Vedanta and CSR

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Presented on August 25 at KICC, Nairobi, Kenya

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Vedanta and CSR

  1. 1. The “duty” and “action” for CSR from the Vedanta By DR. BALAKRISHNAN MUNIAPANSwinburne University of Technology, Malaysia Email: bala.hrm@gmail.com
  2. 2. Introduction• This paper explores CSR values from the Vedanta; with emphasis on the concept of “duty (dharma)” and “action (karma)”.• From a survey of CSR literatures from philosophical and religious perspectives, there have been some studies made by scholars on Islam, Christian and Confucian CSR values.• However, Vedanta, expect for few articles; is yet to be fully explored in the context of CSR.
  3. 3. Methodology• Hermeneutics, is the interpretation of scriptures and classical literatures• For the purpose of this presentation, the interpretation of selected verses from the Vedanta (Vedic literatures); have been made to provide its relevance to CSR values.• Hermeneutics is applied based on 4”I”s – Identification, Investigation, Interpretation and Integration (Muniapan, 2010).
  4. 4. Limitations• The teachings of Vedanta is primarily on philosophy, religion, and spirituality.• Vedanta is viewed as an Indian work, therefore non-Indians or Indian who are not familiar will not be able to accept the teachings of Vedanta.• However, the fundamental teachings of Vedanta such as honesty, truth, integrity, morality, etc. is universal in its application and is found in most philosophical and religious teaching.
  5. 5. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)• The World Business Council for Sustainable Development states that:“Corporate social responsibility is thecontinuing commitment by business tobehave ethically and contribute toeconomic development while improvingthe quality of life of the workforce andtheir families as well as of the localcommunity and society at large.”
  6. 6. CSR from a Philosophical Perspectives 1• In the academic journals, there has been considerable research on the relationship between religious (philosophical) values and business (includes CSR).• There have been numerous conceptual studies which have linked and integrated the religious philosophies & scriptures such as the Bible & the Quran into business. The conceptual work has also led to empirical research.
  7. 7. CSR from a Philosophical Perspectives 2• In the study by Brammer et al (2005) on religion & attitudes to CSR, data collected from a large cross country sample of over 17,000 individuals confirmed the notion that religious individuals do tend to hold broader conceptions of the social responsibilities of business than non-religious individuals.• Among the world’s major religions, Christianity & Islam have received wider attention from a business & CSR perspective. Vedanta however is yet to be explored in the context of CSR; therefore this presentation is timely as it fills the gap in the literature.
  8. 8. Vedanta• Vedanta is drawn primarily from the Vedic literatures. The Vedic literatures are composed of many books.• For this presentation, few examples from the Bhagavad-Gita (Vedanta) will be explored in CSR. Some CSR wisdoms are also drawn from two of the ancient text on political economics & ethics namely the Arthashastra by Kautilya (4th Century B.C) & the Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar (2nd Century B.C).
  9. 9. CSR duty (dharma) from Vedanta 1• Duty or dharma is given great importance in Vedanta. Sarva loka hitam in Vedanta referred to ‘well-being of stakeholders’. Sukhasya mulam dharma - the basis of happiness is dharma (Kautilya).• There are four principal kinds of dharma known as chaturdharma which are highly relevant to CSR namely; Rita dharma, Varna dharma, Ashrama dharma and Svadharma.
  10. 10. CSR duty (dharma) from Vedanta 2• Rita dharma or the universal duty and the protection of the environment falls within this scope of dharma. This is global social responsibility (GSR), universal social responsibility (USR) or an environmental social responsibility (ESR).• Varna dharma or social duty defines the obligations and responsibilities within the nation, society, community and business This is directly relevant to social responsibility (CSR).
  11. 11. CSR duty (dharma) from Vedanta 3• Ashrama dharma or duties of lifes stages is a developmental dharma. The natural process of maturing from childhood to old age through fulfillment of the duties of each of the four stages of life namely brahmachari (student), grihastha (householder), vanaprastha (elder advisor) and sannyasa (religious solitaire). This is the individual social responsibility (ISR) in relation to the family, organization and society.
  12. 12. CSR duty (dharma) from Vedanta 4• Svadharma or personal obligation is according to ones own qualities (gunas), mental and emotional nature.• Svadharma is determined by the sum of past karma and the cumulative effect of the other three dharmas.• This is personal social responsibility (PSR) in relation to the individual life and growth.
  13. 13. CSR dharma from Vedanta 5• Vedanta emphasizes that the corporations should not run away from their dharma.• The Bhagavad-Gita stressed that duty (dharma) needs to be done without attachment and for those who do their duty without attachment will attain the supreme goal - (B.G. 3.19).
  14. 14. CSR Action (karma) from Vedanta 1 “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.”• In Vedanta, the law of karma (cause and effect) is expected to motivate the business people to carry out their duties to serve humanity (CSR).• This philosophy implies that the present nature of an individual’s life (effect) or organizations is determined by their previous actions (cause). Good karma need to be accumulated by business for long term benefits.• In the context of CSR, organization should not only be interested in their own welfare but also the welfare of all stakeholders and society (sarva loka hitam).
  15. 15. CSR Action (karma) from Vedanta 2 “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.”• Bad karma (vikarma) which is due to the lust of the leaders, compels them to commit such unethical practices is the root cause of argument against CSR.• As the fire is covered by smoke, as the mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, the leaders are covered by different degrees of lust (Gita, 3.38).• Anyone who takes up a leadership position in CSR must from the very beginning curb this great lust by regulating their senses (Gita, 3.41).• Sthitaprajna: LEADERS must conquer their enemies within - lust, anger, greed, arrogance, envy and pride.
  16. 16. The Chariot Analogy• In the chariot of the body, the five horses represent the five senses (tongue, eyes, ears, nose and skin). The reins, the driving instrument, symbolize the mind, the driver is the intelligence, and the passenger is the self.• Leaders should be aware of their consciousness and use their intelligence to control the mind, they should not let the mind to be controlled by the senses.
  17. 17. CSR Action (karma) from Vedanta 3 “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.”• The Vedanta promotes the concept of nishkama karma; a perspective on action and decision making that emphasizes performing one’s duties without attachment to the fruits thereof– and where both the action and the fruits are offered to the divine.• In the CSR context, the societal contribution must not have with any expectations in return but rather as a duty need to be done to the society.
  18. 18. CSR Leadership from Vedanta 1• The success and failures of any CSR initiative can be attributed to leadership. This implies that for a CSR initiative to be successful, the leadership and support from the top management is essential.• The organizational leadership needs to set example to their people or followers as whatever the leader does, the people will follow and whatever standards or example the leader sets people in general will follow (B.G. 3.21).• Leadership focus must be on sreyas (good) rather than preyas (pleasant).
  19. 19. CSR Leadership from Vedanta 2• Kautilya (Arthashastra, 4th Century B.C) states in the happiness of his subject lies the happiness of the king; and in their welfare his welfare; the King shall not consider as good only that which pleases him but treat as beneficial to him whatever pleases his subjects– the welfare of the many and the happiness of the many.• In fact, this CSR concept of the happiness of the many need integrated into the area of corporate management as the basic principle.
  20. 20. CSR Leadership from Vedanta 3• Thiruvalluvar who wrote the Thirukkural; just like Kautilya, dealt with the characteristics of socially responsible organizations & the responsibility of a leaders, Thiruvalluvar says: the king (leader) who administers based on dharma and protects his (her) people will be considered of divine quality (sattva guna).• If the leaders protects the world and acts according to dharma, then dharma itself will protect them (and their organizations).
  21. 21. Implementing Vedanta CSR in Organization 1 • Developing “leaders” (not merely leadership) self awareness (EI), character development & positive human values. HEAD 1 Moral reasoning 2 Moral knowing HEART3 Moral actions HANDS HANDS
  22. 22. Implementing Vedanta CSR in Organization 2Development people inorganization on positiveshuman values such astruthfulness, honesty, ethicalconduct, humility, innerpeace, love and non-violence, integrity andcharacter development (SI &SQ elements in theLEADERSHIP WISDOM).
  23. 23. CSR Values from Vedanta• Vedanta is relevant to CSR as it promotes the welfare, and happiness of all beings. This is also indicated by a popular Vedic prayer - loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu - which means that all may be happy and healthy.• These ideals can be extended to provide models for CSR in the context of business.
  24. 24. Conclusion• Vedanta is as wide as an ocean, it is not within the scope of this presentation to explore CSR values from all the literatures within Vedanta.• Vedanta starts with PSR and moves to ISR; promotes CSR and goes even beyond to GSR (or USR or ESR) which stands for the good of humanity social, cultural, moral and spiritual from global perspectives.
  25. 25. The Key Question Finally, How do I (We) CHANGE to inculcate these values in organizations?“Everybody wants to change the world, but no one thinks ofchanging himself ” - Leo Tolstoy
  26. 26. Thank You

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