousnesses towards sustainability issues a move from core financial reporting to the adoption

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National Green , Agency Goldman Sachs Corp.: Goldman Sachs Energy Environmental and Social (GSEES) Index, asset management in SRI , Index provider Innovest Group Innovest Strategic Value Advisors : research & screening service, Agency Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) :Corporate Governance Quotient, Agency Investor Responsibility Research Centre (IRRC):research & screening service , Agency Social Investment Research Service (SIRS): web based Screening platform 'SIMON', Agency

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of triple bottom line principle was being observed. The triple bottom line principle entails reporting of not only the economic performance of company but also their environmental and social performance i.e., reporting of CSR activities. CSR reporting calls for reflection of corporate ethical practices, transparency, sensitivity to the environmental issues, social commitment and labour welfare practices of business houses. The concept of CSR reporting has been described by different scholars in different ways. Perks23 (1993) expressed CSR reporting as the disclosure of those costs and benefits that may or may not be quantifiable in money terms arising from economic activities and substantially borne by the community at large or other stakeholders. A further extension in this field is the emergence of a new theory of reputation risk management. In this regard, Bebbington et al.24 (2008) viewed CSR reporting as part of the organizational reputation risk management process and proposes an image restoration framework. Rating of a company could be use as a screening indicator. In practice different nations have their distinct different agencies and index providers which disseminate information to track the economic, financial, corporate governance, environmental and social performance of corporate. At present, numerous companies around the world are already documenting their performance and successes through environmental and social reporting. In addition to this, CSR rating could be done through in-house research teams, rating agencies or index provider. These institutes attempt to provide a reliable and objective benchmark of the best CSR practices in the country to investors. The detail of some prominent rating houses is as follows:

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Country In-house Research Teams, Rating Agencies or Index Provider USA

 

Business Ethics : 100 Best Corporate, Citizens (annual ranking) , index provider Calvert Group Ltd.: Calvert Social Index, Agency Citizens Advisers Inc.: Citizens Index Fundamental Social Research, in-house research/ index provider Co-op America: Information services related to CSR e.g.

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UK

Accountability Rating: research services, agency  Business in the Community (BITC): Corporate Responsibility Index (BITC-CR-Index) , Index Provider  Core Ratings Ltd.: research & screening service , Agency  Ethical and Environmental Screening Service (ESS) :research & screening service , Agency  Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA) : Several CSR related information services, e.g. Publishing 'Ethical Consumer', onlineDatabase 'Corporate Critic'  Ethical Investment Research Service (EIRIS): Index-family FTSE4GOOD , Agency  FTSE Group: Information services related to capital markets, Agency Global Risk Management Services (GRM): research & screening service 

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 

Canada

Corporate Monitor: Ethinvest Environmental Index , index provider Centre for Australian Ethical Research (CAER): research & screening service , Agency Westpac Investment Management in Kooperation mit Monash University y: WestpacMonash Eco-Index , index provider Sustainable Investment Research Institute (SIRIS) Pty Ltd.: Agency

acceptance to the concept of CSR reporting by banking sector around the globe, Indian banks are not responding in the expected manner. According to some critics, Indian financial institutions are concerned to the exclusion of all other considerations about the ecology of their balancesheets and, therefore, focussed on ever-greening their assets. Rating of CSR activities of Indian banking sector has been done by Karmayog in recent years. Indian commercial banks and reported that two third of surveyed 36 banks couldn't even secure level 3 at 0-5 scale, no bank could touch level 5 and just one bank could attain level 5. The summary of Karmayog's28 CSR ratings of these banks in 2009 could be shown by table 2:

Corporate Knights: Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada (annual ranking) , index provider Ethiscan Canada Ltd.: The Corporate Ethics Monitor, Corporate 1,500 DataBase , Agency Jantzi Research Inc.: Canadian Social Investment Database (CSID), Jantzi Social Index (JSI), Agency / index provider

Table 2: CSR rating of Indian commercial banks Level No. of Name of Banks (0-5) Banks

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Australia

City Union Bank, Karur Vysya Bank and Vijay Bank

Level 1 6

Central Bank of India, Indusind Bank, Karnataka Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, South Indian Bank and UCO Bank

Level 2 15

Allahabad Bank, Andhra Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra, Bank of Rajasthan, Corporation Bank, Federal Bank, HDFC Bank, IDBI Bank, Indian Overseas, State Bank of Bikaner, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Travancore, and Syndicate Bank.

Level 3 11

Axis Bank, Canara Bank, Dena Bank, ICICI Bank, Indian Bank, ING Vysya Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank, Oriental Bank, Punjab National Bank, State Bank of India and Union Bank of India

Level 4 1

Yes Bank

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Most of the above rating agencies measure corporate practices against a set of comparable standards based on international indices. Some rating agencies like Allianz Global Investors (AllianzGI) work for more than a specific country also. According to the recent reports provided by different agencies and institutes developed and developing both nations are showing their inclination towards inclusion of GRI sustainability indicators in their annual reports. GRI25 (2008) reveals that Spain is at highest toll (128 reports to GRI) and supersedes United States (100 reports to GRI). Within the continent, Europe with 49% has been rated on top of the reporters known to GRI and in Asia the rating was made for 15%. In context to India, the studies for rating CSR activities of Indian corporate are very few. Singh and Ahuja26 (1983) conducted the first study in India on CSR of 40 Indian public sector companies. In 2006, Raman27 conducted a study using content analysis technique to identify the extent and nature of social reporting. However, it is important to mention that in spite of mass

Level 0 3

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Level 5 Nil Source: Compiled from Karmayog's report 2009

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The analysis shows that most of the Indian banks do not mention CSR or sustainability explicitly on their websites. There is hardly anything mentioned regarding their CSR practices. However, at no account, it means lack of bank's participation in CSR activities. In fact problem lies with inadequate norms regarding CSR reporting system. For example, ICICI Bank well known for its social activities has no clear visible link on its website regarding ICICI foundation or its support of government programs to improve the livelihoods of people. The primary limitation investigated in context to the reporting of CSR

V.

must also provide appropriate training to its employees on environmental and social risks in lending to ensure that climate change is taken into account in corporate banking decisions. Further regulatory authorities must envisage the regulations for initiating reforms in reporting practices.

REFERENCES 1. A. Belal, A Study of Corporate Social Disclosures in Bangladesh, Managerial Auditing Journal 15(5), pp.274–289, 2001.

2. K. Davis, The case for and against business assumption of social responsibilities, Academy of Management Journal, Vol.16, pp. 312-322, 1973. 3. R.H. Gray, D.L. Owen and K.T. Maunders, Corporate Social reporting: Accounting and Accountability, Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall, 1987. 4. D. J. Wood, Corporate social performance

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activities, is the absence of uniform standards laid for such reporting, which could be apply to compare at international level. Unlike credit rating there is no strong consensus about methodology. Further and criteria used in CSR rating have a great diversity (Sjostrom29, 2004). As a result this leads to a wide spectrum of rating criteria (Schafer et.al. 30, 2006) and lack of common standards for comparative study. Tencati et al.31, (2004) found that the lack of public support and publicity on CSR are the main reported obstacles.

projects to be financed. Indian banking sector must also depict their socially responsible behaviour through integrating triple bottom line principle. Banks

CONCLUSION

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Banking sector in India is showing interest in integrating sustainability into their business models but its CSR reporting practices are far from satisfaction. There are only few banks which report their activities on triple bottom line principles. As a matter of fact, the standards for rating CSR practices are less uniform in comparison to that for financial rating. This leads to problem in comparison of corporate houses and determining the CSR rating. Absence of mandatory provisions regarding reporting of CSR practices further cause negligence on the issue of reporting. Further, the study found that among the reporting banks also, some banks are just making false gestures in respect of their efforts for socio-environmental concerns. According to some critics companies, on socio-environmental concerns, having significant blemishes on their record riddle it and baffled real issues. In addition to this, the credibility of rating agencies has also been sometimes questioned. However its importance can not be overlooked as it may be used as a good media for providing inherently useful information. The adaptation of reporting CSR practices though quite slow in India, still it would definitely get a great pace in near future. In fact there is a great need for enacting some stringent regulatory provisions to ensure the adherence to social responsibility principles. The recent initiatives of Reserve Bank of India in this regard are expected to bring a drastic change in near future. Further voluntary actions are required to be taken by the financial bodies to ensure the socio-environmental feasibility of ISSN: 2230-7826

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Moneva, „Corporate social responsibility reporting and reputation risk management‟, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp.337-361, 2008. 25. Global Reporting Initiative, Sustainability Reporting Guidelines & Financial Services Sector Supplement, 3.0/FSSS Final Version, pp. 1-54, 2008. 26. D.R. Singh and J.M Ahuja, Corporate social reporting in India, International Journal of Accounting Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 151–169, 1983. 27. S.R. Raman, Corporate social reporting in India – A view from the top, Global Business Review Vol. 7, pp. 313–324, 2006. 28. Karmayog Report (2009),

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29. E. Sjostrom, Investment Stewardship-Actors and Methods for Socially and Environmentally Responsible Investments, Project Report for the Nordic Partnership in Collaboration with the Stockholm School of Economics, ISSN: 2230-7826

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