Touching the Lives of Communities
Companies today are committed to work towards the well-being of communities.
Roma Balwani, President, Group Communications & Sustainable Development & Stakeholder Engagement, Vedanta Group, explains how they have now created a diverse portfolio of CSR initiatives across the world. The Nand Ghar project, a unique Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme with the Government of India will roll out 4,000 modernized Anganwadis across the country. Established under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), it is a modernized extension of the existing Anganwadis, where supplementary nutrition is provided to children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years and to pregnant/lactating mothers. The main objective of ICDS is to fight the problem of malnutrition.
The ‘Nand Ghar’ centers are proposed to be run as a shared space in which 50% of the time will be devoted to children’s education and 50% will support women’s skill development.
‘Building as a Learning Aid’ a concept piloted by UNICEF, which will feature learning concepts embedded within the structure, will attempt to increase attendance of children. In addition, the Centre will be equipped with solar panels, TV, toilets and water supply.
Another key initiative for development of the communities is the adoption of each Vedanta business to adopt model villages, and measure the activity of child development and women empowerment.
Difficulties Faced Along the Way
The CSR journey has not been easy. There were difficulties and problems that were obstacles, but corporates are facing them upfront.
For Apollo Tyres, during the initial years of the HIV-AIDS awareness and prevention programme, which is their oldest CSR project, because of the subject being a taboo, the team found it difficult to have people come up and discuss the issue. Their sustained efforts using outreach workers, street plays and distribution of printed materials to raise awareness, helped people open up and come forward with their queries, and understand about HIV-AIDS prevention.
For community development and environment related projects, especially the latter, the biggest challenge in their area of operation, was/is the limited availability of expert NGOs and maintaining the quality of the programmes that they undertook. “We overcame this challenge by sticking to the basics like following the standard operating procedures and the financial guidelines, in addition to regular monitoring and evaluation,” communicates Sunam Sarkar, President & Chief Business Officer, Apollo Tyres.
For YES FOUNDATION, the acceptance of Yes! I Am the CHANGE (YIAC) was a feather in their cap (with participation from over 2,500 cities and towns across India). The aim in future is “to resonate the spirit of responsible citizenship and media for social change from every nook and corner of India,” says Prerana Langa, CEO, YES FOUNDATION. However, the large geographical spread of the participant base makes it difficult to build a cohesive ecosystem to support the efforts of the young change-makers. “We have used a combination of technology and on-ground interaction to develop a strong community of participants who support each other and use media for social change. We have a vibrant, closed Facebook group where the Change makers interact with each other, share opportunities, seek inputs etc,” shares Prerana Langa.
Yet another challenge has been breaking the mental barrier to make films, according to Prerana Langa. There is a notion amongst the youth that films can only be made by professional filmmakers with high production costs. They have worked on this issue over 750 film screenings, social film festivals and workshops on basics of filmmaking; they have also created a small animated video on filmmaking which greatly simplifies the entire process. The app provided soon will enable them to easily shoot and edit good quality films on their phones.
“Where we stand today is only because of our efforts and hard work together,” says Deepa Menon, VP, CSR and Corporate Communications, PVR Ltd. PVR Nest, their social programme, strongly believes in the power of collective synergy and partnerships. It is very critical and challenging to identify partners who would like to contribute and be a part of bigger impactful programs. The challenge is to channelise those various perspectives into one stronger approach. Moreover, identifying the like-minded partners from Public and Private sectors for their collective strengths in the designing, financing, implementation, operations and management of the programs is another challenge. “Our partners are our strength. They support us in enabling sustainable development and implementation of these programs. Our partners also help us achieve our goals of nutrition, healthcare and education through innovative models of communication; we have partners on board that believe in socially responsible investments,” she concludes.
India and Brazil have Indeed taken the Lead
In recent decades, countries like India and Brazil have indeed taken the lead in making businesses adopt policies that are socially responsible, environmentally conscious, compassionate in their human dimensions and thrifty in their use of natural resources.
Roma Balwani explains that if you take the example of Brazil, there was a time, when they were living in impoverished conditions, in fact probably worse off than some places of India. Today, we see the progress they have taken in leveraging the potential of the natural resources and promoting the use of technology to create a better environment. India follows a similar path as our country has the ability to leverage the lowest cost per unit of innovation as we have a young population and India is known to be a knowledge economy. “This is our strength – we innovate,” she insists with clarity.
While frugal indigenous technologies are being developed, countries such as India, can always lean on state-of-the-art, low consumption technologies that are environmentally friendly.