Monday, February 19, 2018

Global Corporate Social Responsibility Trends To Look For In 2018

One word comes to mind when I think of 2017: unprecedented. The events of the past year have tested companies in a number of ways and changed mainstream discourse about the role corporations should play in advancing and addressing social and global challenges. There’s no turning back. In 2018, the expectation is that companies will continue to expand their activism on, and investment in, the issues that matter to their employees, customers and communities. Here are some key trends to look for.

The beginning of the end of workplace harassment and inequality  

In February, Susan Fowler published her whistle blowing essay about sexism and harassment during her time at Uber. By the end of the year, the stories piled up and #MeToo took off,  making it abundantly clear that women in every industry have had to deal not only with rampant sexual harassment, but also with corporate cultures and policies that are designed to keep them quiet and disempowered. If 2017 was about speaking truth to power, 2018 will be focused on concrete change, both in terms of internal reporting policies and addressing workplace inequality. As part of this, we’re likely to see companies take a hard look at the gender makeup of their leadership teams and boards, and implement real steps to increase the number of women on both.

Expanding the diversity conversation

The past year has been a landmark one for women in the workplace, but it’s important to remember that diversity initiatives need to address so much more. “The diversity conversation has to become broader -- it seems to be more and more focused on gender. It’s got to be about more than women,” said Cecily Joseph, vice president of Symantec. Symantec defines inclusion as “creating a workforce that embraces every culture, language, age, sexual orientation, disability, background and experience – and giving a voice to those differences.” As the population and workforce continue to grow more diverse, companies will need to focus on creating company cultures, experiences and products that speak to a wide range of identities and perspectives.

Focused and forward-thinking brand activism 
Much of the CEO and corporate activism we witnessed this year came in response to presidential announcements. Leading CEOs issued reactive statements on everything from the immigration ban to public lands legislation to the transgender military ban to white supremacy to the decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement. We’ll continue to see this, and it’s important. But we can also expect more focused action, with companies designating social or policy areas where they can make the most impact and devoting more resources toward proactive initiatives.

“Business leaders have been heard in important new ways this year in opposition to withdrawal from Paris; the hate seen on the streets of Charlottesville, and the immigration ban,” said Aron Cramer, CEO of BSR. “It will be crucial in 2018 for business leaders to add to this by stating what they are for: namely an effort to ensure that an economy in flux takes into account the disruption of employment; the need to invest in new technologies that will usher in a clean energy revolution, and also support for collaborative, multilateral solutions to global challenges.”

A shift from disaster recovery to climate resilience
Along these lines, with the influx of natural disasters we saw in 2017, companies will invest more resources into prevention, mitigation and climate resilience rather than just recovery. According to BSR’s report, The Future of Sustainable Business, no company will be immune from the consequences of climate change. To protect their businesses, supply chains and communities, companies must invest in innovative technology, redefine business models, and support policies that can address critical climate-related challenges.

More CSR in the C-Suite   
With the heightened expectations on corporations as influencers in the social and environmental sphere, more companies are bringing CSR into the C-Suite. “We definitely see an increase in the elevation of corporate citizenship roles to executive status,” said Katherine Smith, executive director of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC). According to research from BCCCC, the number of companies directing corporate citizenship from the C-Suite has increased nearly 75 percent compared to five years ago.

Higher standards for suppliers  
We talk a lot about how consumer expectations and demand have contributed to companies becoming more purpose-driven and sustainable. This year, we’ll see more companies drive that same demand as they evaluate potential suppliers. “I believe we’ll continue to see large companies use their power as customers to drive improvements in responsible business practices through their global supply chains, by setting increased expectations around transparency, holding suppliers accountable for environmental performance and human rights issues, and collaborating on industry-wide initiatives to address system-level challenges from human trafficking to water conservation,” said Suzanne Fallender, director of corporate responsibility at Intel.

Prioritizing privacy and data protection 
With all the headlines in 2017, data breaches flew comparatively under the mainstream media radar. But according to Symantec’s Joseph: “Privacy and data protection should be (at the) top of the agenda for CR issues in 2018. That has been on the radar for many years by top executives. With these ongoing breaches, it is clear that all companies need to protect personal information more diligently.” According to the State of Corporate Citizenship Report, consumer data protection and privacy is the number one area where executives expect to increase resources over the next two years.

Another unprecedented year ahead
As 2018 unfolds, it’s likely that companies will continue taking unprecedented action to accelerate social and environmental progress. I expect we’ll see companies step up on two issues in particular: women’s reproductive freedom (see Cecile Richards’ speech at the BSR Conference) and sensible gun laws (check out the Gun Safety Alliance). Research shows that the majority of Americans support these issues, and many companies will likely face increasing pressure from their employees and customers to take a stand. I look forward to seeing who the pioneers will be.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What is the GST Bill: All you ever wanted to know explained in 10 points

1. The GST Bill is a destination-based, indirect tax that will be levied on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services across India.

2. The GST Bill will subsume all central and state indirect taxes and levies, including excise duty, additional excise duties, service tax, additional customs duty (countervailing duty, special additional duty of customs), surcharges and cesses, value added tax, sales tax, entertainment tax (other than the tax levied by local bodies), central sales tax (levied by the centre and collected by states), octroi, entry tax, purchase tax, luxury tax, and taxes on lottery, betting and gambling.
3. GST Bill passage will bring uniformity, reduce the cascading effect of these taxes by giving input tax credit. Currently, tax rates differ from state to state. GST Bill will ensure a comprehensive tax base with minimum exemptions - will help industry, which will be able to reap benefits of common procedures and claim credit for taxes paid.
4. GST Bill passage is expected to reduce the cost for consumers with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley estimating GST will help increase India’s GDP by around 2 per cent.
5. As far as the the constitutional status of GST is concerned, then currently, states don’t have the power to levy service tax, while the Centre does not have the power to levy tax beyond the factory gate, i.e. VAT, sales tax, etc. To facilitate this, a constitutional amendment is required.
6. The UPA government brought the GST Bill in Lok Sabha in 2011, but failed to get it passed. The NDA government introduced a “slightly modified” version of the GST Bill in Lok Sabha last December. It was cleared on May 6, but for GST to become a reality, the Bill must be cleared by two-thirds majority by both Houses, and ratified by 50% of states. It is now pending in Rajya Sabha and that is where the meeting between PM Narendra Modi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi assumes significance. 
7. Exactly why the GST Bill is stuck is because the government does not have a majority in Rajya Sabha. Also, many states do not want to give up their fiscal autonomy. In Budget 2007-08, then finance minister P Chidambaram announced GST’s implementation from April 1, 2010. The empowered committee of state finance ministers led the discussions. Punjab and Haryana were reluctant to give up purchase tax, Maharashtra was unwilling to give up octroi, and all states wanted to keep petroleum and alcohol out of the ambit of GST. BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat took hard positions too.
8. The GST Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha, but despite that most of the original concerns of states remain. Gujarat and Maharashtra want the additional one per cent levy extended beyond the proposed two years, and raised to two per cent. Punjab wants purchase tax outside GST.
9. If and when the GST Bill is passed then the Centre and states have to frame and pass GST laws - Central GST and State GST - which will provide the framework for the new tax. The IT infrastructure has to be ready before April 1, 2016, the scheduled date for implementation of the new tax.
10. A GST Council will be formed, which will decide on issues including tax rates, exemption list and threshold limit.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

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