By Richard van der Merwe
Companies have long past realised that in order to enhance brand value, CSR initiatives should be an integral part of how they can make a difference to society and the external environment in which they operate. Brands have been working on areas such as environmental protection community development, restoring social equity and gender balance, protecting human rights and good corporate governance etc. to forge a deeper connect with their stakeholders and to do their bit for the society.
Bayer has a history of more than 150 years. In India, we have a history of more than 120 years. We believe that we can achieve lasting commercial success only if we balance economic growth with ecological and social responsibility. Sustainability is therefore an integral part of our business strategy, as it helps us identify and mitigate risks at an early stage.
We practice sustainability across all areas of our business including our compliance policies (e.g. anti-corruption and responsible marketing), human resources policy, product stewardship, health, environmental protection and safety, and supplier management. This is one of the key requirements for society’s acceptance of our business.
Through our corporate social responsibility programs, we see ourselves as trendsetters and partners for initiatives that can create a long-term impact and have the potential to achieve systematic change. In line with Bayer’s corporate mission “Science For A Better Life”, we have identified four areas where we run our Corporate Societal Engagement (CSE) initiatives in India. These include: Fostering Education, Rural Development, Women’s Empowerment and Preventive Health & Sanitation.
Bayer For Education
Bayer believes that education is a vital factor in bringing about social equity. Therefore we place tremendous emphasis on supporting education projects within our social environment.
As a research-based company, Bayer depends heavily on recruiting well trained scientists and on society’s acceptance of new technologies. Through our projects such as “Making Science Make Sense”, we focus on generating an interest in science among children and young people.
We also support Youth Education Programs in schools to enable quality education for school going children. Various activities taken up under this program include upgradation and maintenance of the educational set up of targeted schools, diagnostic health camps for children and further educational support by giving notebooks, school uniforms and sports gear.
Fostering Rural Development
Our Community Development programs are implemented in various parts of India to enhance awareness about health, hygiene and skill development. WASH (Water, Agriculture, Sanitation and Hygiene) is one such program that focuses on public health through improving sanitation and conservation of pure natural resources. The methodology mainly involves intense training of rural communities in order to change mindsets and habits.
In order to build a strong relationship with the rural community, Bayer has taken up activities that are focused on improving livelihoods and enhancing income generation opportunities that would help village inhabitants lead a life of dignity. The main focus of Bayer’s Village Training Program (VTP) is providing intensive training to rural youth in the areas of goat rearing, low cost poultry, animal husbandry, tailoring, plumbing and crop production etc.
Women’s Empowerment is another area, where Bayer is partnering with various institutions and developing programs that can create a long term impact on gender equity. One such project is the Program for Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence (PPPSV) to implement primary prevention measures, which protect women and children from sexual violence and its after effects.
Incidents of sexual violence are not only criminal acts, but a major social health issue. The objective of PPPSV is to introduce innovative strategies of primary prevention, which is a means to prevent incidents before it happens. This approach brings to fore strategies that utilize knowledge about typologies of potential offenders as well as potential victims that influence sexual offence situations before they occur. Bayer India is working in active collaboration with the King Edward Memorial Hospital Research Centre in Pune, the Institute of Sexology, Charité, University Clinic of Berlin and an advisory council of experts from India since 2016
Another project “Discovering Hands” aims to make a positive difference in the area of breast cancer as well as lend a helping hand for visually impaireded women. As prevention is critical in the fight against breast cancer, the project trains and deploys visually impaired women with their highly developed sensory skills to detect the early signs of breast cancer.
Preventive Health & Sanitation Disaster Relief
Women’s health care is one of the most neglected aspects in rural India. Topics like menstrual health and hygiene are a social taboo for women and adolescent girls. Bayer is working with partners to enhance awareness about these topics and is playing a key role in the introduction of low-cost sanitary pads. Further, low cost sanitary pad making units have also been setup to encourage entrepreneurship and livelihood among rural women in the state of Telangana. The initiative has been received well especially by young girls who welcomed the idea.
Disaster Relief also forms a part of this approach. Bayer took proactive steps for rehabilitating areas in and around Chennai and the State of Tamil Nadu, which were ravaged by floods and incessant rains in the last quarter of 2015. Working in close collaboration with the NGO, Concern India Foundation (CIF), Bayer envisaged a long-term assistance to these flood victims In situations of acute need as a result of natural disasters, Bayer pursues a dual strategy: the company provides immediate assistance following natural disasters – both through monetary and medical donations to rebuild infrastructure.
For over a decade now (2005-2017), Bayer has also been working effectively to implement a comprehensive multi-level Child Care Program (CCP) an initiative that has transformed the way the Indian seed supply chain is organized making it sustainable and complaint with its policy of saying no to child labour. The Child Care Program constantly communicates the ills of child labour to local communities, farmers and their families, and enlightens them about the benefits of education.
Bayer is simultaneously researching improvements in human, animal and plant health, to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages, which is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations in September 2015. The SDGs set a large number of ambitious targets to be achieved by 2030. Through our businesses and initiatives, we are committed to the principles of sustainable development.
( Richard van der Merwe, Senior Bayer Representative, South Asia)