Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success – William Clay Ford
When our CEO asked me to take on the project of tying together the various outreach and community activist programs that were going on within our organization under one umbrella CSR program, I thought…”Wow! Where do I start?” I knew it was important for our company and that we have many employees that had been suggesting ideas and activities that they would like to see us drive, but getting those same people organized and contributing time to the same initiative would be a challenge!
So, I did what anyone would do and started evaluating the experience I have had with the Rotary club and learnings from that combined with extensive research into what is working today. To start with, I wanted to understand how CSR has evolved over the years. And, while CSR has gained considerable acceptance over the years. Its scope has broadened, and for the better.
A look at the past; Yester years:
1. CSR meant philanthropy, and at best, an individual’s emotional need
2. The social cost of “Give and take” was not accounted
3. Altruism and charity were transient
And, where we are headed:
1. For CSR to be sustainable, corporations must be convinced that it is good for business
2. CSR has been proven to promote long-term profits for business
3. Companies are looking for a strategic CSR plan that will impact long term, fundamental impact and change but can also be assessed, monitored and reported on.
This evaluation got me to thinking about what has fundamentally changed for CSR initiatives, hence the title of this piece. You must be wondering why I used responsivity instead of responsibility? As CSR has matured in its sophistication, the expectations from companies that invest in these programs and the recipients of their goodwill has also matured. No longer is responsibility sufficient for companies to embrace, but the investments being made take on more than responsibility, they require a heightened level of awareness of the need that exists and a highly responsive structure to be successful. Socio-economic, political, and cultural events are affecting the business environment in an unprecedented way. Hence, by referring to the “R” in CSR as Responsivity we will see companies to responding accordingly and…
1. Move from obligation to Action
2. Move from Accountability to Activity
3. Move from Reactive to Proactive
So, now we understand the level of our obligation when implementing a CSR program, but selecting from the overwhelming need in the world was our next big challenge.
There are plenty of issues at hand ranging from Hunger, Health, Education, women empowerment, and so forth, but how can we adopt a focused approach to social responsivity? I decided that we needed to narrow our focus to something the majority of our team felt passionate about. A recurring theme was the fact that we all agreed that supporting under privileged children is one fantastic and impactful way of creating a better world.
In this case, we focused on India.
India has 440 million children.
That’s more than the entire population of the United States, Mexico, and Canada put together.
Every fifth child in the world is Indian.
The number of children in poverty in India is staggering. No food, shelter, or basic healthcare is provided consistently. There is no shortage of need. For example:
Mortality rates for children are staggering:
1. India has over 200 million people in hunger, and 40% of them are children.
2. About 27 million children are born each year in India but nearly 2 million of them do not live to the age of five.
Education has major gaps for children:
1. The majority of children are enrolled in school, but up to half don’t attend regularly.
2. After five years of classes, fewer than 60% can read a short story or do simple arithmetic.
3. More than 35 million children in the (6-14) age group are out of school.
4. Many are pressured to work and earn money for their families
5. And you will be shocked to know that there are 12 Million Child Laborers in India.
Do the figures in the above infographic alarm you? They should. We barely need to look around to know that there is a mountain of evidence screaming at us to focus on Healthcare, Education, Nutrition, & Skill Development for the children that will be leading our society of tomorrow. Our collective goal should be to make all children independent, confident, and hopeful that their lives mean something to the world and that we will do all we can make them successful and happy in life.
And, donations are only one weapon in our fight to make this world a safe and promising place for its children. Corporations must see to it that their donations and efforts are actually making someone’s life better. And, the way to do that is to engage and partner with non-political, non-religious, non-profit, and under-funded organizations to help them build long-term strategies and sustainable programs to reach as many children as possible and change the world one child at a time. And, getting the employees on board and consistently participating is the primary critical success factor.
Employees are the backbone of successful CSR. The investment and latitude from the company is obviously significant but without committed volunteerism from the employees and their donation of time, the program will fail. Therefore, it is important to engage the employees and have them adopt a mantra of ‘Individual Social Responsivity’ (ISR), wherein employees invest their skills and time toward the community service that has been agreed to by all.
But, more importantly, that they get addicted to it and begin to see how their involvement can help not just the company’s CSR but their own lives as well. Corporate Social Responsivity is a win-win for Corporates and the Community. Companies should Communicate Corporate Social Responsivity to develop their commitment to the world, the organization and, in turn, will result in increased employee pride and satisfaction.
(Author: Abhishek Ranjan is HEAD – CSR, Brillio Technologies)