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THE CORPORATE CODE: The Role of the Private Sector in building India’s immunity against communal violence: A Draft Voluntary Code Proposed by CfP for Business

Preamble

Rule of law, order and social justice are the basic pre-requisites for a stable and peaceful society. This in turn ensures sustained prosperity.

True peace is not merely absence of visible violence. It is a consequence of just rule of law in ways which promote respect for the dignity of every individual, enabling the participation of all sections of society in accessing the fruits of progress.

 

Raison d’être

Over the last two decades there has been a sharp escalation of social tensions across India. Conflicts based on differences of religion, caste and regional identity are not only escalating at an alarming rate but they are also more frequently finding expression through mass violence.

Business has a vital role to play in the wider process of cultivating and nurturing a social climate of mutual respect among different communities, by recognizing and celebrating India’s unique heritage of diversity. As India emerges as a major economic power it has a key role to play in showing how such conflicts can be resolved.

The basic assumption underlying this Code is that tensions and stresses between communities cannot be wished away. However, if society’s immune system is stronger it can tackle the stresses and thus reduce, if not eliminate, violence and discrimination.

This Code endorses the core values enshrined in the Ten Principles adopted by the UN’s Global Compact initiative which includes the world’s leading multinationals. These principles call for businesses to support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights, labour standards and environmental protection measures. The Global Compact principles also commit signatories to not being complicit in human rights abuses.

As a Company, we believe that our wellbeing is interlinked with the wellbeing of all sections of our society and thus our actions are guided by this awareness. We strive to build a culture of inclusiveness, respect trust and regard, both within our Company and beyond.

Through this Code, we are affirming our commitment to all our stakeholders and to ourselves to respect individuals and their rights, and to promote peace and communal harmony.

The adoption of this code is the first step to establishing standards by which companies can assess their own performance on these values over time.

Framework

This Code has two broad dimensions. One relates to the internal functioning of companies. The other relates to how companies may step into the sphere of public policy, as well as interact with agencies of the State. In both cases the objective is to promote practices which aid non-partisan behavior in situations of communal tension or competition.

Actions for promoting a healthy social climate

Internal

To value individual dignity requires each of us to be aware that our words and actions have to power to hurt a fellow human being, and to take care to conduct ourselves in a respectful manner. When we allow ourselves or others to belittle, negatively generalize or offend another, we fail only ourselves.

1. To foster a culture which values the dignity of people of all castes, creeds, regions or other ethnic identity. This can be done by insisting that all staff members, regardless of their place in the hierarchy or differences of ethnic identity, conduct themselves in a respectful manner. In turn this means that we discourage all behavior that belittles, negatively generalizes or offends another.

2. All companies and business enterprises shall ensure equality of opportunity and treatment in order to eliminate discrimination based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, caste or social status. Companies need to be proactive in creating a workplaces that is free of discrimination.

3. Equal opportunity employment needs to be supported by human resource policies aimed at fostering an environment of trust and equal respect regardless of caste, class, gender or regional identity.

4. Leadership norms and processes need to be in consonance with these objectives.

5. Companies will promote allocation of resources to ensure inclusive education and an effective mentoring program for first generation entrants or others whose skills may need enhancement.

6. Companies could launch and/or support awards and endorsements to communicate their commitment as a responsible business committed to building a society free of communal discrimination or tensions.

7. Companies encourage employees working in community initiatives that promote peace and harmony.

 

External

Companies could:

1. Disseminate information about this Code among all stake holders.

2. Sponsor programs, especially youth and children’s programs, that bring people together in a spirit of community that cuts across caste and religious divides.

3. Engage with local administration, other companies and civil society organizations to ensure there is a local Emergency Action Plan which includes preventive action to ensure communal harmony.

4. In case there is an outbreak of violence engage in supporting relief operations among all the affected people, regardless of their caste, class, religion or regional affinity.

 

Implementing the Code

Step One: Leaders in five companies work upon this draft to add details and make modifications where necessary.

Timeline: January 2009. Done.

Step Two: These lead companies adopt the Code and put it into implementation.

Timeline: Pending approval by Board of Governors in each of the five pioneering companies

Step Three: The lead companies form a forum which then invites 15 other companies to adopt the Code.

Step Four: The Code is adopted by CII and the nation-wide network of chambers of commerce, such as Indian Merchants Chamber and Bombay Chamber of Commerce.

Timeline: December 2009

Step Five: The Code becomes the linking thread for a tripartite network of business, civil society organizations and government representatives working for these objectives.

 

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Drafted by Citizens for Peace in consultation with:

Anand Mahindra, Anu Aga, Cyrus Guzder, Nandan Nilekani, Shailesh Haribhakti.

www.citizensforpeace.in

 

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