Rockefeller Gives Tata Lifetime Achievement Award

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June 27, 2012; Source: The Indian Express

Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata Group, who was ranked “India’s most powerful CEO” by the Times of India last month, plans to retire later this year and was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award for innovation from the Rockefeller Foundation. The Tata Group has innovated in a number of areas, and in fact the worldwide business is involved in so many areas—from chemicals and communications to cars and consulting—that efforts to describe it become almost meaningless; the fields just listed, for instance, don’t even exhaust the branches of the Tata tree that begin with the letter “C.”

Tata used the Rockefeller moment as an opportunity to talk about the importance of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility, telling Forbes, “When you see, as you do in Africa or parts of Asia, abject poverty and you look at yourself as being a person that has wellbeing and comforts, I think it takes an insensitive person not to think they need to do something that’s not just handing out dough but playing a role in helping get prosperity to the community where they are.”

Interestingly, according to the Indian Express, Tata also suggested another important reason for philanthropic giving, saying, “If the industry is not sensitive to [income and resource disparities], they would encourage a backlash to take place and many companies that go overseas are getting to understand the need to do this and those that do not are really hurting the reputation of other industries.”

We’re used to hearing about the philanthropic drive coming from a place of nobility and social responsibility, but this latter point—philanthropy as crowd control—strikes us as something that is less often heard or stated. –Mike Keefe-Feldman