The recent news has been the India has made the Companies Bill 2011 into law; after a long discussion and wait.
The new law mandates companies with a net worth of Rs 500 crore ($100 million) or more, or turnover of Rs 1,000 crore ($200 million) or more, or a net profit of Rs 5 crore ($1 million) or more during the past three financial years must spend at least 2 percent of their average net profits from the three preceding years on CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives.
This stipulation makes India the fist country in the world to legally mandate corporate spending on social welfare.
CSR activities recognised under the Bill include: Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty; Promotion of education; Promoting gender equality and empowering women; Reducing child mortality and improving maternal health; Combating HIV, AIDS, Malaria and other diseases; Ensuring environmental sustainability; Imparting employment enhancing vocational skills; Social business projects; and Contribution to certain funds. The company is to give preference to local areas when formulating its CSR policy.
For companies in the solar sector; especially solar panel manufacturers can easily provide solar panels to NGOs, schools, villages to bring in much needed power to the downtrodden; helping the much needed and also fulfilling CSR mandate.
In addition, this helps them in their branding exercise and trial processes.
Companies not in the solar sector can also do the same; encouraged by solar companies.
This applies for biogas, LED lights, and other such technologies that can cover “Ensuring environmental sustainability”; one of the areas under CSR. Though some others can also be used (indirectly) to promote renewable energy and cleantech technologies.
The CSR law has the ingredients to boost India’s off-grid and cleantech space at a time when MNRE off-grid funds are drying off or are slowing down.
The implementation will take some time and as usual the industry will come up with learning through new models of application.