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  • Writer's pictureShabbir Akhtar

Can CSR Create Happiness?

Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being and contentment”. Those of us living our lives with the material riches of the pragmatic world believe that it is our state of being able to fulfil certain desires and ambitions, using our accumulated wealth, allows us to be content and leads to our well-being – thus, making us happy. If that is the case, then happiness for every individual should be subjective – a business tycoon, an entrepreneur, a corporate professional, a blue-collar worker, a farmer; all of them should be happy based on their respective wealth. But what we perceive or are made to perceive in everyday life is; the more wealth people have, the happier they seem to be to those with wealth lower than them.

Wealth (and the pursuit of it) is often linked to emotional and psychological effects in all of us, as we start comparing ourselves to those with wealth more than us – leading to a continuous void that can never be filled. There is another factor that plays an important role in this relationship between wealth and happiness – the place; people living in urban areas are happier than those living in rural areas. But the determinants of this greater happiness for people living in urban areas are “higher living standards and better economic prospects in cities, especially for those with education,” for developed and developing regions.

As soon as we change the paradigm to those of underdeveloped regions, all these factors mentioned above are deemed obsolete. Most of the people living in underdeveloped regions of the world are protected from the intervention of technology leading to overabundance of worldly information, which at times serve as the basis of comparison and competition. For the people living in these underdeveloped regions, their biggest ambition would be to fulfil the basic necessities of themselves and their loved ones. For them words like ‘investments’, ‘gadgets’, ‘fashion’, ‘cuisines’, etc. are immaterial. They are happy with enjoying picnics, singing, and dancing with their family and friends.

This reminds me of a research by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton; people who spent money on others were happier than those who spent money on themselves, which I agree with. I believe that it is not wealth and associated privileges that makes us happier, but it is being content with what we have that leads to happiness. While pursuit of wealth leads to a continuous cycle of unfulfilled void, pursuit of happiness leads to helping ourselves through helping others.

While ultimate goal of CSR is to make the overall society (people) happier, it should not be done with the aim of improving economic conditions, which would only lead to adding more people on the pursuit of wealth. Business and individuals should use their wealth to create value through knowledge dissemination, which would allow for a gradual and equitable economic development for the people in the underdeveloped regions, leading to avoidance of comparison and competition that diminishes their happiness.

What do you think?

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