“It is time for all the stakeholders to work together”
Ravi Bhatnagar, Head, External Affairs and Partnerships, Reckitt Benckiser, talks about the company's CSR journey and the impact created.
Both the company and the community benefit for CSR. Do you subscribe to this?
We, at Reckitt Benckiser, believe that CSR is not just an activity; it is working towards national purpose and the purpose is larger than life for us. We plan to invest in the future generation so that they are ready to tackle enough the sanitation challenges as well as the hygiene practices. There is a strong cyclic connection between sanitation and hygiene missions; both can fail without each other. In CSR, mostly programmes are seen as projects, but we see them as multi-layered plans that should have lasting impact. We have leverage from our partners - be it corporates, development department or the government. Because of this partnership, we are able to make our projects sustain. We have successfully involved augmentative approach and technology to ensure success of our projects, both for the corporates as well as for the community.
What is your company's CSR implementation process?
We work very differently than other corporates. There is double or triple leverage for someone who wants to work with us. If someone can't match the money, they can match the resources, equity, technical expertise, and we co-create the programmes together. It works like social impact bond where there is gain for all the partners. We don't believe in just donor-donee relationship; we work towards a common goal which is holistic and nationalistic in nature. We coown the campaigns for larger benefits of the partners involved. We believe in investing in the future and making the present stronger.
What do you see as the key development issues in India? What role can companies play in solving them?
Health, hygiene, sanitation - they all go hand-in-hand. There are various things that need our urgent attention. You must know that India has committed to the SDGs, and here in India, we are supporting SDG-3, 6 and 17. There are three aspects which define CSR strategy - one is the company's mission; the other is sustainability goal of the company; and the third is seeing if there is a match between the two. Without partnerships, no one can achieve anything. This is the time to work together to achieve 'Swatch Bharat Mission', and make India open defecation free.
What is your CSR team's strength?
We are purpose driven; there is heart and soul that goes into the work we do. We believe in making our feet dirty, understand local problems, cultures and bring in solutions that help fast track the programmes. We are early adaptors; we adopt from the businesses and give fast-track solutions after doing specific design thinking. There is very thin line between advocacy and activisim. When you work on ground, you understand that both are crucial for success. We give maximum weight to work around behaviour change communication. We all think on the same wavelength where we feel that all stakeholders need to come together to achieve common goals.
What CSR programmes do you currently focus on in sanitation and the 'Swachh Bharat' mission? How does this align with Reckitt Benckiser's broader sustainability approach?
We have a broad responsibility towards 'Dettol Banega Swachh India', Reckitt Benckiser's ambitious programme to address the sanitation and hygiene crisis in India. We work under four pillars: The first pillar is behaviour change communication; the second pillar is mass reach; the third pillar is product access; and the final and fourth pillar is infrastructure creation and maintenance. We give maximum weight to work around behaviour change communication because we find without behaviour change communication, infrastructure created will remain only structures that will never be used. So our work is focused around the determinants of behaviour change. We are trying to understand through our work and processes why behaviours are such and what triggers non-behaviours into behaviours.