CSR is the strategic approach towards sustainable community development, says Rajiv Williams, Head –CSR, Jindal Stainless Limited

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By Rusen Kumar

NEW DELHI: Brig Rajiv Williams, YSM (Retd), Corporate Head – Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Jindal Stainless Limited (JSL) carries key responsibilities for all Group CSR activities, which  are spread across geographies, include strategizing CSR project aligned with the CMD’s vision statement – ‘To be a socially responsible corporate” are planning, monitoring and evaluating all CSR activities through rigorous frameworks. With 36 years of varied experiences in different fields, he is also responsible for all activities relating to budgeting and financial management. JSL is the leading stainless steel manufacturing companies in Asia and the largest in India.

Rusen Kumar, Editor, India CSR talked to Brig Rajiv Williams on various themes to understand his company vision on CSR and his views on various aspects of business and community relations. He believes that the CSR is the strategic approach towards sustainable community development and the key to inclusive growth. Edited excerpt:

Tell us about Jindal Stainless Limited journey and its business philosophy?

Today, India is the third largest consumer and fourth largest producer of stainless steel in the world. Stainless steel has witnessed an exemplary growth outnumbering the growth of any other metal in India. With this prospective in foresight, JSL decided to enhance and expand the stainless steel capacity in India. With this idea, JSL decided to setup a stainless steel complex in Jajpur, Odisha that would not only serve the need of stainless steel demand in the country but also across the key major markets of the world.

In the year 2007, Jindal Stainless Limited became one of the largest single location fully integrated manufacturers of stainless steel in India with a capacity of 1 million tons per annum. The state-of-the-art unit of Jindal Stainless is located in the eastern part of India in the state of Odisha. One of the market leaders and a name synonymous with enterprise, excellence and versatility, the Odisha plant has integrated Stainless Steel manufacturing set up with world class technology and equipments sourced from Siemens VAI, SMS Siemag and Andritz Sundwig and has a Ferro Alloy’s Facility. The complex, equipped with captive power generation unit, can be eventually scaled up to 3.2 million tons per annum of stainless steel production.

The company’s main focus is to expand its horizon to tap the potential for serving the needs of critical industrial applications in India and abroad by delivering high quality products. The company is also focusing on strengthening its Internal Process & Systems and Customer Serviceability. Further, special plans are being made for market development of niche grades and expanding the portfolio of high value products of stainless steel by serving broad width products.

At Jindal Stainless Limited, corporate ethos and human resource principles forms the driving philosophy of “Progress with People”. The innate values, culture and commitment of sustainable growth nurtures JSL that enable us to create a rewarding environment of all round growth.

Can you discuss your company’s CSR journey?

Sure, Our CSR journey in all earnestness started in 2007, when there was a distinct shift from philanthropy and welfare to ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ – ‘Business Responsibility’ – ‘Beyond Business’, heavily focused on sustainability as the core business philosophy.

To get started on CSR, an exercise on ‘Need Assessment’ was critical and hence the Company engaged an external agency for the purpose. The community needs threw up various initiatives, considered important for fulfilling the CMD’s vision statement of being a socially responsible corporate. I then created teams at different locations and gradually started the initiation process. There were initial challenges especially in some remote corners where we engaged with communities who were impacted because of land acquisition etc. However over time the acceptability factor increased from a dismal low figure to middle and now a high rating on a scale of 10. The major contributor toward such progression was the factor of ‘Needs of the community’ and NOT what a Corporation thinks are the needs of the community.

To implement the initiatives and ensuring that the programs are aligned to the overarching vision of the company, we set up an independent CSR department and recruited professionals at different locations directly under the Corporate Head CSR. Once the structure was put in place, the projects were either implemented directly by our teams located at different geographies i.e. the direct approach or we adopted the indirect approach through NGOs / other professional agencies. The challenge in the indirect method was to find the right partners as many a times, the partners with big names and good reports proved quite distanced from the image they carried and the smaller local ones did well.

It is in the context of community needs and to obtain a license to operate, the Company had to take on several initiatives simultaneously. This is typical of a manufacturing and extractive industry vis – vis a service industry, which can have the luxury of selecting initiatives based on one or two issues exclusively.

Do you have a CSR policy? What are the key focus area for CSR projects?

Yes. We have a CSR policy and it is on the Company’s website. The policy after introduction and applicability, states the vision and mission statements of the company followed by the broad CSR philosophy. The policy and composition of the CSR Committee has been clearly articulated followed by the focused areas of CSR interventions stated. The responsibilities and the reporting framework has also been included in the CSR policy after which the conclusion paragraph.

Brief our readers about Foundation and its mission

Jindal Stainless Foundation was established much before the Company Act 2013 came into being, with a sole purpose of facilitating the Company to reach out to the communicates around the plant location. The Foundation is registered under the Societies Act and has an 80 G certification.

Its mission is to engage in community outreach as also to carry out select philanthropic activities.

In its endeavor to engage communities, the Foundation undertakes a number of projects funded either by the Company directly or through other partnerships with civil society or corporations having requisite skill sets.

What is the implementing method of CSR at your company?

The CSR implementing methods of CSR in our Group Companies, is direct and indirect. While the direct method is to implement the projects directly through our own CSR teams located in different geographies, the indirect method of implementation essentially related to engaging NGOs / other professional with expertise in the domain project.

However the indirect method is not left entirely to the NGO to work independently adopting a cheque book philanthropic approach. The implementing NGO is required to periodically engage with our CSR team located at site and thereafter prepare the reports. In such a pattern, there is a constant flow of feedback and the project improves in quality and content.

What is your CSR team strength?

Our CSR strength is to work alongside the communities making them equal stakeholders in project implementation. By adopting a pro-community approach the latter understands the ramifications of the changes thereby developing ownership of the projects. With a clear vision and simple direction given by the CMD and by the Chairperson, Jindal Stainless Foundation, the engagement process is simplified and that I feel is a great strength for programmatic intervention. It is equally important to have a perfect blend and synergy between the functionaries at the top and the implementers.

What are key CSR projects initiated at your company?

At Jindal Stainless Group of Companies, the focus of all CSR projects is the concept of sustainability. Such a vision stems from the fact that sustainable businesses need sustainable structures. The areas of engagement are listed below:

  • Education and Vocational Training – The education piece includes projects for ‘Out of school’ children, essentially catering to the needs of migrant factory workers and displaced persons. Some of the other areas of providing educating are facilitating students through ‘Tuition and coaching Centres’, ‘Balwadi’ Centres, Centres for growth and development and Vocational training Canters. The Vocational Training Centres are essentially ‘Skill training Centres’ with the sole purpose of providing skill sets for either employment in the company itself or other locations. We have partnered with various organizations having expertise in various skills training. The major programs that are being run are in the fields of computer education to include training in computer hardware, dress designing and fashion technology, beauty culture, farmer training with a focus on good agri practices etc. The other area of engagement is to build capacities of women through structured programs exclusively for women in the stainless steel sector. This will be amplified further subsequently when I touch upon ‘Women Empowerment’.
  • Women Empowerment – A number of activities are being carried out in the area of women empowerment through the concept of both Self Help Groups (SHG) and direct interaction with women in the villages through the program on Entrepreneurship Development. Efforts are being made to make the women learning sustainable livelihood generation activities. We have also created women led production centers and right from sourcing material to Quality control to marketing functions are all being carried out by the women themselves. In addition, the women groups are being linked to banks from where they have taken loans not once but multiple times. This is possible only because loan repayment is timey and the quality of the products they are producing are well acceptable in the markets. Some of their products are being sold to well established and recognized institutions and markets, like FabIndia, Good Earth etc.
  • Livelihood Generation Activities – There are a number of livelihood generation activities, which we have been engaged in empowering communities. We have taken select community leaders to experts and various institutes imparting such capacity building trainings. The communities have been marketing their products and feel empowered. The have also been taught in the area of poultry, goat breeding, small time dairy production etc. In addition the local farmers are being trained to produce more and distribute the cropping patterns besides encouraging them to grow organic vegetables and pulses.
  • Integrated Health Program – Community health is a major concern of the company and mobile health vans have been deployed and tasked to visit villages around the plants. Besides the regular visitations, the doctor along with his health team conduct various awareness programs. In addition specialist camps are held periodically with surgeries facilitated. The surgeries include cataract and orthopedic surgical interventions. Robust programs on HIV and AIDS are also conducted and master trainers reaching out to other locations. Camps in this area have also been very helpful, both in selectively identifying and carrying out timely interventions. A program in partnership with ‘Roko Cancer’ has been extremely impactful, where a large number of people have benefitted with the screening carried out and our hospital, which has a cancer unit at Hisar has been providing timely intervention.
  • Save the girl child Program – A novel program to tackle the issue of the skewed male female ratio at Hisar has been launched. The aim is to create greater awareness on the issue as also facilitate the community in institutionalizing deliveries. The program also has a component of nutrition and monitoring.
  • Environment – To address the issue, we have been encouraging communities to invest in low cost toilets and encourage them to adopt the ‘Swachh Bharat’ scheme of the GoI. We have also provided stainless steel toilets at various locations and build separate toilets for girls and boys in schools. Besides building water harvesting structures in schools and common buildings, we have provided the community with solar lights and solar lamps for the children to read. We are now distributing smokeless stoves and further make the community conscious on health related problems.
  • Business and Human Rights – The company has been engaged in the vertical of ‘Business and Human Rights’. A number of aspects relating to rights of people are being taken up and the employees being made aware on the rights of communities etc. As part of the journey on Business and Human right the company has been a pioneer of conducting human rights audit with special reference to Security, Environment and Community Relations, around its project at Jajpur, Odisha.
  • Women Empowerment: Another newly launched major initiative is training women in stainless steel applications in partnership with Xynteo, UNDP, Ikea Foundation, IDF and DNVGL. This is the first ‘Only women’ course in this domain anywhere in India. The women who are successful in the training and duly certified by DNVGL, will be offered employment opportunities within the Company and will be available for employment with other corporations

In addition to the essential engagements mentioned above, Jindal Stainless Limited has signed the United Nations Women Empowerment Principles (WEP) – CEO Statement of support. It was amongst the first six corporations to have signed the WEP statement and has been nominated by the UN to be a member of the United Nations WEP Leadership Group. It is also a member of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and the local chapter in India. As the Corporate Head CSR, I represent / represented the company in several bodies and committees to include member of governing body of the UNGC Network  (I), member CII – CSR Council, Water committee and CII Affirmative Action Committee.

Did you launch or supporting people of drought affected areas under CSR?

Jindal Stainless Limited has been engaged in flood relief work in Odisha. It has distributed clothing and blankets, food packets and even supported the local government initiatives of rescue and rehabilitation.

What are the communication strategies to inform stakeholders at Jindal Stainless Limited?

Being one of the biggest names in stainless steel sector, JSL follows standard communication procedures to keep all the stakeholders well informed about company’s progress and corporate performance. As part of the communication strategy, the company has both external and internal communication procedures. Being a public listed entity with NSE and BSE, JSL is directly engaged with the bourses to inform about the communication related to regulatory and corporate governance procedures, in order to maintain the sanctity and keep the relevant stakeholders well informed. By virtue of being a publicly listed company, majority of the information is in public domain on wide ranging topics. JSL follows procedural print communication methodology, as laid down in the law for publication of information through notices and announcements for all stakeholders. Investor relation cell in the company takes care of all the stakeholders’ queries from financial institutions and other shareholders of the company and is responsible for timely communication to all investors.

As part of the compliance, an annual report encompassing all activities of the company for the financial year is published annually. CSR annual report too is digitally published.

Regular meetings/communications with other policy making wings of the government, is a standard procedure followed by the company. On the other side, awareness, information and knowledge seminars followed by meetings are regularly organised on the topics related to stainless steel as a metal. JSL publishes a half yearly external newsletter that showcases the ongoing stainless steel developments around the world. It also gives sneak preview on future usages of stainless steel.

We have a strong internal communication mechanism that keeps the JSL family intact and well informed about the activities within the organisation. Monthly newsletters are published highlighting all the activities, within the company. Internal meetings/ seminars are conducted regularly to keep the employees engaged and informed about the company performance.

Do you have annual CSR budget?

As a responsible corporation, we have a commitment toward the communities essentially around our plant location and have a CSR budget to carry out CSR initiatives. I would like to further mention that despite the fact the company is running at a loss presently, yet due to the CMD’s mandate of ensuring there is no let up in our efforts toward achievement of the Company’s vision, we go beyond compliance and undertake CSR projects as per the planned budget. There are times when we go beyond the planned budget to support communities at large.

Could you tell us what is your opinion of the current phase of corporate social responsibility in India? What are the main challenges that the field is facing?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the strategic approach towards sustainable community development and the key to inclusive growth. In other words, the bottom line in the realm of CSR is to engage and connect with people by speaking the ‘Language of the heart’, and making honest endeavor in fulfilling needs of the community through a community based participatory approach.

However, ‘the future of CSR’ is linked to the corporate leaders’ understanding of CSR and how in today’s context, it has become an essential part of the business strategy. It, therefore, behoves upon the CSR Directors/CSR Heads and the likes in Corporations, to excite the senior management team (SMT) in such an understanding and engage them in adopting sustainable practices in various business processes. The outcomes of such engagement also contribute towards business profitability and encourage various stakeholders to adopt a positive value-based approach. Such an adaptation by Corporations have a direct impact on their business responsibility towards the second pillar of ‘Respect’ enshrined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on the business and human rights the UNGP framework —‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’.

In India, many years of programmatic work has been done without noticeable outcomes, despite the expenditure books showing large amounts being spent on social development activities. This is because of the involvement of a number of Ministries in the Government of India, trying to achieve targets by spending funds allocated for the purpose without a nodal Ministry in charge. This has led to a complex innuendo of duplication of both effort and ‘Outcomes’, which needs to be corrected. Thus, the critical mass of CSR activities rests on the ‘Social impact’ achieved and how the efforts have made a difference in the lives of the people.

To ease this process, the Government of India, through the recently passed Companies Act 2013 has very clearly articulated under Section 135 on the eligibility criteria; the processes to be followed in terms of composition of a CSR Committee; the CSR activities, which qualify under Schedule VII and so on for companies having a net worth of Indian Rupees 500 crores or more, or a turnover of Rupees 1000 crores or more or a net profit of Rupees five crores or more. The companies are obliged to spend 2% of their profits.

This Act hopes to initially target more than 16,237 companies mandated to report on CSR spent, with an approximate amount of INR 200 billion (approximately 2.6 billion euros @ 1 INR = 0.013 euros; as on February 12, 2016) in each year. Subsequently, with more corporations aligning themselves towards the CSR agenda, the number of corporations in the CSR space is expected to increase manifold and raise the community investment capital, which will serve the unmet community needs. However, it is not the ‘2 %’ mandate, which is going to make the difference, but the 100 % commitment of the corporation that can make a difference in the overall life patterns in defined spaces and geographies.

What advice would you give to a young graduate wanting to enter the corporate responsibility field?

My advice will be for the young graduates that if they want to work in this space then they need to get their hearts in the right place for it isn’t money which will drive their work, but a sense of satisfaction with a purpose and in understanding that engagement with communities are the drivers of change. It is only in such realization that one has to focus on the concept of ‘Beyond Business’.

How do you see the evolution and future of corporate social responsibility in India?

When the world has shrunk in the age of information overload and communication being available in real time or near real time, it is community linkages, which take a centre stage. To improve the business climate, the options are limited with added value to community relations. Hence whether it is to do with consumer care, investment opportunities or the environment, the triple bottom line i.e. the People, Planet, Profit have all to do with responsible business, which in effect is Corporate Social Responsibility. It is therefore axiomatic to get the correct perspective of sustainable business and ensure that the various components are aligned to sustainable practices.

Does CSR require a paradigm shift?

My response to CSR requiring a paradigm shift would be cased in both yes and no. Yes from the perspective that the students of business need adequate exposure in sustainable practices, which as I have already alluded to have a direct relationship with communities for whom the products are being developed and marketed. Hence the symbiotic relationship of business with people, the first ‘P’ of the triple bottom line concept is the critical mass, for it is from the business decision makers to the other stakeholders have all to be sensitized toward this important link. Hence there is a requirement of changing the learning steps right from the business schools, which is the reason attributing to the ‘Yes’ piece. No is from the standpoint that there is a great leaning toward the rights based approach. Hence the younger generation, as observed, are getting more involved in volunteering for a cause and getting sensitized toward market led economies, with a strong focus on a ‘Do good’ factor. It has also been observed through various surveys conducted that retention lends toward corporations who are sensitive toward community needs and contribute toward their overall growth and development. Besides it has also been observed that corporations taking their business responsibilities seriously are better performers.

Are there any programs in the world of CSR that you think are spectacularly awesome?

I am of the opinion that the programs aligned to farmers and agri business practices can really affect change. It is through this platform that a number of other initiatives can be launched and real change will take place. To amplify my point, I would like to share how good farming practices demand good marketing strategies. This would lend toward good communication networks reaching farmers to their doorsteps, which will give the farmers the leverage to take proper decisions on how and where to market. Secondly, the farmer insurance will add value to their work and this can then lead to better health care and better education etc. for their children. In the sum game it is all about ‘Community rights’ a strong proponent of ‘Business and Human Rights’.

What do you say about IndiaCSR.in mission and initiatives?

India CSR as a platform for dissemination of information is mission driven and a value add. It gives opportunities to the readers and contributors to freely share their thoughts and in the process create an environment of learning and sharing and not knowing and shaming, like some other media inputs try to portray. Toward this end, India CSR is trying to fulfill the unmet needs of various stakeholders as also it links the implementers to the funders and vice-versa. Hence in a business oriented canvas of sorts, India CSR is acting as a change agent and in the process bringing about a knowledge based approach toward thereby contributing toward growth and development.

(About Brig Rajiv Williams, YSM (Retd): Brigadier Rajiv Williams, YSM took premature retirement form the Indian Army in 2005 and has since been engaged in CSR. A Post graduate from Madras University in International Relations, he is a member of several strategic security related institutions and think tanks. As a member of the Governing Council of the Global Compact Network, Brig Williams has championed the initiative – ‘The India CEO Forum on Business and Human Rights’. He is a regular speaker / panelist at various forums and seminars and has been invited as a speaker to the United Nations offices in USA and Geneva. He also spoken at the Danish Institute of Human Rights,at Wilton Park, The UK and at seminars organized by Indian Industry Associations, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, GIZ, etc. He is also a regular invitee to various discussions and consultations organized both by the Government as also by private bodies. A prolific writer, Brig Williams has written articles on varied topics from conflict prevention and security to matters relating to Responsible Business & Corporate Citizenship. He has co-authored books on IMA and on Siachen, the latter one titled ‘The Long Road to Siachen the Question Why’ having been published by Rupa & Co. in 2011. 

Photo Credit: India CSR

About Author: Rusen Kumar is globally renowned journalist writing on CSR issues. He can reached at rusenk@indiacsr.in

Twitter Handle: @jslfoundation

Twitter Handle: @INDIACSR