Hiring 120 MSW graduates all in one go was a maiden attempt by Coal India Limited (CIL) in 2014. “We need professionals who have knowledge about community development for the effective functioning of CSR activities,” says Ajit Kumar, GM-CSR/HR, Coal India, the single largest coal producer in the world.
They have all joined as management trainees and will be later posted in eight subsidiaries of Coal India across the country.
What’s in store for these recent recruits?
After one week training on new Companies Act, current CSR practices, field work activities of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) division at ISM, Ranchi, freshers will be deployed at mining areas of CIL to supervise the projects undertaken by NGOs. Post one year, these newbies will settle for the alluring position of Asst. Manager, drawing a fat cheque of Rs. 85,000 per month. He further adds, “The hard core field work skill will help them grasp the serious issues of people working in mine fields.” This PSU will be spending around Rs. 300 crore in 2014-15 on CSR activities.
Sustainable business strategy
CSR is the way companies perform in social, environment and ethical situations.
“The growth of CSR changed over time from philanthropic to business-oriented approach that brings positive social change. Many companies have been quick to sense this development, and have responded proactively while others have done so only when pushed,” shares Dileep Kumar, GM/ Head CSR, TATA Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL).
The operational role of CSR reflects the social performance on how it manages its societal relationships and creates social impact. It integrates the issues of workplace, community, and marketplace into core business. A few companies like Tata Group, Aditya Birla Group and Indian Oil Corporation have been engrossed in CSR right from its inception. One of the phenomenal case studies to illustrate the discourse is TATA’s Jamshedpur township, the first well-planned industrial city in India by Jamshedji Tata. He once famously said, “Corporate Social Responsibility should be in the DNA of every organization.”
Growth of CSR in India
With Companies Act 2013 mandating 2 percent profit allocation for social activities as a legal necessity, companies across India are abuzz with promoting CSR in a big way. CSR gained momentum from 2010, with initial mandate for public sector companies; it was in 2013 that the private sector was roped into CSR universe. Globally, the clause on compulsory spending on CSR is a pioneering move by India, which has a huge market for Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) based innovations and impact investment.
One of the 10 approved areas for CSR notified under Schedule VII of the Act is promoting education, including special education and employment enhancing vocational skills, especially among children, women, elderly, and the differently-abled and livelihood enhancement.
“In 2014, about 16,000-plus companies are putting in around Rs. 200 billion towards CSR spending,” informs Dr KK Upadhyay, Head, Aditya Birla CSR Centre for Excellence. It indicates that these companies are focusing on CSR to improve their competitiveness in sustainable development. “CSR is inescapable in today’s context, a huge employment opportunity await trained social work graduates,” says Alok Mishra, CSR, GM-Head, CSR, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC). The Global CSR Excellence & Leadership Awards felicitated ONGC for the Best CSR practices in the areas of healthcare. ONGC along with HelpAge India took healthcare to the doorsteps of the elderly through Mobile Medicare Units (MMUs). Almost 1.9 lakh treatments were provided across 8 states with the launch of 20 MMUs.
Dr. Meenu Bhambhani, Associate Vice-President and Head –Global CSR, MphasiS, Bangalore says, “We need experienced professionals in our chosen focus areas. So along with social work degree, they must have specialization in either social enterprise, technology for social impact, experience of having worked with startups as well as development sector.”
Prashant Rakesh ChauhaPrashant Rakesh Chauha, Programme Leader – BSW & MSW, Amity University Uttar Pradesh says, “The root cause of NGOs misusing funds and indulging in corruption is that most of them are managed by non-qualified people. The government should amend laws and it is recommended to have one member in the executive body with a MSW or BSW degree.”
Ajit Kumar, General Manager-CSR/HR, Coal India said, “We need candidates with MSWs who have knowledge about community development for the effective functioning of CSR activities. Their hard core field work skill will help them grasp over the serious issues of people working in mine fields.”
Careers360 collated data of top 50 public and private companies to understand the landscape of CSR activities in India. Exhaustive annual reports on policies and practices of CSR point out that education is the most popular sector for intervention followed by healthcare, disaster and rural management. The number of initiatives in education touches 126, followed by 97 and 65 for healthcare and sustainable development respectively.
The top spenders on CSR based on 2% provisions are ONGC (Rs. 499 crores with 10 initiatives) followed by Reliance, Coal India and NTPC (See graphics on page 91). The disclaimers on these reports also reveal that many companies have not disclosed the amount spent on CSR.
All companies carry out work at different levels. Most of them have dedicated foundations registered as charitable trusts for the purpose of social development. Some either collaborate with different NGOs, charitable trusts, or likeminded institutes/organizations or involve directly in CSR activities. With dwindling international funds, the CSR initiative opens a window of opportunity for NGOs in India. We observe that most companies spend CSR budget on a specific project or programme.
CSR coverage in public and private sectors
According to Prof. Venkatesh Kumar, Director, National CSR Hub at TISS, the public sector enterprises work substantially in difficult parts of the country. “Invariably, PSUs have tried to develop scalable models of CSR using local NGOs in each geographical area. Mostly, private sectors’ presence is in limited space. You find them engaging with local communities near their area of operations, and beneficiaries are the local population,” he said.
NTPC is one of the pioneers in formulating comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation policies in the country. U. P Pani, Director (HR), NTPC says, “NTPC has been very sensitive to the needs of Project Affected Persons (PAP) unsettled by the construction of plant. We protect their rights, minimize their losses and help them to restore a secure means of livelihood.”
NTPC has set up ITIs to improve the quality of skilled workforce; conducted 36-week training programme for many Jammu & Kashmir youth in Thermal Power Plant Engineering; set up polytechnic at Kaladungi, Nainital in Uttarakhand; subsidized education to children of about 20 schools run by NTPC predominantly benefitting community children and nearly 20,000 students in neighbourhood areas and has also been granting merit scholarships to over 2600 students every year.
The power giant is actively supporting information and communication technology (ICT) centers at universities for persons with special abilities, disability Rehabilitation Centres in collaboration with National Institute of Orthopedically Handicapped providing rehabilitation / restorative surgery to physically challenged persons, old-age homes, preservation and conservation of heritage sites through ASI and also contributing to the relief and rehabilitation work during natural calamities.
Under ONGC-GICEIT Computer Centre initiative, more than 1400 students have received free employability training through five computer centres across operational areas partnered with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. In yet another initiative of ONGC-NSTFDC Hathkargha Prashikshan, around 100 tribal handloom artisans were provided on-the-job training in the improvised looms by master craftsmen that included training in intricate designs for catering to wider markets in 2011-12. Similarly, the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) awards 2600 scholarships to meritorious students each academic year across disciplines, right from engineering to MBBS.
Deepa-MenonDeepa Menon, Vice President, CSR & Corporate Communications, PVR Cinemas, says, “I worked extensively for Katha, an NGO based in Delhi for eight years. It was one of the best days when I mentored myself. Katha was developing Govindpuri community through skill development and women empowerment. After gaining rich experience at Katha, I worked with other international NGOs like Heinrich Boell Foundation-India, Action Aid International and SARI/Equity (a USAID project) in different capacities.”
I was affirmative that I don’t want to be left with telephonic coordinations. In the midst of rigorous work, I found PVR was hunting for a CSR head. I met the promoters, the Bijli family, who were honest in creating a CSR space. They hired me based on my skill and lengthy experience. There was a lot of uncertainty in the beginning when CSR began at corporate platform. I was prepared for the corporate world, as I would often hear people commenting, “If you are not able to perform in one quarter then you are screwed!” One must believe NGOs operate pretty differently. I realized well that CSR is in a different paradigm.
In 2006, we formed a foundation called CSR NEST. I planned a project/initiative which have ownership spirit for PVR employees. It should not be a distant project, which has no meaning for 8000-odd employees where they can’t relate themselves. The project drive began with meeting numerous NGOs to know what PVR should do. So our first flagship programme, Childscapes, was to support vulnerable children, the toughest kids on ground, especially hanging around PVR complexes. So we got in touch with Bhagidari Cell of Government of NCT of Delhi, MCD, market traders and other NGOs to become lively partners. We reached out to 500 children on street engaging them to social, cultural and non-formal pre-school education.
Since PVR is the largest screen exhibitor having 460 cinema halls in 43 cities, it was significant to reach out to 80 million consumers. An idea flashed about teaching children on how to make films!
The film-based 18-month programme focused on urban issues like road safety, water and energy. Schools and NGOs became partners for developing the activity. We roped in government representatives as advisory committee to choose the top 10 thematic areas where students should create a film. Fantastic directors like Nagesh Kukunoor, Amol Palekar, Amole Gupte came on board to teach skills. Throughout the last four years of its implementation, CineArt has been able to reach out to over 250 schools (NGO/Community/Public & Private) and 1, 00,000 children and has trained over 1500 children on filmmaking.
As a CSR head, the greatest challenge lies in getting the right partner. A lot of time you have to invest to convince about your project and build durable relationship. At CSR domain, one often faces a common problem that NGOs do not know how to have conversations with corporates, and corporates do not know how to have conversation with NGOs. So this makes the partnership short-term. Typically, it becomes tough to make people realize that money spent is for a cause. There are two reason why some of the CSR wings are weak. Firstly, it is lack of understanding within the company about the CSR concept; secondly, lack of competency to identify the right partner.
It will make a lot of sense if you have moved on to corporate world after having a good amount of experience of working in NGO culture. It will make a lot of difference when you will talk to a partner, as you will not treat them just as a vendor!
Private sector initiatives
Since 1890s, CSR has been ingrained in TATA Group, the harbinger of the concept. Influenced by Mahtam Gandhi’s trusteeship, JRD Tata formed charitable trusts to contribute to the sustainable development of the society. The TATA group is popularly known for building tinplate mill, a brick-making plant, an office building, a hospital and over 400 workers houses at Jamshedpur. Besides, Tata Motors has planted 80,000 trees in the township and more than 2.4 million trees have been planted in Jamshedpur region.
Employee participation in CSR is also increasing year by year. TPDDL provides volunteering opportunity to each employee with the development of portal on intranet known as “SEWA”. Each employee registers CSR activity of his or her own interest.
Reliance has played a critical role in the improvement of health ecosystem. Under project Drishti, the company undertook 5500 surgeries for visually challenged underprivileged children in less than 4 years, all free of cost. This impressive provisioning of health care facility has credited Reliance for leading the largest corneal grafting surgery project in the country.
TPDDL created 290 women literacy centers benefitting more than 17000 women annually; 2 mobile dispensaries catering to 12000 individuals; 48 drug de-addiction camps for more than 6000 inhabitants of slum clusters across Delhi. Dileep’s target is to reach to poorest of the poor residing in 218 JJ clusters of North and North West Delhi. “We want to handhold illiterate women residing in these areas and make them functionally literate,” he says.
Mphasis, Bangalore has done pioneering work in the space of disability inclusion through CSR. “We have tried to provide solutions to the everyday challenges that persons with disabilities face in accessing jobs, education and infrastructure,” shares Dr Meenu Bhambhani, Associate Vice-President and Head – Global CSR at Mphasis. Nanagu Shale, Kickstart Cabs (India’s first accessible taxi service), Project Communicate are some of Mphasis programs that have won many recognitions.