CSR as a mandate is a welcome move
Abhijit Pati, CEO, Vedanta Ltd, Jharsuguda, talks about how CSR is a win-win for both the company and the community
It goes without saying that a sincere intent and commitment towards social good, and a diligent process of channelising that intent into effective CSR programmes on ground partnering communities, goes a long way towards not only benefiting the community but also ensures the social license to operate for the business entity. A good CSR strategy ensures win-win for both and it integrates the business with the community where it operates in a manner that is harmonious and mutually beneficial.
Can you discuss your company's CSR journey?
Our CSR journey of nearly a decade at Jharsuguda has been transformative for us and the community, resulting in some of the best case studies of sustainable CSR practices in action. Since our inception, CSR has been at the core of our business imperatives, and backed by a team of professional, committed and motivated individuals we have been able to create superior social capital. We have delivered on identified goals through well-defined objectives that has resulted in leading thousands of rural women to self-sufficiency, nurturing 3500 rural students towards successful matriculation in a region where high school education was rare, creation of more than 500 rural and urban infrastructures for drinking water, health & sanitation, transportation, electrification, CCTV surveillance for the city, etc., in partnership with rural and civic bodies, and so on.
What are the focus areas for your company's CSR?
Our CSR efforts are directed along five areas - Sustainable Livelihood & Women Empowerment, Health & Sanitation, Quality Education, Community Infrastructure & Bio-investment, and partnering the community in nurturing its socio cultural legacy. Currently, we have 7 major projects and numerous periodic activities dedicated in service of the community.
What is the implementation method of CSR at your company?
All of our projects stem from meticulously planned and executed need-gap studies. It helps us understand the concerns and pressing issues of the community. Using the baseline, we then formulate projects in a participatory approach through PRI, identify the best program implementation partners from the development sector preferably belonging to the region, and provision leveraging of government welfare programmes for structuring a PPP model of programme implementation. Once implemented, we have a structured review & monitoring mechanism which ensures that all compliances are adhered to and expectations met. If not, post mid-term and term end evaluation, amendments are carried out to streamline the process. Our CSR is guided by the protocols and guidelines laid out in our Sustainability Framework.
What is your CSR team's strength?
Our CSR talent-pool is proud alumni of some of the country’s finest institutions specialising in social sciences. We groom these talented individuals into motivated professionals who can contribute to the cause for which our CSR programmes are dedicated. The strength of our CSR is a diverse range of expertise that the members bring with them.
What is your opinion of the current phase of CSR in India? What are the main challenges that the field is facing?
CSR in the Indian context is a rapidly evolving concept which, to the best of my beliefs, will become a major corner stone for finding solutions to some of the key social and economic challenges faced by the country especially in the rural margins. CSR as a mandate is a welcome move, but the true success of CSR lies in internalising it as an integral part of doing ethical business. The challenge, however, is to transform the nature of CSR from reactionary to an ever evolving and proactive approach to social development around the business. We have to change the mind-set about CSR so that it is not perceived as an additional obligation for businesses. The solution lies in consistent efforts from all corners of the society challenging this thought process. Awareness, acknowledgement and encouragement of even small effort in this regard by industries irrespective of their size and scale will go a long way in nurturing a culture of CSR performance for time to come.