Vedic Management – Echoes of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Vedas

The great sages who delivered universal thoughts through the Vedas were concerned about unethical and profit driven human activities and its impact on society and the environment. This is echoed in several verses in the Vedas, especially in the Upanishads. What these great seers feared more than 5000 years ago have become a reality and we are already paying the price for such unethical and profit driven human activities. Today, many major companies around the world have realized the mistakes and there is more awareness and this has led to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Corporate Social Responsibility is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations. (Wikipedia)

In an article titled ‘Wisdom of the ages’ in ‘The CTO Forum’ Magazine, Dr. S. Kannan presents an overview of the Vedic vision especially with reference to the concept of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility.’

Some excerpts from the article...

Based on the Vedas, CSR can be looked at from three dimensions constituting the individual, social and cosmic perspectives.

Individual Dimension

The individual dimension of CSR focuses on the concept of dharma (righteousness).
The Vedas call upon one to speak the truth and follow the righteous path.
One shall speak the truth. (Satyam Vada - Taittiriya Upanishad i-11)
One shall follow the path of righteousness. (Dharmam cara - Taittiriya Upanishad i-11)
One shall do what he speaks and what he thinks. (Taittiriya Aranyaka i-90)
One shall not sin against his neighbor or a foreigner. (Rig Veda Samhita v-85-7)
One who does not work is a social evil. (Rig Veda Samhita x-22-8)

Fair Means of Wealth Acquisition

The Vedas emphasize that wealth has to be earned only through fair means and one should put in his best efforts to acquire wealth through ethical and moral practices. One has to acquire wealth by ethical means.
Wealth has to be won by deeds of glory. (Rig Veda Samhita vi-19-10)
One shall be led by the fair path to riches. (Vajasaneya Samhita v-36)
One should tread the sinless path and gather wealth. (Vajasaneya Samhita iv-9)
A man shall strive to win wealth by the righteous path. (Rig Veda Samhita x-31-2)
One who helps others wins wealth. (Rig Veda Samhita iv-50-9)
One who gets up early morning gets the treasure. (Rig Veda Samhita i-125-1)

Social Distribution of Wealth

The Vedas assert that there shall be proper distribution of wealth from the wealthy to the poor. They also condemn those who enjoy wealth without partaking it with others.
One shall not be selfish and consume all by himself. (Rig Veda Sam x-117-6)
Wealth accumulated through 100 hands should be distributed to 1000 hands. (Atharva Veda Samhita iii-24-5)
One who eats alone is a sinner. (Rig Veda Samhita x-117-6)
The leader is the distributor of wondrous wealth. (Vajasaneya Samhita xxx-4)
Let the rich satisfy the poor with a broader vision. (Rig Veda Samhita x-117-5)

Conservation of Resources

The Vedas advocate conservation of resources to take care of future requirements. They condemn poverty and give the clarion call to eradicate it.
One shall produce fair wealth for today and tomorrow. (Rig Veda Samhita vi-71-6)
Poverty should be banished. (Rig Veda Samhita x-76-4)

Environment

The Vedas attach great importance to environmental protection and purity. They insist on safeguarding the habitation, proper afforestation and non-pollution.

Earth, atmosphere, sky, sun, moon, stars, waters, plants, trees, moving creatures, swimming creatures, creeping creatures all are hailed and offered oblations. (Taittiriya Samhita i-8-13)

Habitation

One should protect the habitation. (Rig Veda Samhita vi-71-3)
Waters as friends of man give full protection to his progenies. (Rig Veda Samhita vi-50-7)

Animal welfare

One shall take care of quadrupeds. (Taittiriya Samhita iv-4-10)
One shall be auspicious to animals. (Taittiriya Samhita ii-3-14)
One shall not find fault with animals. (Chandogya Upanishad ii-18-2)

Plant Life Welfare

The Vedas stress the need for protection and development of forests. Human beings have to safeguard the trees. They assert that the plants and trees are verily the treasures for generations.
One should not destroy the trees. (Rig Veda Samhita vi-48-17)
Plants are mothers and Goddesses. (Rig Veda Samhita x-97-4)
Trees are homes and mansions. (Rig Veda Samhita x-97-5)
Sacred grass has to be protected from man's exploitation (Rig Veda Samhita vii-75-8)
Plants and waters are treasures for generations. (Rig Veda Samhita vii-70-4)

Non-pollution

The Vedas give the clarion call for non-pollution of the environment. They condemn in unequivocal terms those who pollute and defile the environment. Waters are invoked to be friendly to humanity.
Waters represent splendor. (Atharva Veda Samhita iii-13-5)
Waters bear off all defilements and cleanse people. (Vajasaneya Samhita iv-2)
Whoever injures the essence of food, kine or steeds is a robber who sinks both himself and his offspring into destruction. (Rig Veda Samhita vii-104-10)
Offerings are dedicated to waters of wells, pools, clefts, holes, lakes, morasses, ponds, tanks, marshes, rains, rime, streams, rivers and ocean. (Taittiriya Samhita vii-4-13)
There was only water in the beginning. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad v-5-1)
Waters and herbs should have no poison. (Rig Veda Samhita vi-39-5)
Waters are to be freed from defilement. (Atharva Veda Samhita x-5-24)
Waters cleanse humanity from the evil of pollution committed by it. (Atharva Veda Samhita xii-2-40)
Waters are healing and they strengthen one to see great joy. (Taittiriya Samhita vii-4-19)

Dr. S Kannan is a Chartered Accountant and Management Accountant, a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) as well as Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) of Information Systems Audit and Control Association, U.S.A