Social Sector, CSR and the Challenges
By Lakshmi Singh
Giving back to the society has turned integral to the core philosophy of some Indian companies in the form of Companies Social Responsibilities or CSR, wherein leading corporate houses are successfully implementing their programmes. However, as the companies strive to contribute towards bringing about a change in the social sector, the on ground challenges faced by the mare manifold.
About 400 million people in India live in poverty.Faced by dismal living conditions, a huge populace here suffers due to issues like malnutrition, sanitation/healthcare facilities, gender inequality, domestic violence to name a few. Looking at the vastness of the areas, the battle begins right from the identification of the focus area of intervention to getting the right partner, to the understanding of project development and implementation.
Identifying the right partner
While identifying the right partner to carry out the tasks is a challenge for many companies, there are corporate with communities around aviation sector who believe that their in-house teams are well-trained and sufficient to meet their targets full-fledged as transparency makes things easier.
“In line with our CSR philosophy, our company undertook several community development initiatives over the years in the field of water, sanitation, education and women empowerment. As the company’s focus is on the farming communities, we are dealing with sustainable agriculture too,” says Vijay Kumar Singh, CSR head, PI Industries.
“The CSR initiative is focused to enable these communities to enjoy the benefits of science led innovations in the form of ensuring economic growth which is socially and environmentally sustainable. In Raichur, Karnataka the training of farmers on water conservation in rice production through change in method of cultivation has been a huge success,” he adds.
Though we are running “successful programmes around the farming communities, we are faced with challenges in implementing effective CSR strategies”. This challenge comes in the form of identifying the right partner to carry out our programmes at the rural level.
As the corporate are fighting challenges in the form of identifying right partners and transparency, committed NGOs on the other hand face other challenges.
For Hope Foundation, an international organization that runs an orphanage, gaining access to appropriate donors is a major component. Usually infants are abandoned at their doorstep.
According to Jolly Geevarghese, Head, Asharan orphanage, “Many a times these children grow up to face a lot of health challenges as they were deprived of mother’s milk. As in our country, milk banks are a great necessity, we have to run from pillar to post to access mother’s milk each time there is an emergency.”
“Since we have limited resource mobilisation skills locally, so instead we wait for international donors to approach. Sadly, the whole process and paperwork itself is so cumbersome that many of the kids grew up with cerebral palsy to malnutrition ,”she adds.
“Current donors in India may shift priorities and withdraw funding. Thus our foundation suffers from financial stability. So just by having the will to save the abandoned children alone is not sufficient, there needs to be organizational stability and funds to run an orphanage,” he adds.
Breaking the taboos
While the major cloth chain fabindia was promoting handicrafts made by rural women, the women working for the company were illiterate and sending a girl child to school was a taboo with them. William Bissel, Managing Director and Co-founder of Fabindia Schools says, “our aim was to create livelihood for women from the rural areas by making them artisans. But soon we realised that these women were not educated nor there was school in the remote areas 0f Bali, Pali district, Rajasthan. So we began the Fabindia School. The greatest challenge we faced here was the women were reluctant to send their girl child to school. We had to visit them personally to make them understand how education could transform their lives.” Bissell’s idea was to create a prototype school, empowering girls of diverse backgrounds from the poor districts to shape their lives and transform them.
“Our implementing partner is Bhadrajun Artisans Trust, which manages the Fabindia School in Bali village. With nearly 45 per cent of students being girls, the school claims to provide high-quality education to the rural children from poor backgrounds,” Bissell shares.
Understanding of project development
According to AmodKanth, founder of Prayas, a senior police officer- turned-social activist, whose NGO shelters abused women, children and migrants living in tough conditions, “Understanding of Project Development still remains a challenge with corporate.”
“Giving shelter alone is not the solution for these kind of women and children. Creating livelihood through skill development can make them financially independent,” he says.
“The needs of these children are different as they don’t know the local language. Moreover, they are also subjected to harassment by their employer. There is definitely a lacuna in the law where there is no transparency in the living conditions of such women who are employed as maid servants through agencies,” says Kanth.
The NGOs, in a way, suffer from incompleteness in their projects.Though the companies believe that the project must definitely have distinct baselines, defined activities, monitorable targets and transparency, understanding of Project Development still remains a challenge on the corporate side. “Most of the times they believe in numbers,”adds Kanth.
More govt schemes can facilitate CSR
According to Rakesh Jinsi, President, Khushboo, the school for children with special needs, “One model may not suit all. In our case, we started with meager infrastructure. When we started our organization for these kids, our infrastructure was meager and we wanted space to accommodate these kids. It was only after a while that we could acquire land for setting up Khushboo through a government scheme under Haryana government.”
“The children who come to Khushboo are not the normal kids like in the other NGOs.We have adolescent kids for whom special learning interventions and therapeutic programmes are conducted. There is not much that the government has done in this area. The one and only thing that deserves appreciation is that the Indian Parliament passed its first update of the country’s corporate law the Companies Act 2013 which clearly says that the Act requires that companies set up a CSR board committee which made India the first country to mandate CSR.”
“Indian law requires companies to give 2% of profits to charity. Therefore, more corporate money is going to charities which has been helpful,” says Jinsi.
The government should come up with more schemes for these special children with special needs and also for the NGOs which works around them, adds Jinsi.