'IT most socially responsible sector'

NEW DELHI, DEC. 27. While pollution, economic instability and human diseases have emerged as the main concerns of people, Information Technology (IT) has been voted as the ``most socially responsible sector'' in the country.

A survey was carried out by the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and a major industrial town, Tiruppur, in Tamil Nadu. Focussing on four dimensions of corporate responsibility - worker health and safety, community relations, environmental sustainability and accountability to stakeholders - the survey interviewed 1,200 people in these five places.

Dubbed as the first of its kind to include workers in a survey of corporate responsibility, the survey, according to a TERI spokesperson, dug into the ``perceptions and expectations'' of workers, company executives and the general public towards business in the country.

The TERI survey revealed that people expect companies to provide quality products, make their operations environmentally sound and reduce poverty. A time will come when companies would be judged on the basis of their environmental and social performance as public expectations are ``high and rising''. According to a TERI spokesperson, the perceptions revealed by the poll were an important indicator of future corporate strategy.

The detailed results of the poll have been published in a new report titled ``Altered Images : Understanding and encouraging corporate responsibility in India''.

In a statement issued here today, the director of TERI-Europe and co-author of the report, Ms. Ritu Kumar, said ``at a time when India is opening its market to global investors, peoples' trust in multinationals operating in the country as socially responsible units is the lowest.''

Significantly, the people interviewed considered the media and non-governmental organisations, as institutions working best in the interest of the society. Trade unions and global companies were rated low in terms of their trustworthiness.

While IT received a shot in the arm in the TERI survey, for it has already scripted a major success story in the Indian economy, alcohol and tobacco industries were voted as the least socially responsible sectors.

The other major findings declare ``gender discrimination'' as a real issue in the workplace and workers and management having sharply different perceptions of child labour.

The market-research company, ORG-MARG, was commissioned by TERI-Europe and its U.K partner, the New Academy of Business, to conduct the survey, which was carried out during August-September this year.