In India, the automobile sector has been involved in extensive corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. Considering that their vehicles and ancillary manufacturing units are impacting the general public, companies like Hyundai Motors and Tata Motors have set aside large resources for CSR activities.
Puneet Anand, Senior General Manager, Corporate Affairs Unit, Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMI), told BE, “The government is encouraging corporates and organisations to partner with them on community and infrastructure development through CSR initiatives, towards growth of the country. With the alarming rate of road accidents in India, global warming, need for indigenous technologies for self-sufficiency, waste management, water management etc., the government has recently included new subjects and expanded the scope of existing subjects in its CSR policy. For example, in the recent budget, there is a strong focus on incentivising water-based projects - cleaning, maintaining and conservation of water resources. This is a welcome move as it addresses issues of health and sanitation at source, thereby bringing down overall health care costs.” At Hyundai, road safety, water conservation, skill development and protection of the environment are some of the focus areas. Anand added, “We are happy that the government is incentivising corporates to develop these areas.”
Skill development, education, sanitation and environment are areas where most corporates are involved in a big way. Anand stated, “At HMI, apart from these areas, we are also focussing on road safety, enhancement of employability, employment and community development by starting income generation programmes through self-help groups for women and for the youth. Our Dream Village projects have transformed lives of the under privileged in the Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu. These villages have now been recognised by government bodies as model villages and being showcased to outsiders. The social enterprises run by Self Help Group (SHG) for women at Vallakottai village which we transformed is now a part of the training programme for IAS officers. The two schools we renovated in Surkrali, Haryana have become model schools. Our road safety programmes have also raised awareness amongst children. In 800 schools in Chennai we conducted a safety quiz programme which has been included in their curriculum, informally. Many schools have started teaching the subject actively; others are encouraging children to discuss this during their morning assembly etc. In the coming decade we would like to expand to other geographies in India and deepen our engagement with several communities.”
At Tata Motors Ltd. (TML), they are continuing with their CSR deployment in line with their planned strategy since 2014. According to Vinod Kulkarni, Head CSR, Tata Motors Ltd, “Collaborations are an evolving trend in CSR and Tata Motors is ahead of the curve in this aspect. Our underlying philosophy of CSR deployment is ‘More from Less for More (MLM)’. We strive to reach out to more beneficiaries with more effectiveness and with less resource deployment. Partnership is the bedrock of our CSR deployment. Tata Motors has effectively deployed projects in partnership with the government. Also we will continue to focus on our life cycle approach by meaningful interventions in addressing malnutrition, supporting students to continue education and imparting skills to young people. Our effort will be to exit mature projects by successfully transferring the onus to key stakeholders without reduction in effectiveness. We will broad base our interventions in the public system like education, health, etc. to scale up and optimise effectiveness of available resources. TML will work towards further strengthening its ‘Affirmative Action & Diversity’ agenda in the years to come.”
CSR can play an important role in improving social infrastructure and creating employment opportunities. CSR can be a facilitator in areas where the formal sector finds it difficult to step in. According to Anand, “Corporates have a wide canvas to choose in causes they strongly believe in. These causes can either be aligned or be diametrically different from the industries that they are present in. So in case of skill development, corporates know exactly what skills are needed and provide expertise in that area. It helps in expanding the employability pool. On the other hand, they may choose an area, which has no link to their business, but allows them to contribute for the benefit of society. Either ways, it helps to service the need of society and reduce the gap between the haves and the have nots - making it a win-win proposition for all stakeholders.”
Vinod Kulkarni also feels that CSR programmes can play a major role in strengthening local self-governance systems/institutions to enable citizens to proactively play a pivotal role to access services for them. Enabling young people to explore livelihood opportunities through employment and entrepreneurship is surely an area where CSR can play a vital role.
He stated, “Guided by the philosophy of inclusive community development, meaningful social engagement has always been at the heart of the CSR efforts of Tata Motors. As an integral part of our commitment to ‘Good Corporate Citizenship’, we believe in actively assisting in the improvement of the quality of life of the people in the communities, giving preference to local areas around our business operations. Tata Motors has influenced the lives of over seven lakh people, out of which 40% of the total beneficiaries belong to the SC
and ST communities.”
At TML, it is a well-balanced mix of direct corporate involvement and deployment through its company-promoted society and specialised NGOs. Whereas at HMIL, while some projects are handled directly and the rest through NGOs or agencies, the CSR teams are completely involved as they are responsible for the CSR programmes. According to Anand, “CSR activities require technical expertise as well as large man-power to work on the ground. It is impossible for a single organisation to have such diverse expertise. Hence, specialists are required, who not only give the desired shape to the projects but also help in monitoring the progress and ensuring defined outcomes. Therefore involving multiple experts allows organisations to carry out impactful CSR programmes.”
HMIL’s CSR vision is ‘Progress for Humanity’ which aims to create value in the society. Anand added, “Towards this, we are expanding our CSR initiatives in various Indian geographies, enabling us to interact with different demographics and helping them experience our brand. Without such a platform only our customers would experience our brand; this way we can touch many more lives.”
Kulkarni added, “It is important to note that for Tata Motors, as a responsible corporate, business and community are interrelated as business cannot flourish if the community doesn’t thrive. Business and community go hand in hand. There can be no profits or company growth if the community isn’t growing. It is in the interest of companies to ensure that there is prosperity in the community and it is as affluent as it can be.”