Social Responsibility of Business Gandhi's Doctrine of Trusteeship

Gandhiji advocated trusteeship doctrine. It is based on the principle that all people having money or property hold it in trust for society. Society is to be regarded as a donor to the individual and accordingly the latter is required to share part of his acquired wealth with the society for mutual benefit. According to this doctrine, business organizations have to be viewed as socio-economic institutions to be run and owned by 'Trust Corporation' with considerably diluted shareholdings. Most of the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi on trusteeship find expression in his speeches, short notes, and press interviews and informal discussions. In the Nov. 26, 1932 issue of Young India, Gandhiji wrote:

My idea of society is that while we are born equal, meaning thereby that we all have a right to equal opportunity, all have not the same capacity. It is in the nature of things impossible. For instance, all cannot have same height, colour or degree of intelligence. Therefore, in nature of things, some will have ability to earn more and others less. Normally, people with talents will have more. Such people should be viewed to exist as trustees and in no other terms.

Organizations and individuals possessing surplus wealth over and above their legitimate and genuine needs should spend it on community welfare programmers as part of their social responsibilities. Explaining his ideas on this issue, Gandhi added:

Suppose I have earned a fair amount of wealth either by way of legacy or by means of trade and industry. I must know that all that belongs to me is the right to an honorable livelihood no better than what enjoyed by million of others, the rest of my wealth belongs to the community and be used for the welfare of the community.

In his address to the trade unions in Shri Lanka in 1927, Gandhiji observed that principles of trusteeship are applicable to the trade unions in the same way as they were to the business organizations. According to him: Each of you should consider yourself to be a trustee for the welfare of the rest of your fellow labourers treatment from your employers, proper sanitary lodgings, you will recognize that you should treat the business of your employers as if it were your own business and give to it your honest and undivided attention. Jesus Christ was greatly opposed to the idea of man possessing more wealth than necessary. According to the Holy Bible: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

Bhagvat Gita too has expressed similar views on corporate social responsibilities, when it says:

Javata Priyate Dehuh Tavatsatva Hidehinam/ Adhikam yo bhibhanayat sa stano Dand marhati

(As much as is necessary for one's own living only that much one is entitled to have. One who has excess of this is a thief and deserves punishment)

Ishtan bhogan hi wo deva dasyante yagna bhavitah Tairdattan pradaryabhyo yo bhangyakte sten aiv sah

(Fostered by sacrifice (hard work), you will get all enjoyments. He who enjoys it without sacrifice and giving in return is undoubtedly a thief)

Na twaham kamep rajyam na swarnam na puparbhavam Kamaye dukh taptanam praninamarti nashwam

(Neither I desire Kingdom nor do I crave for heaven or salvation, I simply desire the end of miseries of all creatures, afflicted with grief) The corporate leaders today seek a positive image, one, which pictures business as part of the total society. Business houses seek to demonstrate not only their efficiency but also their humanism, their social awareness, and their response to national problems. Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani donated Rs. 5.5 crore to Prime Minister's Relief Fund as contribution towards tsunami relief. India Inc has not stopped at donations for victims affected by the tsunami. The entry of corporate India in the management of humanitarian aid has led to as many as 10,000 companies jointly pooling resources for relief work across the country. CII has set up coordination units in Chennai and Delhi. Tamilnadu state government wanted 3000 blankets for victims in Nagapatinam. The message was conveyed to CII, which then passed it to its member-companies. A businessman from Ludhiana chipped in with the entire requirement,

which was transported to Delhi by a transport company. Finally, it was picked up by Blue Dart and transported to warehouses in affected areas. Logistics and transport firms have made processes easy by carrying relief material for free. RPGs "Food World" chain in Chennai collected food, clothing and general provisions in their retail outlets, which were transported to relief camps by Samsung trucks. Several public sector undertaking also donated for the welfare of the victims of earthquake-generated tsunami. Power minister P.M. Sayeed, on behalf of all central power sector undertakings, presented a cheque of Rs. 15 crore to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The contributions made by National Thermal Power Corporation (Rs. 8 crore), Power Finance Corporation (Rs. 1.5 crore), NHPC, Power Grid and REC (Rs. 1 crore each) and SJVN, Peepco, DVC (Rs. 50 lakh each) went to the PM's Relief Fund to help in relief efforts for the people severely hit by catastrophic tidal waves. ONGC donated Rs. 2 crore towards relief efforts and distributed food packets in the Nagapattinam area. The petroleum major offered its helicopters for rescue operations and provided 3 meals every week for the victims in Chennai. The Punjab National Bank pledged Rs. 5 crores. to the PM's Relief Fund, and its employees donated one day's salary to PM's Fund. PNB authorized its various branches to collect donations for the relief fund, free of charge. In the last few years, there has been much talk and hype about the subject of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It has become one of the leading issues at World Economic Forum's meetings. Economist Adam Smith who wrote the Bible of capitalism 'Wealth of Nations', more importantly also wrote 'A Theory of Moral Sentiments', in which he emphasized that sympathy and proper regard for others was the basis of any civilized society. Mahatma Gandhi believed in the trusteeship model, whereby the wealth one creates has to be ploughed back to the society. CSR may be defined as achieving commercial success in ways that honour ethical values and respect people, communities and the natural environment. In its simplest form it is `what you do, how you do it and when and what you say'.

Since corporate bodies have to draw on the community in which they operate for all resources, they also have obligations to their multiple stakeholders. Stakeholders are defined as those who get affected by corporate policies and practices. Today, it is acknowledged that business has not just financial accountability but also social and environmental responsibility, popularly known as the triple bottom line of good governance. Corporate bodies involved in discharging social responsibility practices are true followers of Trusteeship Theory of Gandhiji. The Mahatma said, "I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me; what belongs to me is the right to an honourable livelihood... The rest of my livelihood belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community."

Gandhism is a body of ideas that describes the inspiration, vision and the life work of Mohandas Gandhi. It is particularly associated with his contributions to the idea of nonviolent resistance, sometimes also called civil resistance. The two pillars of Gandhism are truth and non-violence.