Rs. 1000 Crore Social Responsibility Engine

Rs. 800 to a 1000 crore, that’s how much the Tata Group, one of the oldest and largest business houses in India spends annually on Corporate Social Responsibility [Via Economic Times]

The Tata Trusts control 65.8 per cent of the shares of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Group. The combined development-related expenditure of the Trusts and the companies amount to around four per cent of the Group’s net profit, its website said.

These philanthropic trusts have created national institutions in science & technology, medical research, social studies and the performing arts.

Previous coverage on the Tata’s CSR Efforts:

  1. Discover your inner Social Entrepreneur on the Train
  2. India’s CSR Leaders: How much can they really change?
  3. A New Software that Keeps Politicians As Honest as Possible
  4. Tata – Heart of Gold or Steel?

Could this trigger the responsible investing movement in India?

The Economic Times reports that a new Government of India regulation would imply that Indian companies  report the finer details of their CSR spending in financial statements filed with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Its an interesting move by the Government of India, especially given the recent focus on the ‘Inclusive Growth’ agenda:

To facilitate a socially responsible corporate climate in the country, the ministry of corporate affairs now wants India Inc to show in their financial statements finer details of their money spent towards social activities.

Even as the company law awaits amendment to ensure greater transparency and shareholder responsibility, the ministry’s efforts are in consonance with globally accepted principles on CSR.

Arguably, such a move would enable companies to think more about their CSR efforts and could be the early trigger to kick-start the Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) movement in India. The responsible investing movement has gained good momentum in the developed world, with large institutional investors like TIAA-CREF starting to think about the social impact of their investments.

However, simply CSR related information is grossly inadequate to gauge the social impact of any company. If the Government is serious, then they need to stipulate stronger sustainability reporting, on the lines of the Global Reporting Initiative.

NGO to push for compulsory licensing of cancer drugs

Update: A recent Times of India article discusses the actual effectiveness of the Public Interest Litigation provision and its current troubles. You can read the article here.

An NGO called Cancer Patient Aids Association (CPAA) has embarked on a campaign to mandate compulsory licensing for 20 different drugs used to treat cancer sufferers. These drugs include those manufactured by some of the largest pharma companies in the world, like Pfizer, Roche, and GSK. CPAA is an experience advocate for affordable medicines, and are building off of the momentum of their success from last year. The Economic Times of India reports:

CPAA was one of the healthcare groups in the forefront of the successful legal battle against Novartis’ Glivec last year. While the NGO plans to first approach the health ministry for invoking the CL provision, it is ready to go the Supreme Court if the government rejects to the demand.

Instead of taking a piecemeal approach of individual clients which is inefficient and cost prohibitive for most people, the NGO aims to take on the entire industry in one coordinated attack to require that pharma companies allow generics to produce these pills in India. The generic manufacturers would then pay royalties to the original pharma companies.

In order to achieve this strategy, the organization has framed their argument to say that the current high prices of these drugs is a violation to a constitutional right to life for the patients.

“There is no point in fighting patent cases for individual drugs. How many patents will we fight against? It is just unaffordable for patients to pay lakhs of rupees for these drugs, in addition to paying for other treatment and medicines. It’s an emergency situation when thousands of cancer patients are being denied their constitutional right to life. Hence, the government can invoke CL in the public interest, “ CPAA president Y K Sapru said.

This approach is interesting, because in India, such public interest litigation can be invoked by the Court itself and does not require that a specific party come to bar.

“Under the Indian Patent Act, all life-saving and essential drugs which are patented and expensive can be granted CL if it they are unavailable, unaffordable, for government’s use and for public non-commercial use. It is wrong to say that it can be granted only for extreme national urgency or in the case of emergency, “ MSF’s access campaigner in India, Leena Menghaney said.

[Source: NGO Post]

Evening Edition

For your reading pleasure:

  • Government and Inflation: After meeting with the Cabinet Committee on Prices, PM Manmohan Singh announced a multitude of measures to rein in inflation. In related news, rising prices could deal a significant blow to the US-India nuclear agreement due to the potential for political fallout.
  • Microfinance: VC Circle reports that Lok Capital, a micro-finance focused VC fund will be in investing $1.25 million in Delhi based MFI Satin Creditcare Network Ltd. Staying with Microfinance, Govt. of India is introducing a scheme called ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’ (RSBY), which will provide cashless health insurance to families living below poverty line, using smart-card technology (via igovernment.in)
  • Higher Education: Economic Times reports that 29 Indian students from colleges across the country have been chosen to participate in the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Program (GSGLP). They get a $3000 grant and a chance to participate in the Goldman Sachs Summer Leadership Institute.