INSTITUTIONAL EYE Boards in India need to be woke 22 Apr, 2021

A bill in the state of Georgia in the US, innocuously titled SB 202 was passed on 25 March 2021. It is creating ripples as it threatens to upend the decades old cozy relationship between business and the Republican party. It is also set to change the equation between business and politics in times to come. As events unwrap is What message does this carry for Indian companies and boards?

Are Indian Boards too docile when dealing with the State? Should they be more vocal regarding policy? Rajiv Bajaj speaking out cannot be taken as proof that Indian business has a habit of speaking truth to power. And a company’s claim that its CSR spends show that it has a conscience, is missing the woods for the trees.

Companies should certainly speak on issues that affect the society in which they operate. The pandemic – masking, social distancing and vaccinations is one issue, on which many business leaders have weighed in. But there are many others: the size of the fiscal deficit, spend on healthcare, quality of education, police reforms, capacity building in judiciary, regulators, and bureaucracy, speeding up the courts. Such issues will impact our civil society and our polity for generations - to say nothing of bolstering business competitiveness.

Companies owe it to the future generations to speak-up. To quote Abraham Lincoln, they ‘cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.’

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