“CSR is less about head, more about heart”
Vijay Sethi, Chief Information Officer and Head Corporate Social Responsibility, Hero MotoCorp, shares how the organisation is working towards creating a greener, safer and equitable world.
Both, the company and the community benefit from CSR initiatives. Do you subscribe to this?
There is absolutely no doubt in this. CSR starts from the community, and not only the community, but even the company gains from it. However, CSR is primarily about giving back to the society. It does enhance the image of the organisation and even the employees feel happy that they are working with an active organisation and the communities feel that they are associated with an organisation which is very socially conscious. It is a win-win situation for both, the organisation and the community. What I have seen over the last few years is that employees want to contribute. Each human being wants to do something for the social sector. They want to contribute to the society, but a lot of times they do not know how to go about it. CSR gives them a fantastic platform to go over, meet underprivileged people, teach them, and spend time with them.
Can you discuss your company's CSR journey?
We have been doing philanthropy for years, but after the CSR Act came into effect in 2013, we formed a formal CSR team to set up the CSR vision which would help us narrow down and focus our thought process on some areas. After due diligence, we zeroed in on three areas. Our vision is to have a greener, safer and equitable world.
What is your company's CSR implementation method?
We have three primary focus areas and we look at the key things that we need to do under each of these. Whether it is about working towards a greener environment, or it is about road safety, we first try to understand what needs to be done to achieve that. So, it all starts with a need assessment and once that need assessment is done, then we decide who should be our intermediation partner or whether we should do it on our own. It is then that we get into the implementation and monetisation phase and then finally, we have an impact assessment to understand the impact that was generated out of that particular initiative. So, this is broadly the path that we follow.
What is your CSR team's strength?
As far as CSR is concerned, it is less about head and more about heart. The biggest thing is that while one needs to have basic knowledge about CSR in terms of laws, monitoring mechanism, reporting, documentation, empathy is much more important than the skills. Do you really want to do something for the society? In fact, that sets a better precedent rather than when one only has the qualification. If someone doesn't treat their help properly, how will that person treatothers? So, we look at human compassion when looking for CSR team partners.
What is your opinion of the current phase of CSR in India? What are the main challenges that the field is facing?
After the law came, first one year was the time when people were actually grappling with the project, as to how to understand the law and put the things in place. Now, since the law is in place for almost four years, most companies have now put in a firm structure, CSR communities are there and teams are formed. Presently, a fantastic effort is being demonstrated by a lot of organisations in terms of doing work systematically, with a plan and people have started hiring. Impact assessment is also now coming up in a big way. If one has to look for the challenges, the biggest challenge is how to find a credible NGO, how to find a credible channel partner to move the CSR initiatives smoothly. The second is that a lot of times in the communities where one is working, people feel that it is their right to get CSR funds. A lot of times many do not need the money, but they want the money. They don't value the effort and this actually doesn't work. Therefore, the organisations need to find a credible NGO to work with, and also need to find needy people. The last thing is how one really does a good impact assessment. Even today, companies do not have a good methodology to do an impact assessment.
Are there any programmes in the world of CSR that you think are awesome?
There are some fantastic credible global organisations that are working in various fields including child education, malnutrition and poverty. There are some who are working on the medical front, like UNICEF and Bill and Melinda Foundation among others.