Social responsibility, corporate style
CSR activities in most organisations are much more than brand
building efforts, discovers Shivani Shinde
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not
new to Indian companies. However, what is new is the way it has caught on with
Indian corporates and the direct involvement of employees in implementation
of these projects. Dedicated departments in most organisations are looking into
much more than just funding or getting involved in one-time projects. CSR activities
have their advantages. The benefits are in terms of building a positive image
and encouraging social involvement of employees, which in turn develops a sense
of loyalty for the organisation. CSR activities help bond employees as a team,
and with the organisation, which in turn helps in creating a dedicated workforce
that is proud of its employer.
The trend is especially strong in IT companies with a young workforce that increasingly
feels that they would like to contribute to the cause of creating a better society.
Most of these companies are working on issues related to children and education.
Voluntarism to them means taking technology to the grassroots levels and to
bridge the digital divide. Whether it is TCSs Web-based solution for their
adult literacy programme or Kale Consultants (an airlines and banking
verticals software maker) effort in creating a centralised data system on children
Benefits of CSR
|CSR is an inspirational and motivational exercise
Radha Shelte CTO
With serious money and human resources involved, how does
it benefit the organisation? It is not uncommon to hear of rumours that in many
cases no actual work was done and projects were shown on paper to gain tax exemptions.
Most companies however strongly deny such allegations as funds are strictly
dedicated to such projects and monitored by company boards. CSR is increasingly
becoming a part of corporate governance.
Yet another allegation is that CSR is just a brand building exercise. Companies
argue that getting associated with a cause might create an apparent impact but
that does not generate any tangible profits. While it does help develop their
brand and convey to the public that it is a socially conscientious company,
it is a natural fallout and not a deliberate attempt. Kalpana Jaishankar, Director
HR, Geometric Software Solutions believes that organisations today cannot have
a how I can benefit? attitude as employees are sensitive to such
However, one of the biggest advantages of such activities
is the development of internal branding among employees. Employees feel
a sense of pride when they are involved in such activities which in turn help
in retaining them. Similarly, such activities also in a small way contribute
towards image building, says Bharti Das Gupta, Advisor, Social Initiatives
and Managing Trustee of Catalyst for Social Action (CSA), Kale Consultants.
Besides, with hectic work schedules, these activities help in de-stressing many
employees and help in developing more evolved and conscientious human beings.
|There is no direct benefit from CSR exercises, but
it shows the way an organisation is evolving
Senior VP, HR and Training and Convenor CSR Activities,
As Vivek Govilkar, Senior VP, HR and Training and Convenor
CSR Activities, i-flex says, Getting involved in CSR is like an investment
for us. There is no direct benefit out from it. But it shows the way an organisation
is evolving. He does believe that such activities generate a feeling of
credibility. For instance, when parts of India were recently hit by the tsunami,
many of their overseas customers wanted to contribute and used i-flexs
channels to do so.
According to Prof Kesav Vithal Nori, VP, TCS Hyderabad, at
an individual level these initiatives help in leadership and character building
among employees and at the company level, social recognition. Many feel that
such activities help in creating a value system for the organisation. It
is carried out as an inspirational and motivational exercise for employees.
It also helps them know he other side of the organisation, creates an image
of corporate citizenship and also shows the concern towards the problem of that
particular city, says Radha Shelte, CTO, Veritas.
Jean-Charles Thuard, MD, Legrand (India) believes that an organisation is able
to fulfil its social responsibility by regularly engaging in CSR activities,
which enhances the value system of the organisation. This in turn helps in developing
its brand, and customer and employee loyalty. Besides, employees feel a sense
pride for belonging to the organisation which is committed to the society.
Legrand (India) provides products and systems for electrical installations,
data networks and has been contributing to relief causes such as the Kargil
war, the tsunami disaster, etc.
In almost all organisations these activities have major employee involvement.
In fact, all organisations feel that the success of such initiatives always
depends on employee participation. Besides, it makes leaders out of employees
and helps them realise the concept of teamwork. These efforts create a
teamwork culture in the organisation, says Masteks spokesperson.
Funds and focus
CSR activities as a part of the internal structure of the organisation is quite
new and many are approaching it in a structured fashion. i-flex started with
a Rs 1 crore funding and now plans to get a permanent arrangement after the
approval from the board. At TCS, funding was done project-wise but recently
they have passed a resolution in favour of creating a foundation.
Infosys has been one of the most successful stories of CSR
activities. It contributes up to 1 percent of its profits every year through
the Infosys Foundation, a not-for-profit trust. The Foundation focuses on areas
such as the underprivileged in rural areas, healthcare for the poor, education,
rehabilitation and promotion of Indian arts and culture.
||Major CSR activities
||Accelerating Adult Literacy Programme
through computer-based functional literary method.
||‘Catalyst for Social Action’ adoption
programme for children. It includes child welfare, adoption, foster care
||i-flex for children programme.
||Focuses on the underprivileged in rural
areas, healthcare for the poor, education, rehabilitation and promotion
of Indian art and culture. Infosys’ Hyderabad development centre has launched
a computer literacy programme for Cyderabad police personnel.
|Geometric Software Solutions
||Children and youth, with education as
the focus area.
||Mastek Foundation facilitates members
to understand their interest areas and informs them about all NGOs working
in that field.
|Honeywell Automation and Solutions
||Education for street children with the
Hermann Gmeiner organisation.
||Education, healthcare and environment.
CSR activities encompass three areas. The first is corporate governance, the
second is employee satisfaction through HR activities and the third is community
based social activities. Prof Nori agrees that the current CSR activities are
much different from those implemented earlier that were primarily philanthropist
initia-tives, while now it involves creating linkages between the internal and
the external communities and using the core competence of the organisation.
As an organisation, software major Infosys has clearly identified its multiple
stakeholdersits customers, employees, investors, vendor-partners and joint-venture-partners,
the government of the land and, finally, the society-at-large. We believe
that corporations are social institutions. Companies are in a way like individuals;
those who show long-term thinking and commitment and exhibit sincerity, accountability
and transparency, will succeed. Visible actions to foster transparency, exhibit
corpo-rate governance standards and demonstrate innovative and self-regulating
behaviour need to feature high on the corporate agenda, adds the Infosys
Most organisations are either into creating their own way of dealing with the
cause they believe in or work closely with a third party. For instance, Mastek
has created a 10-module programme for its employees under the Mastek Foundation
a year back. The module makes them aware of their environment, what has to be
done, whom to approach and interest areas. All these aspects were taken into
consideration after a thorough research among colleagues.
The other major problem was the inability of NGOs in managing funds due
to a shortage of staff, no proper board, etc, informs the Mastek spokesperson.
Registr-ation of the programme is free for employees and the modules are sent
through mail. The module allows volunteers to understand their interest area
and the NGOs working in that field. At the end of the module there is a field
visit that allows them to see the progress.
With a growing feeling that corporates should also contribute to social activities,
globally, and with a desire to improve the immediate environment where they
work, many companies are taking keen interest in such activities.
For instance, Kale Consultants has a dedicated programme for adoption of children.
Working in association with various NGOs in Pune that are in the same field,
it is creating a centralised database, which would have details like history
of the child, post adoption follow-ups, etc. The project, started since 2002,
has been completely funded by the organisation with about Rs 10 to Rs 12 lakh
When Geometric Software Solutions decided to get into CSR activities they planned
the whole process beforehand so that the initiative was not a one-time process.
We were sure that we wanted to work with children and the youth, and that
education would be the focus. We approached NGOs that were working in this area
and since we too were based in Pune, we decided to work in the city, says
At Honeywell Automation and Solutions, employees under Community Solutions have
adopted street children and provided them with quality education. Employees
who are interested visit them and teach. Those who cannot give time to teach
are making a Web-based curriculum so that teaching can become easier and fun.
Many senior officials participate in the programme called Wings
by mentoring children and giving them guidelines. This works in two ways,
it shows the seriousness of the organisation in such programmes to the employees
and creates a feeling of loyalty in them, says the official spokesperson
In an era of increasing global competition, the need to create an image that
shows that corporates are part of the community and care about it is growing.