As part of the India CSR Leadership series, Sudish Panicker, MD and Head, BNY Mellon International Operations (India), in an interview with Rusen Kumar, shares his views on a plethora of subjects – ranging from business to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and from a legacy of philanthropic work for more than 235 years to present day CSR strategy. He also talks about business sustainability, environmental sustainability and sustainable development. The major attraction is to know how the CSR programs are helping communities across India. Excerpts of the interview:
Tell us about BNY Mellon and its business in India.
BNY Mellon is a global investments company dedicated to helping its client manage and service their financial assets throughout their investment lifecycle. We deliver informed investment and wealth management, and investment services in 35 countries, for institutions, corporations and individual investors. In India, BNY Mellon has had client relationships since 1957, and currently has over 12,000 employees across three locations – Mumbai, Pune and Chennai.
At BNY Mellon, we are firmly committed to our values, a spirit of citizenship and service inspired by our long-standing philanthropic work for 235 years. In India, keeping with the Companies Act, 2013 CSR mandate, BNY Mellon has further enhanced its already robust programme to support additional projects that include village development, water conservation, water purification, sanitation, digital literacy and women empowerment amongst others.
BNY Mellon has a legacy of philanthropic work for more than 235 years – what according to you is the definition of CSR?
As a major global financial institution, we consider the impacts that our business has on the environment and society and, in turn, how climate-related risks and societal needs present opportunities for our company. Our CSR work aims to contribute to sustainable economic growth that helps protect healthy markets, enhances our own business resiliency and longevity, and aims to deliver positive impact for key stakeholders, such as clients, employees, shareholders and communities.
Given our reliance on our talented and diverse workforce as a technologically-driven financial institution to deliver on our business goals, we align our philanthropic efforts to focus on developing a workforce to meet the demands of a technologically driven society. We do so by supporting education, training and development of critical skills necessary for business and advanced technology fields for underserved populations so that all communities can become equipped to engage in a thriving digital economy. Through corporate donations and employee volunteerism, we invest in programs and organizations that provide education, specialized training and support to help people build viable, rewarding careers in the digital world.
- Creating an inclusive culture: In India, interactive drama workshops involved more than 300 senior and mid-level managers in role-playing scenarios to increase their awareness of the impact of non-inclusive behaviors
- Listening to employees: We created a more integrated experience by simplifying access to resources, and provide more on-site wellness opportunities, such as opening an employee health center in India
- Building the workforce of the future: BNY Mellon India has been promoting education and digital literacy among children since 2002. Through funding and employee volunteering, we have sponsored and executed projects at more than 52 schools and orphanages, including summer internships, desktop donations, weekend classes, and computer labs and smart classrooms. These programs have benefited around 17,000 children, with a focus on girls, those who are differently abled, or children who live in lower income areas or come from tribal areas
- Empowering better care for cancer patients: Technologists at the Cancer Institute (WAI) in Adyar, Chennai, India, have established a Data Analytics Lab to convert hospital records into electronic form with the assistance of BNY Mellon employee volunteers. Twenty-eight employees contributed 1,450 pro bono hours to create this powerful lab and software
- Ambassadors for environmental stewardship: Our sustainable practice includes distribution of efficient biomass cookstoves in parts of rural India, which enable households to reduce health risks, fuel costs and environmental degradation
CSR for us, then, is implementing initiatives that include sound corporate governance, addressing pressing social and environmental challenges, and investing in our people, market integrity, and the community.
What are the different CSR initiatives BNY Mellon has undertaken to date in India, and what are your priority areas within CSR?
In correspondence to our new CSR strategy that is built on culture and purpose, responsible business and global citizenship, our priority areas include commitment to diversity and inclusion, and our global ‘Business & Environmental Sustainability Ambassadors’ program where employees who are committed to making a positive environmental impact across offices and communities work together.
Additionally, BNY Mellon focusses on providing meaningful interventions towards the philanthropic themes of local influence such as employee wellness – the opening of an employee health centre; digital transformation – promoting education and digital literacy among children through funding and employee volunteering; empowering better care for cancer patients – by providing health care workers and researchers a new computing lab and software at the Cancer Institute (WIA) to access patients’ data. Other key initiatives include rural development, women empowerment, environmental sustainability and relief & rehabilitation. Besides, we are also matching employee donations by up to 200% during the current pandemic.
Is BNY Mellon associated with any sustainable initiatives, if yes, which ones?
BNY Mellon has been associated with several notable recognitions within the industry like the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and the Green Power Partnership. Globally, we have achieved carbon neutrality for Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, through emissions reduction practices such as energy-efficient data centres, waste diversion, recycling, reducing paper, sustainably certified real estate and in securing carbon offsets and renewable energy products. We have also spearheaded environmental initiatives such as paperless programs and the elimination of disposable cups at the workplace. Our employees have volunteered their free time to benefit the environment in programs namely water body rejuvenation, litter clean-ups and sapling preparation and plantings. Besides, BNY Mellon hosts sustainability fairs to showcase sustainable suppliers; employees carbon credit certifications among others.
How are the programs helping communities across India?
Our programs cater to a diverse set of beneficiaries such as girl children, differently abled children, children and young adults from disadvantaged communities, transgenders, rural communities and farmers, with deep interventions across our philanthropic themes. For instance, the academic stream includes computer literacy, upgradation of academic infrastructure into smart classrooms, setting up computer labs, higher education sponsorships, employability-skills development, vocational training, state-of-the-art technology education provisioning to tier 2 and tier 3 engineering institutes etc. BNY Mellon also provides mobile healthcare to rural communities and support to cancer and MSS patients. Sustainable women self-help groups, agricultural productivity enhancement programs, and digital literacy programs in villages are taken up in the rural development context. Green cover enhancement, water body rejuvenation projects and flood avoidance initiatives are some of the environmental sustainability initiatives undertaken.
Please elaborate on the ‘Future of Work’ initiative taken up by BNY Mellon?
As digitization transforms India, BNY Mellon as part of the ‘Future of Work’ initiative has been promoting education and digital literacy among children since 2002. Through funding and employee volunteering, we have sponsored and executed projects at more than 52 schools and orphanages, including summer internships, desktop donations, weekend classes, and computer labs and smart classrooms. These programs have benefited around 17,000 children, with a focus on girls, those who are differently abled, or children who live in lower income areas or come from tribal areas. Other emerging technology solutions programs such as data analytics, farmer advisory systems and fintech, help individuals, community groups develop professional skills, foster adaptable, and innovative thinking.
What initiatives has BNY Mellon undertaken during COVID-19?
BNY Mellon has extended support towards ameliorating those impacted by the pandemic in economic and health terms, and the subsequent lockdown through its contributions. From establishing healthcare infrastructure by donating high-end ventilators, test kits, ultrasound scanning machines, medicines, etc., to providing healthcare workers, police personnel and sanitary workers with power disinfection machines, PPE kits, masks, gloves, sanitizers, we have provided extensive support to the community. BNY Mellon India also set up seven community kitchens across Pune and Chennai, serving around 14,000 people over a period of four to six weeks during the lockdown. Providing conveyance to healthcare workers, and dry rations, medicines, hygiene kits, and other essentials to migrant workers, has also been a part of our COVID-19 response strategy.
What more do you plan to do for implementing COVID-19 care within communities and people at large?
We plan to up our support to spur healthcare infrastructure ramp-up by provisioning additional ventilators and oxygen therapy machines. BNY Mellon also plans to help those impacted by the current social and economic condition by upskilling them, helping them re-establish their lives, skilling and enabling them to secure employment. Support institutions that provide child-care to handle post-pandemic scene.
How have you kept your employees engaged and effective in this COVID-19 era? What is the morale like in people once they will be back to work?
Our foremost priority is the safety of our employees, even as we strive to maintain business continuity. In line with this, all employees were requested to work from home even before the lockdown was announced by making computing and other infrastructure available. Frequent touchpoint meetings are organized across different levels to keep employees engaged and motivated. Online medical consultations and significantly enhanced medical covers for employees and their dependents, including treatment for COVID-related illnesses are made available. BNY Mellon’s 200% match for all voluntary charitable contributions by employees to selected charity partners in support of the pandemic relief initiatives attracted significant interest. Remote volunteering is another opportunity provided to the employees.
What is your CSR vision for the next decade?
The next decade is significant for BNY Mellon in the context of CSR. We are ten years from the timeline committed by United Nations for achieving the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), and today’s situation demands a systemic change that can be achieved only through intense collaboration and actions. Hence, our vision is to make sincere attempts at sustainability and philanthropy, with deep reverence for diversity, inclusion and responsibility. Harnessing the power of technology for social transformation and engaging our employees in ways that allow flexible giving and volunteering.