Several business conglomerates have set new benchmarks in leveraging Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a strategy for skill development and vocational training. We are happy to present a Skill Talk by Seema Tiwari, Head – CSR, Corporate Personnel & Administration, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. Besides discussing skilling related projects and sustainability initiatives, Ms Seema suggests how CSR professionals can carve a niche by aligning business and social impact. Let’s read on to discover some of the impressive skilling projects along with results and other initiatives that are focused around women upskilling and empowerment.
CSR and skill development: Specific initiatives to skill, train and empower women
In 2011, the company under its CSR strategy called `Good and Green’ had launched Godrej Disha to ensure employability for one million youth by 2020 with an objective of enhancing their earning potential. Godrej Disha is the flagship skill training program for the underserved rural and urban youth. Recently, Godrej Material Handling business unit organized a series of training programs to train women to operate forklifts. The course started as a gender equality initiative with the vision to encourage more women in manufacturing sector. Women forklift drivers seem to be non-existent in India and this may be one of the very first times such training has been conducted by any company. This training is opening a new career option for these women.Godrej has also trained women in other manufacturing trades such as welding, fitter, CNC machining.
Godrej & Boyce strongly believes in gender equality, and thus there are a number of initiatives for their capacity building in the company. Godrej Appliances has trained and employed women under sales and service who have been doing extremely well in achieving business targets. In the Godrej Appliances factory at Shirwal (near Pune, Maharashtra),the energy efficient air conditioner is currently being assembled by women.
We are also working towards empowering women in the communities around our area of operations. In Khalapur, we have built capacity and done institutional building through SHG formation and other health and water projects for community sustainability by keeping women in the centre. In some communities in Maharashtra the engagement of women in the community has been minimal. For instance, in a Sarpanch’s office you will only find male representatives. Hence, we have realized we need to empower women. We have taken a very creative approach along with our partner WOTR (Water Organization Trust Resource) who are doing remarkable work in this area that is delivering results.
As we move along, we will take care that institutionally women are strong, and working together then we will initiate some projects around livelihood, making them entrepreneur by setting up small enterprise where they can have regular income. It is critical that we lay the foundation by building their capacity so that they successfully build strong and resilient institutions that are capable to take ownership for long range community sustainability.
Outcomes of CSR skilling projects and challenges in skilling women
Under our flagship Godrej Disha project, the company has already trained more than 90,000 candidates pan India in over 25 trades in four sectors along with our skill training partners. Some of the trades in which we have given training are welding, fitting CNC, carpentry, forklift, electrician etc. After completing more than 5 years in this initiative, we conducted an impact study and found out our initiative had resulted in an increase of Rs. 100 per day in the income of these youth and an overall economic value addition to the community is 30 times more. This program has helped not only the individual and spurred economic development of the community but has contributed to our country’s GDP. Beneficiaries have achieved greater financial security and hence the training by Disha made the required impact on rural and urban youth.
While our group company Godrej Consumer Products Limited has been able to train mostly women in Beauty and Wellness trade, one of the biggest challenge for Godrej and its skilling partners has been to mobilize women for training in manufacturing sector. But we have not given up hope and continue to mobilize and train women in small numbers and use some of the success stories in outreach and communication so that we can attract more women in manufacturing.
Alignment of business and social impact
One of the very important pillars of our Good and Green initiative is ‘Innovating for good & green products’. This pillar defines our business goals’ alignment to our CSR strategy. We at Godrej believe in innovating good product/service that addresses a critical issue for people living below the poverty line and the issue could be related to health, hygiene, water, sanitation, housing, education or livelihoods. We are taking a number of initiatives in this direction. A green product/service is that which reduces energy, water or material consumption by 20%, GHG emissions by 20%, eliminates toxic materials or uses 100% recyclable, renewable and / or natural material. Thus, making environment one of the biggest factor to be kept in mind while taking business decisions.
Our Goal is to have a third of our portfolio revenues comprising good and/or green products and services – defined as products that are environmentally superior or address a critical social issue (e.g. health, sanitation, disease prevention) for consumers at the bottom of the income pyramid.
Advice to aspirants: CSR as a career
Given the mandatory CSR policy, the demand for CSR professionals to spearhead the CSR programs and activities of the companies is on the rise. Companies are looking for professionals who can not only implement philanthropic initiatives that result in public value outcomes for the society but also contribute to building their brand and reputation in the short and long term.
In most cases, the job of a CSR professional is never an isolated one as it overlaps with other departments like communications, marketing, human resources, etc. Hence, one is expected to have a broad range of specialized skills.
The aspirants can start with enrolling in a CSR-related graduate or diploma course. It is good to familiarize yourself with the language related to sustainability field. In addition, they can work on the interpersonal and communication skill as they are required to work across departments and are responsible for communicating and collaborating with others.
It is also good to have the capability of systems thinking and connecting the dots given thatCSR is cross sectoral and often requires partnerships with other organizations. Being able to see the big picture and explain how your organization fits into the greater cause will be important.