“We must ensure a better world for our children”
Sunil Duggal, CEO, HZL, stresses that the spirit of working towards societal betterment has always been a part of the company DNA
Both the company and the community benefit from CSR initiatives. Do you subscribe to this? This is indeed true. All good CSR must benefit the communities, and if the community well-being improves, it will make for a better business environment in the long run. Sustainable businesses can only exist amidst sustainable communities.
Can you discuss your company's CSR journey?
The spirit of working towards societal betterment has always been a part of our DNA. Ensuring 'public good' has been integral to our functioning, even in an era when the term CSR was unheard of in India. In line with practices of that time we undertook area development and welfare programmes around our operational areas. As our business grew, the need to assume a leadership role as a responsible business was clear to us. We were well positioned to adapt to the fast-paced changes witnessed globally in early 2000 that resulted in rising expectations from companies on their environmental, social and governance engagements.
In 2004, we did an internal restructuring and formed a dedicated CSR team. In November 2005, we joined the UN Global Compact. Since 2014 we have taken our CSR to a whole new level. We strengthened the policies and governance mechanisms for CSR and decided to take up a more strategic and long term approach to CSR. We are now focusing on 'teaching people how to grow and catch fish' rather than 'giving them the fish'. We are working with partners like the government and NGOs to strengthen systems so that people living in communities around our operations are able to actively work towards improving their quality of life. We have moved away from merely constructing a hospital or a stadium as part of our CSR efforts. If it is really necessary we'll do it, but we rather spend our resources to ensure that many children from our neighbouring communities grow up to be successful engineers and health professionals or national and international sports champions.
What are the key focus areas for your CSR projects?
We focus on education; sustainable livelihoods; women's empowerment; health, water and sanitation; sports and culture; environment; and community development including community asset creation. Our programmes are aligned to community needs, national priorities and the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.
What is the implementation method of your company's CSR?
Our preferred method is to work in partnership with government and with credible and experienced NGOs. This ensures a much larger reach and depth of our programmes, as also it ensures greater sustainability. And the local communities around our operations are obviously at the heart of all our efforts.
What is your CSR team's strength?
The right blend of professional expertise, experience and connect with grassroots communities is one of the main strengths of our CSR team. We have development professionals who are from well-known academic institutions and also people who are themselves from the grassroots, and who have honed their skills on developmental interventions through years of work.
Could you tell us what is your opinion of the current phase of CSR in India? What are the main challenges that the field is facing?
CSR in India is a rapidly evolving space and, the progress that we have seen in the last couple of years has been phenomenal. I think many companies are doing exciting work across the board, and they need to be applauded for the same. As for challenges, I think we need to move beyond just tracking the spends under CSR, to looking at the actual impact on people's lives. CSR programmes should also get engaged with challenges that are long term in nature (such as, changing societal perceptions on disability, gender, etc). Sports is another field that lacks enough CSR attention.
Lastly, there is need for greater synergy across companies and development players, in terms of their various CSR initiatives. The right kind of synergy can ensure that the pace of development in the country is truly transformed.