Assessing the role of CSR in India’s sanitation challenge

India CSR News Network

DELHI: The recently launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has trained the spotlight on India’s severe sanitation problems. Changes and progress in the sanitation area require strong partnership with Government, Corporations, NGOs and other like-minded individuals and agencies working together to develop a framework for creating sustainable CSR interventions within this sector. The first steps towards creating this framework were taken earlier this month at a workshop organized by Ennovent in partnership with GIZ that was attended by over 50 sanitation experts and representatives from NGOs, corporations and donor agencies.

Key attendees included  Sujoy Majumdar – Director, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation,  S Sen – Director, CII, Dr. KK Upadhyay – Director, FICCI and Manu Prakash – Director, TARU. The workshop provided an excellent opportunity to raise the issue of open defecation and highlight the state and size of the sanitation problem affecting the country. Mr. S. Sen, Director – CII, spoke of the urgent need to bring about a behavioral change among the masses. The focus on ‘behavioral change communication’ is considered a critical component in changing the attitudes of users towards toilets.

Detailing further challenges in achieving India’s sanitation goals, Mr. Sujoy Majumdar, Director- Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India said that a new structure was being prepared within the sanitation ministry, giving more flexibility to implement sanitation programs. He also requested corporates to list out the facilities and resources required from the government to surpass sanitation challenges and create the atmosphere necessary to facilitate these goals.

Elaborating on what he was looking for as an outcome to the workshop, Mr. Majumdar stressed the importance of utilizing the vast funding available for CSR by creating a structure that generated the most effective results. It is evident that groundbreaking new technology, management, and operational models are required to solve India’s sanitation crisis. To showcase, what is already being done within this sector, innovators in the sanitation space namely Eram Scientific Solutions, Stone India Pvt. Ltd., Ekam Eco Solutions and Toilets For All also presented their solutions.

By exposing representatives from corporations and government agencies to such market based interventions, attendees further explored how they could collaborate to rapidly scale impact. GIZ gave the discussion further impetus by stressing the need for a partner network and ecosystem, facilitating corporate engagement in incubation and detailing ways to utilise CSR funds to scale up the right solutions.

It was further highlighted that to meet India’s sanitation goals in convergence with CSR, it is important to not only connect startups with corporate through programs like hackathons and boot camps but also to create learning networks between corporates on how they can better engage with startups and assist their incubation.

This workshop by Ennovent and GIZ provided a platform for a critical first debate on how efforts can be united to achieve a clean, healthy India by 2019. A key next step that is planned is the creation of an e-platform, which acts as a knowledge exchange facility and allows field innovators can connect with various market players. There was also keen emphasis on taking these focused discussions forward with concerned stakeholders and conducting similar workshops to evaluate how which available CSR funds can be utilized to scale up the right solutions.