Dr. Jasmine Sofia Gogia - Head: CSR & Sustainability, Suzlon Group
Your views on CSR and Sustainability
I believe that sustainability can be ensured only if all resources –financial, natural, social, human and physical are continually and responsibly enhanced for the benefit of business. Offsetting the impact of business on these resources, specially the resources in the business immediate neighbourhood is the responsibility of the company. I believe that business and its environment are inter-dependent, and that focus should be on strengthening the organic link between them. A higher degree of sustainability can be achieved in business by balancing growth in all aspects of development – financial, natural, social, human and physical. I believe that CSR must demonstrate the integration of sustainability concept in practice. This is exactly the way my organization Suzlon Energy Limited interprets it as well. I also believe sustainability is closely linked to the concept of spirituality which is all about the interconnectedness between everyone and everything. Both concepts are linked also because things go wrong in the spirit and the planet when we have an imbalance between our needs and our limitless desires.
Activities carried on by you on this front
I believe that sustainability and CSR is a way of life and one must practice what you preach in this realm. I have tried in my everyday life to inculcate some behaviours that contribute to a better world. I use group transport to work; switch off lights at office , home and anywhere I see them on; avoid using paper; always carry a cloth bag to shops; consume local raw foods ; celebrate my birthday with underprivileged groups; donate for the underprivileged a fixed sum every year. My personal target for this year is to recycle all my home waste and to neutralize my carbon and water footprint and I am exploring ways to do the same. I try my best to spread the word around and encourage my family members, friends and colleagues to practice CSR and sustainability. I look for creative ways in which people can contribute to a sustainable future so that it is joyful rather than a boring process. Being a medical doctor and having done my MD is public health I am fortunate that my work is my passion in life. My dream is to make all the neighborhood villages self sufficient and self sustaining. My dream is to make the Suzlon value chain most sustainable in the world setting a worthy benchmarks.
Activities carried on by your firm on this front.
- My company Suzlon Energy Limited carries out three types of programs with various stakeholders.
A. Transformative programs -essentially for ensuring that there is least negative impact and optimal positive impact of the business on its surrounding.
- Continual improvements in business practices and procedures within the value chain from sustainability perspective, so that there is minimal harm to the natural, social, human, physical and financial resources around it. Initiatives include policy formulations, improving practices around land acquisition, energy/waste management, health and human rights.
- Employee Involvement for creating awareness among the employees about sustainability issues, changing their attitude and behaviors towards sustainable development. Initiatives include observance of national, international days and volunteering time, skill and funds for socially meaningful activities.
B. Responsive programs –for offsetting (even potentially) negative impacts and optimizing the positive impacts of business on its surroundings. Though outlined separately here, they are weaved together, depending upon the need in the area.
- Environment initiatives through plantation, water shed development, access to government schemes for improving, rejuvenating and conserving the natural resources.
- Livelihood initiatives for enhancing livelihoods of disadvantaged communities, through projects for encouraging self-help, capacity building, livestock development services and micro credit support.
- Education initiatives for improving literacy, quality of primary education, vocational and life skill training, as we believe that education is the key to growth.
- Health initiatives through access to primary treatment, health awareness and commodities for holistic health, not merely absence of diseases but ensuing physical, social, psychological and spiritual well being.
- Civic Amenities initiatives for improving availability and access to amenities and services that are essential for any community to realize its potential; such as sanitation, electricity, housing, transportation, insurance and public distribution systems.
C. Proactive programs- for contributing towards addressing global development issues and sustainability, by going beyond business boundaries.
- Proactive programs expand beyond business boundaries, positively contributing to Sustainable Development. The programs are in partnerships with various stakeholders in order to combat climate change/ global warming, natural disasters and promote peace and harmony.
Your views on Employees acting as volunteers
The benefits of employees acting as volunteers are manifold and are to the advantage of the business, the employee and the various stakeholders.
- International studies have unanimously shown that a comprehensive employee volunteering programs contributes significantly to team building, networking, and the breakdown of inhibitive barriers, building stakeholder relationships and encouraging inter-departmental cooperation. In sum, these attributes gained through employee volunteering build the foundations for a more productive, cooperative and confident working environment and a positive working ethic based on unity, pride and high morale, which together elevate the turnout of results. In addition to this, the development of key skills has been cited as a primary advantage of employee volunteering, as employees expand their skill set beyond their everyday tasks.
- The community element of employee volunteering enables employees to expand their perspectives and gain firsthand experience of the social accountability of their company. As one top researcher states “employees do not divide the moral compass of their company into one part for employees and another part for the community”; as such employee exposure to transparent, ethical and enriching treatment of the community leads to greater trust in the senior management concerning the treatment of employees and therefore to higher employee satisfaction and commitment.
- In my organization, throughout the year, employees are encouraged to volunteer their time, skill and to share their money or material. A mélange of employee involvement activities are available to suit the varied needs of the employees. It starts with small things like pledges, purchase of goods from dysprivileged, donation of materials for them, donating money for disaster relief or for underprivileged groups, volunteering for a cleanup drive/tree plantation/ blood donation/ rural community events/teaching children/ spreading the renewable energy message.
Why should students study CSR as a part of their syllabus (at an early age?)
- We all know that the mind is impressionable at an early age. As a child what is learnt about the beauty in nature, sharing, causing no harm, is soon tainted by negative forces that make one individualistic and selfish. Students are often disconnected with the interpersonal and environmental touch being on the go with gadgets and a secure fast urban environment. By being on the ground using look, feel and touch of the ground realities that exist and their impacts of individuals, society, countries and the planet. As a young student it is time to reinforce the reality of the interconnectedness of the various facets in life, namely the environment, society and the economy. The sooner the student comes to this realization the better equipped he/she is to work in tandem and maintain equilibrium in all pursuits, be it personal, professional, social and spiritual. The economy, the planet the people and its synergies then make perfect sense. He/she is able to see the intangible organic linkage between the natural, social, human, physical and the financial resources and strives to work towards an equitable distribution for a just world that is fair to all. CSR in the syllabus helps to understand sustainability and also to use the tools to steer the business towards sustainable development. I believe that the young, being the leaders of tomorrow, if armed with the CSR way of doing business, can actually change the world order.
- I feel that the future of CSR is full of hope as the convergence of organizations, stakeholders and other resources is happening. Individual social responsibility and corporate social responsibility will dovetail and make the planet a beautiful place. It is just a matter of time.