Tata – Heart of Gold or Steel?

19th Mar 2008
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Featured in India’s Business Today is Tata Steel, a company that outperforms other steel players and is not only known for its management acumen, but also its long history of philanthropy. Despite charges last year from the Bhopal disaster survivors that the Tata group of companies has a dismal environmental record due to a complicated deal with Union Carbide (the pesticide factory that leaked poisonous gas), the Business Today article touts Tata Steel’s CSR initiatives as integral to its operations. A boxed section in the article states:

The goal of the CSR team is to empower people and focus their healthcare and hygiene in Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, where the company has operations or is planning to set up new plans. Apart from building parks, laying pipelines and other civic amenities, the company has undertaken environmental and ecological initiatives to bring down carbon emission and save energy.

Tata Steel’s corporate sustainability website provides a detailed account of its activities, including environment management.

What happens when a company works in part for social innovation, but at the same time, some of its corporate dealings stand against these aims? CSR can ultimately equate only to branding strategies, or in some truly innovative cases, also work hand in hand with the company’s profit-driven objectives. Is this steel behemoth a model or a mask for corporate social responsibility in the Indian setting?

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