CSR initiative: Now, charity begins in the office

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A few years back, Naveen Aldangady, 44, vice-president (supply chain management) at Bharti Airtel, wouldn’t have thought of himself as a teacher. Thanks to Bharti Foundation’s initiatives in the field of education, Aldangady got an opportunity to teach at the foundation’s school in Rewari, Haryana. And he returned a changed man.

PhilanthropyAs part of his company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, he has visited a few of the 240 schools started by the foundation in remote areas. He recounts his experience of visiting such a school in Rewari along with his colleagues three months back.

“We got to understand that if we provide the right atmosphere, they are as good as our children,” he says. “They are as eager to learn, if not more, and there is no difference in learning abilities. Next time, I plan to take my family along.”

Aldangady is not alone in his efforts. He’s joined by a growing legion of employees who are volunteering to be part of the company’s CSR initiatives to experience the feel-good high that comes from not talking but doing. But the triggers are not just personal satisfaction.

The size and status of your company definitely pushes your chin a bit higher. On one hand, being part of company CSR activities fosters a sense of belonging and loyalty among employees. On the other, a selfless activity humbles you.

“People come back to me and tell me that they feel moved and hopeful after these events. The pride and engagement is unmistakable and I have seen big jumps in contributions as well,” says an HR official at Bharti Airtel who organises events where employees can volunteer to work for the “greater good”.

Apart from field trips to schools run by the foundation, Bharti has also created avenues for interested employees to donate to an NGO of their choice, empanelled by them. The company also awards employees who have done exemplary work in these areas in each circle.

Companies are increasingly coming up with structured CSR plans for the employees to foster a sense of giving back to society. For a while, the employees driven by paychecks and the organisation driven by profit motive, become a wholesome unit driving change, however miniscule, within the society.

The basis: it gives the employees an opportunity to indulge their socially responsible side. It was with this intent that Shubha Shetty availed the “Esops” (not employee stock options but social options) scheme at Mahindra & Mahindra.

Through the programme, Shetty visited an old age home and organised a picnic for the inmates; took part in a puppet show for children suffering from terminal diseases and was part of a nature trail as part of ‘Mahindra Hariyali’ – the company’s tree plantation drive. “I have been part of the company for the past 18 years but it was only in 2006 (when “Esops” was started) that I found a platform to give back to the society,” Shetty says.

Social Values

M&M acknowledges there are many employees who individually or through teams are inclined towards doing charity. “We recognise this sensibility and such activities make giving back to society not only a management value but a team value as well. To give it a distinctive identity, we coined the word ‘Esops’,” says an official at M&M.

The company donates 1% of its annual profit after tax to social activities each year, but also believes in the importance of spending time and effort. So there’s an Esops Leader and an Esops Champion who take charge of running the social initiatives with the help of their motivated employees in the fields of health, education, community and environment.

The programme supports employees in creating volunteering projects based on the needs of underprivileged communities in and around their place of work. To fund these initiatives, each sector donates 0.5% of its profit after tax to the central CSR fund and 0.5% to Esops.

Even employees at Fortis Healthcare volunteer through the Fortis Foundation, which provide health care to the needy. “Doctors, nurses and staff pitch in time and effort, members too pledge their time and make donations to subsidise treatments and support campaigns like HIV/Aids awareness, and spearhead cancer and dialysis support groups, community outreach, periodic health camps,” says a Fortis spokesperson. Employees also donate clothing, books, etc. for poor patients.

LG India too solicits voluntary participation from their employees for charity work. “The response has been generally hearty,” says Umesh Dhal, vice-president, LG India. Since, the operative word here is ‘voluntary’ there are many employees who opt out, planning to do something “better” with their time.

But such activities go beyond your key result area (KRA), and make you come across as socially inclined individual upping your personal appeal within the ranks. CSR activities for employees are great networking opportunities where the company comes together as a group and get a feel good high.

Some people call it tokenism. But we call them sceptics. Serious CSR initiatives are turning their arguments redundant. How effective and important CSR is, has been a matter of endless debates. But, if as an employee, you are able to derive momentary satisfaction and pride, CSR can be seen in a different light altogether.

(Sourced from Economic Times)

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