CSR initiatives, and their effective implementation
India’s Companies Act 2013 (Companies Act) has introduced several new provisions, which change the face of Indian corporate business. One of such provisions is Corporate Social responsibility or CSR. The concept of CSR rests on the ideology of give and take (excerpt from source: article by Mansukhlal Hiralal & Company, mondaq.com, as accessed on 25.05.2018). The activities that can be done by the company to achieve its CSR obligations include many such, which fall under the umbrella of SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals.
CSR expenditure in India has been growing at the rate of 8% annually. The annual CSR spend id to the tune of Rs 8500 crores, of which almost 1/3rd of the CSR spend is on Education and Skills. Hence, implementation of CSR includes careful planning and strategizing, stakeholder and need assessment, project implementation and monitoring, followed by reporting and documentation. These myriad aspects involve high levels of expertise, which ensure the smooth and effective execution of any CSR initiative. One such organization, which provides its expertise through services for the implementation of CSR across the domains of skills and education is IL&FS.
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Holistic school improvement is an important aspect, which has been implemented for Maruti Suzuki, through project LEAP, reaching-out to about 12,500 students. “It is a known fact that poor infrastructure is one of the many reasons, which contributes to high-rates of drop-outs. The aim is to encourage attendance by making a school a place that makes teaching and learning conducive, productive, joyful and memorable by creating inclusive, interactive, and creative learning spaces for children, using not only multimedia and smart kits for children, but also by enhancing human potential i.e. adequately trained teachers; thereafter, regular monitoring and evaluation in order to enhance the quality of teaching and learning experiences is important. In addition, the use of buildings, through the technique of BaLA or Building as a Learning Aid enhances long-term recall.” adds Rubina Bembi, Head – CSR Initiatives, IETS.
Besides elementary education, emphasis is also placed on digital literacy, especially with rampant globalization and digitalization. The fact that the internet can open many doors, leading to opportunities, is something unfathomable for a first-time user of a lap-top with internet connection. The impediments to effective ICT learning are many: lack of infrastructure, poor power supply, and lack of skilled trainers, among other factors. Launched in 2012 for students of rural schools after a baseline study, ‘Digital Duniya’ is being implemented in 24 schools (classes VI to VIII) covering the areas of Dibrugrah, Tinsukia and Sivasagar.
The programme, in partnership with Oil India Limited, has so far benefited 50,000 students via custom designed and fabricated mobile buses/vans. In addition, IETS, as part of its CSR initiative, supports a number of these busses across India. The objective of the computer bus is not only to provide a supportive and stimulating environment for students to learn, unlearn and relearn, but also to encourage students to reach their full potential as independent learners. Says young Rajudin Gogoi: “I did not know what a computer was, and was fascinated the moment I was taught how to switch one on. We all get to learn something new each time, at the session. It is so exciting!”
Mustafa Zahid Alam, teacher on the computer bus adds: “It is an enriching experience both for students and teachers. Many students who attend the session have never seen a lap-top, let alone operate one. Guiding students to navigate through this entirely new experience for them is a journey for us too. Besides, teaching them something new each time, and broadening their horizons through access to the internet, the confidence in these kids has soared. This is what is most heartening.”
Internet Saathi, another off-shoot of the digital literacy initiative, which has transformed the lives of women through digital education, an initiative supported by Google, has been implemented in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The module includes an awareness module, coupled with hands-on training modules aimed at teaching women how to use the internet, including through mobile devices. Internet Saathi has impacted 1.2 mn women already.
Another important domain essential for the holistic development of a student are life skills. Though this umbrella topic includes a gamut of skills, some such as health, hygiene and sanitation; substance abuse, and road safety are important in today’s times.
Says Vikram Pawah, President, BMW Group India, who have partnered with IL&FS Education for their road safety CSR initiative: “Road safety is an important aspect of our Corporate Citizenship philosophy and we believe it is important to influence young minds and train them properly. Moreover, the dissemination of knowledge cannot be restricted to classrooms and has to be approached practically. Therefore, we find the simulation model critical in providing ‘hands-on’ experience to reinforce the learning and encourage long-term recall.” The program feedback has been very encouraging. Aditya Gupta, Special Educator, Kendriya Vidyalya No. 2, Delhi Cantt. shares his experience: “I used to explain road safety concepts to my students in conventional way. With the simulation model, introduced as part of the BMW road safety programme, students experience a ‘live drive’ and are encouraged to use all traffic rules like zebra crossings and to always STOP, LOOK, LISTEN, THINK and then ACT. The facilitators guide students during the simulation to identify and minimize hazards with children also observing rules enthusiastically themselves so as to set an example. For me, this was also a good example of inclusive learning, teaching and experiencing.”
Besides education, providing job-linked skills, upskilling, employability and employment are also sectors, where IETS has proven expertise. From project Swabalamban, implemented on behalf of Oil India Limited, aimed at improving income indicators in OIL’s catchment through job-linked skills-training to the unemployed youth, to upskilling of truck drivers on driving standards, fatigue management, basic health and hygiene financial savings, and cashless transactions, the implementation scope is very varied, implemented on behalf of Castro, the scope has been varied.
“The effective implementation of a CSR project is not only important for the goodwill of a company, but for the implementation of the very essence of a CSR initiative, which is to benefit the section of society it is meant to benefit; this is vital, and for this, cost-effective, out-of-the-box, and effective implementation is essential,” adds Mr. Reddy.