NSN Connect 2022 is back with a new series titled “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India: The Big Picture.” Ms Meena Ragunathan, a CSR Specialist, is the eminent guest of the six-episode series. She is an expert in the Development Sector and has decades of experience setting up and leading Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments for big organizations. She has recently authored a book on CSR – ‘Doing Good: Navigating the CSR Maze In India’.
The second episode in the series focuses on CSR-Different interpretations of doing good. Here are some of the highlights from the episode. You can watch the full episode by clicking on the link below.
Episode 2- CSR-Different interpretation of doing good
In the second episode, Ms Meena Raghunathan talks about how CSR positively impacts the corporates in India, crucial areas where one can target CSR spending and the factors influencing it, the impact of CSR on society, environment and the different interpretations of ‘doing good.
While discussing the value of corporate social responsibility, she mentioned that spending money through CSR must be mutually beneficial; it must function in both directions. One of the advantages of CSR is that it can benefit the business. For example, at the Hyderabad airport, many of us from the GMR Group back then noticed several sketchy signs that read “Jobs at the airport, contact here”. Everyone was perplexed by this as nobody from the airport was putting up these signs. However, upon investigation, it was discovered that various intermediaries and contractors had jumped into it and were promising jobs.
The CSR team and airport management gathered to discuss what needed to be fixed, as these signs were misleading the public. The CEO of the airport then said, “You are good at skilling; skilling is one of your trusted areas”, and obviously, there is a need for a skilled workforce at the lower level at the airport. So, we decided to develop a strategy wherein local youth can be provided jobs. As the airport operator, everyone cannot be hired, so a meeting was set up for the CSR team with all the contractors who would handle various tasks, including AC maintenance, electrical maintenance, parking attendance, tollbooth, shops, and retail. We then asked each of them about the bare minimum requirements regarding age, educational background, and skill level. We then created three-month skilling programs for each of those job roles.
These were all local youth from a small radius around the airport, affected by the airport since their families had to sell the land. So they were the first beneficiaries. We started skilling the youth about six months before the airport opened.
CSR can be beneficial if you carefully consider it from a strategy and framework perspective. The first step in the CSR journey is what should a company do, where should they spend the CSR money, etc. On the MCA (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) website, Section 135 of the company act is a brief section that discusses the fundamentals of CSR law. Schedule VII is related to that section and spells out 12 areas where CSR money can be spent.
Some businesses have a history of CSR and continue to do so in the new framework. Like, in family-owned companies, it may be influenced by the founder’s passion. For example, if they are passionate about rural development, all funds are spent in that area. Some businesses may be interested in heritage; in those cases, CSR projects are carried out in that area. However, most companies are more strategic because they understand how they relate to their communities and how their actions affect society and the environment.
Companies should consider their strengths. Businesses can substantially contribute to the ecosystem by leveraging its technical advantages and content. For instance, GMR Group could collaborate with other corporations because we believed in our skill-building initiatives. Our first partnership was with Voltas. Since GMR has no experience with air conditioning, we went to Voltas and asked for assistance in setting up a course and equipment. Because they brought in the necessary subject knowledge, it significantly improved the quality of training, and this is something that is still highly discussed in the professional environment today.