Bibek Chattopadhyay - Head : Corporate Communications , Ambuja Cement Limited, India (Mumbai)

Your views on CSR and Sustainability

We are moving on the 2nd decade of the 21st century, Businesses are not only expected to manage their own response to sustainability challenges but also to help society deal with the wider issue. The mind-set of the business houses in India has changed significantly since last decade. Today, most of them are seriously believing that if they would like to maintain their journey successfully for the longer period of time, an appropriate plan for Sustainable Development is must.
Personally I think Sustainability initiative is a bigger umbrella wherein Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the key component. CSR must be done as a proactive basis as socially responsibly businessman and not as reactive way as a compensation because you have set up the industry in the locality.
In this context I think the regulation of government of India for mandatory spending in CSR by corporate sector has also helped significantly. Many companies are now started spending because of the regulation either through their own foundation or donating to the NGO.

Activities carried on by your Institute on this front
Ambuja Cement is always a proactive player in CSR and Sustainability front. Ambuja Cement Foundation is the Corporate Social Responsibility wing of Ambuja Cements Ltd. that works with the rural communities surrounding Ambuja’s manufacturing sites. The Foundation is engaged in a variety of people-centric, integrated rural development projects.
Since inception, the Foundation has expanded its reach and diversified its programmes to include as many members of its stakeholder group as possible.Presently the Foundation has made its presence felt in twelve states across the country and is engaged in programmes like Natural Resource Management, Agro based and skill based livelihoods and improvement of health status, educational support and economic enhancement

Our areas of focus cover issues that affect our locations and are often common to other rural areas too. Prior to the identification of these areas, we undertake Participatory Rural Appraisals and close interaction with the people.
Water Resource Management
One of the major issues facing rural India is access to quality water for cultivation, rearing of animals as well as drinking and household activities. The water available is frequently of poor quality, leading to health problems. Poor management of water also means that this restricted supply gets wasted impacting lives of rural communities.
Skill & Entrepreneurship Development Institute (SEDI)
• SEDI is a functional structure to promote productive employment and micro-enterprise. SEDI offers short, intensive courses in various trades that aim to achieve sustainable livelihood by strengthening youth’s technical and functional skills. Now if people wants to know the objective of SEDI , then To bridge the gap of skills required in an economy by enabling an access to skill training opportunities
• To encourage the entrepreneurial spirit among the local youth by way of hand holding & facilitating in setting up of an enterprise
• To promote holistic growth of the participants with life skills to support improved quality of life.
Women’s Empowerment
Women’s empowerment is crucial to sustain various community development programmes. It is a proven fact that attitudinal changes on the part of women have an impact on the attitudes of their families and communities. Several women have emerged as role models for others, when they have taken lead as “sakhis” in our comprehensive health care programme. ACF supported women’s self-help groups serve as platforms for women to launch themselves as entrepreneurs. These groups have supported vegetable and fish farmers transform their work into profitable livelihood options.
ACF supports over 870 self-help groups across locations, with cumulative corpus of over Rs.400 million approximately. Today, these groups have gone beyond their simple monthly savings, and built linkages with banks providing technical support to start their own entrepreneurship leading to sustainable livelihoods. These enterprises include dairy development, nurseries, mushroom cultivation, handicrafts, tailoring and food processing. Women have also enrolled themselves in various skill based training programmes like nursing aides, computer hardware and software, and beautician courses offered through various ACF run Skill and Entrepreneurship Development Institutes (SEDIs). These women, full of vigour with newly developed confidence and increased exposure, are now ready to take on every challenge in life.

Your views on Students / Employees acting as volunteers
Here I am little old school believer, I still firmly believe that students are future of the nation, and sooner you connect them with the concept of such responsibility is better for all . They should also understand the detailed meaning sustainability & involve in the process of Sustainable Development of the Society. I am not saying that today, they are not, but they should be also encouraged more & more on volunteerism. The teacher should take more active role in the process by encouraging them on it. I think someone in our education system must think it seriously and make it our part of our co-curricular activities if not mandatory for all. Interested student must be appreciated either by the Board examiner or by the education institutes for their enthusiasm & contribution as volunteer.
Volunteerism somehow not very much popular in India and we should take initiative collectively to popularise it.

How do you differentiate Ambuja Cement `s Sustainability effort in this context?
Well, Ambuja Cement has adopted an unique methodology to measure their success in Sustainability is called True Value. I think so far we are only organisation in the country has adopted such methodology in association with KPMG. True Valueprovides key insights into understanding and measuring Ambuja’s business performance, and highlightedthe many positive environmental practices such as the use of rain water harvesting, alternative raw materials andrenewable energy, as well as social value created through economic value added and through the company’s CSRinitiatives.
The results also called attention to the areas necessary to focus resources on improving and minimisingfuture risk; such as on reducing negative environmental and social impact of water extraction, gaseous emissions andon human health.As next steps, the team will engage with stakeholders in the creation and recognition of True Value, communicate the key results of their study externally, and work with support and promote the development of common methodology for calculating Social and Environmental Profit and Loss. Mind it, this is a not one time initiative of us. Every year Ambuja Cement team will announce their True Value score card to the public at large.