Suresh Muchipalli - Head: Human Resources, Bank Note Paper Mill India Pvt. Ltd (A RBI Company)

Your views on CSR and Sustainability
My views on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is that it is a highly misunderstood & misinterpreted term in India. Some Indian companies believe that merely complying with laws & regulations fulfils their need for social responsibility. A responsible corporate recognizes that its activities have wider impact on the society in which it operates. Therefore it takes account of the economic, social, environmental & human rights impact of its activities on all stakeholders. Although India is a favourable business destination for western investors. It is to be tremendously challenging for any business to remain competitive here in the long term. Unless poor people have equity in the growth of economy, India can never achieve the title of super or (I say magnetic) economy.

Here comes the critical role of corporations.Corporate social responsibility is one such niche area of corporate behaviour & governance that needs to get aggressively addressed & implemented tactfully in the organizations. At the same time CSR is one effective tool that synergizes the efforts of corporate & the social sector agencies towards sustainable growth & development of the societal objectives at large.
Here my view of emphasizing that how CSR has become the linchpin for development of any corporate organizations. Here I tried to bring out CSR initiatives taken by various organizations in India.
To understand the current state of Indian CSR, India’s long tradition must be taken into account. Its CSR approach is closely linked to its political and economic history, in which four phases can be distinguished:
During the first phase (1850-1914) CSR activities were mainly undertaken outside companies and included donations to temples and various social welfare causes.
The second phase (1914-1960) was largely influenced by Mahatma Ghandi’s theory of trusteeship, the aim of which was to consolidate and amplify social development. The reform programmes included activities geared particularly to abolishing untouchability, empowering women and developing rural areas.
The third phase (1960-1980) was dominated by the paradigm of the “mixed economy”. In this context, CSR largely took the form of the legal regulation of business activities and/or the promotion of publicsector undertakings (PSUs).
The fourth phase (1980 until the present) is characterized partly by traditional philanthropic engagement and partly by steps taken to integrate CSR into a sustainable business strategy.
Contrary to various expectations that India would follow the global agenda, its current approach still largely maintains its own features, elements of the global CSR mainstream being only marginally integrated. Specifically, the philanthropic approach is still widespread: while the Indian understanding of CSR shows a slight shift from traditional philanthropy to sustainable business, philanthropic CSR patterns are still apparent in many Indian companies. In addition, the imbalance between the internal and external CSR dimensions is still huge. The Indian CSR agenda continues to be dominated by community development activities, particularly in the areas of health and education. While most Indian companies view their community development projects as important contributions to the existing development challenges in their region of operation, many stakeholders are more critical of this approach. Where community development is concerned, Indian stakeholders’ criticism focuses on the following aspects:

  • a company’s community development approach based on the argument that it needs to “give something back to society” lacks transparency and specific standards;
  • community development approaches often amount to little more than window-dressing and must be compared to violations of social and environmental standards within companies;
  •  public authorities in local communities very often lack the required know-how and experience to negotiate business-driven commitment to community development;
  • Very few companies disclose their motivation and business interests when engaging in community development.


In India the CSR multi-stakeholder approach is still rather fragmented, and interaction between business and civil society organizations, especially trade unions, is still rare and takes place, at best, on an ad-hoc basis. Although many civil society organizations are active in India, the empirical findings did not show that these initiatives play a significant role in shaping the CSR agenda in India. Despite these general observations, there are numerous networks that could form a basis for an effective and powerful CSR multi-stakeholder approach in the future.

Activities carried on by you on CSR:

So far my two decades career my experience on CSR can be divided into fivefold rural development activities. The five key areas and our single-minded goal here is to help build model villages that can stand on their own feet. My focus areas are healthcare, education, sustainable livelihood, infrastructure and espousing social causes.

I. Education

  • Formal and non-formal education, adult education
  • Scholarships for girls, merit scholarships and technical education for boys
  • Distance education
  • Girl child education
  • Digital literacy / computer education

II. Health care and family welfare

  • Pulse polio programme
  • Health care centres and hospitals
  • Mobile clinics — doctors’ visits
  • General and multispecialty medical camps, cleft lips
  • Reproductive and child health care, supplementary nutrition / mid-day meal projects
  • Safe drinking water, sanitation — household toilets, community hospitals
  • HIV / AIDS, cancer, TB awareness and prevention camps
  • Blood donation
  • Responsible parenting

III. Social causes

  • Widow re-marriage / dowry-less mass marriages
  • Social security (insurance)
  • Culture and sports
  • Women empowerment

IV. Infrastructure development

  • Community centres
  • Schools in villages
  • Roads
  • Homes for the homeless
  • Rural electrification
  • Irrigation and water storage structures
  • Religious Buildings

V. Sustainable livelihood

  • Self-help groups (microfinance for women and farmers)
  • Integrated agriculture development
  • Integrated livestock development
  • Watershed management
  • Microenterprise development
  • Skill development / vocational training through Aditya Birla Technology Park for integrated training programme and VT centres at most of our plants in collaboration with ITIs

Activities carried on by your firm on this front:

While with ABG: At Aditya Birla Group we implemented the following initiatives:

  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Girl Child
  • Sustainable Development
  • Women Empowerment
  • Espousing Social Causes

With ACC:
ACC Limited is India’s foremost cement manufacturer with a countrywide network of factories and marketing offices. Established in 1936, it has been a pioneer and trend-setter in cement and concrete technology. Among the first companies in India to include commitment to environment protection as a corporate objective, ACC continues to be recognized for environment friendly measures taken at its plants and mines. Its commitment to sustainable development, its fairness in business dealings and the considerable on-going efforts in community welfare have won the company acclaim as a responsible corporate citizen.
Together for Communities
At ACC CSR initiatives focus on holistic development of host communities and create social, environmental, and economic value to the society. ACC’s CSR initiatives are delivered by its CSR team under guidance of Plant Directors, Business Heads and CEO. Each plant has a CSR Coordinator who is a nodal point of contact for community dialogue. A formal Community Advisory Panel (CAP) is constituted at each plant location, consisting of relevant local stakeholders and opinion leaders such as panchayat representatives, villagers, district officials and union representatives. Periodic needs assessments surveys and regular dialogue with community through CAP help identifying community’s development needs. The priorities are discussed with the community to formulate a Community Development Plan comprising of projects, schemes and action plan. The projects are implemented in collaboration with likeminded organizations like governments, voluntary organizations and development banks. Community participates in a formal community engagement event, an integral part of ACC’s CSR activity, conducted at each plant location every year. Community offers its feedback on progress and outcomes of the projects conducted during the year. This helps in making the CSR initiatives more Appropriate to community needs and enhance the sustainability. Following are the programmes:

  • Literacy and Education for the community
  • Livelihood, Employability and Income Generation
  • Health and Sanitation Programmes
  • Equality and Women Empowerment
  • Community Environment Projects
  • Building Community Infrastructure
  • Other Development Areas

With Jindal Aluminium Limited:
The Sitaram Jindal Foundation (SJF), formerly known as SJ Jindal Trust, established in 1969 is a charitable organization with the humanitarian objective of serving the poor and downtrodden in various fields. True to the inspiring ideals and values of its Founder Dr. Sitaram Jindal, the Foundation and its associated trusts has been promoting and providing basic needs for the people across various sections of the society in different fields including education, healthcare and rural development without discrimination of caste and creed. The foundation has setup several schools, colleges, hospitals and constructed many pathshalas (rural schools) other than initiating and running many welfare schemes and vocational courses for the benefit of the poor and deprived. Besides awarding scholarships to more than 10,000 students each year, the foundation has been extending financial support to more than 500 charitable institutions annually to sustain their activities for over 42 years now. While spending money on charitable activities, it is ensured that not a single paisa is wasted, proper verification and cross checks are made before and after giving scholarships, donations etc. to ensure that financial assistance given is properly utilized.
The foundation is an independent entity and has no political, religious or commercial affiliation. It serves humanity irrespective of caste, creed, colour or religion. It does not take any financial help from government or other agencies.
The Foundation and its associate trusts/societies carry on the following charitable activities in various fields:
1. Health Care:
Jindal Naturecure Institute (formerly INYS), Bangalore
Manav Charitable Hospital, Bangalore
Jindal Charitable Hospital, Rajaji Nagar, Bangalore
Manav Seva Polyclinic, Delhi
Health Education Centre
INYS MRS (Medical Research and Development)
Sushruta Trauma Centre, Delhi. The foundation donated this huge hospital at Civil Lines, Delhi to the Govt. of NCR Delhi.
Mobile Dispensaries for Rural Areas, Bangalore.
2. Education:
Jindal Public School, Bangalore
Sawan Public School (residential), New Delhi.
Jindal Pre-University College, Bangalore.
Jindal Degree College for Women, Bangalore
P.G. College for Naturopathy and Yoga, Bangalore
Scholarships to more 10,000 students round the year.
Gold Medals at Universities and Colleges
Books donated under Book Bank Scheme to numerous Colleges.
3. Rural & Social Development:
Constructed Six Institutions (Degree Colleges and ITI’s) at Village Nalwa, Haryana and donated to Government.
Mahila Arts and Crafts Charitable Institute, Bangalore.
Adoption and completion of over 100 villages in Karnataka.
Rs 100 crore donation to Bangalore University to establish School of Economics.
Donations given to about 500 charitable organizations round the year.
With Maruti Suzuki:
As a part of its CSR initiatives, Maruti Suzuki has taken significant steps in the areas of road safety, skill development, and community development and employee engagement programs.
True to being a pioneer in the Indian automobile sector, Maruti Suzuki was the first company to promote safe driving and training in the country. Maruti Suzuki envisions road safety in its flagship Corporate Social Responsibility arena. MSIL collaborated with Delhi government in 2000 to set up the Institute of Driving and Traffic Research (IDTR) at Loni in North East Delhi. Since this first venture in 2000, the company has successfully extended this PPP model to other states. The company has worked out a detailed course content and curriculum for driving training based on successful international models from Europe and Singapore. This facility is today considered one of the ‘model institutes’ in promoting road safety in the country.
Inspired by the success of IDTR Loni, the company established another one in South Delhi. It has trained over 700,000 people in safe driving through them, out of which 100,000 underprivileged people have been trained free of cost. Presently IDTR initiatives are operational at 6 locations in 4 states – Delhi (2 institutes), Haryana (2 Institutes), Gujarat and Uttarakhand. In recent years, many more state governments have requested Maruti Suzuki to establish similar IDTRs in their states.

In partnership with its dealers, Maruti Suzuki has created Maruti Driving Schools in urban neighbourhoods to enable middle class families to learn car driving. At the MDSs, Maruti Suzuki has created a sustainable business model to impart high quality driving training at the doorstep, made possible by localized simulators, professional management and monitoring. To widen the impact of MDS, MSIL also sponsors training of underprivileged youth who aspire to be drivers.One of the most recent examples of expanding its PPP model, Maruti Suzuki set up Road Safety Knowledge Centers (RSKC) in partnership with the local police in Haryana at Gurgaon, Karnal, Faridabad and Sonepat. This was to enhance awareness on Road Safety for daily commuters, especially the traffic offenders. RSKC is a first step to improve city driving habits and enhance awareness on road safety. At RSKC, Maruti Suzuki has set up a special facility that offers a “one day refresher training” to traffic violators.
In the technical education/skill development area, MSIL has adopted 10 state-run ITIs (one each at Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, two at Goa, and four at Haryana.) with an intent to transform them into the Centers of Excellence. The company plans to increase the total number of ITIs to 50 by 2015. An industry leader like Maruti Suzuki brings with it technical know-how, expertise and helps establish a connect between contemporary industry practices and the institution.

It is this critical input which makes contribution of an industry valuable and helps such PPP models to excel. It includes, improving infrastructure of the facility by putting a detailed Institute Development Plan. Its initiative also includes suggestions on upgrading curriculum, upgrading teaching infrastructure, introducing special life skills in the curriculum, facilitating Industry exposure to students through factory visits etc. In addition, ITI teacher training is another important facet of this programme. The company shares the industry best practices with these institutions. In addition the company also works with 38 other ITIs across the country where the focus is on upgrading the training in the ‘automobile trade’ specifically. This has direct relevance to the company’s service network needs for trained manpower. The company is also involved in community development services around the Manesar unit and has taken responsibility for four villages in Manesar. One of the many initiatives the company has undertaken is complete infrastructure upgradation of primary and middle schools in these villages.
MSIL is also setting new benchmarks for volunteering efforts by its employees and expects to be able to enlist their families and friends as well. Called e-Parivartan, the ‘e’ standing for employee, Maruti Suzuki’s volunteer programme, and part of its larger corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, was launched last year to create a platform that would enable Maruti employees to engage in social and community work. Two hundred employees have already registered with the initiative. The e-Parivartan programme identified NGOs across the national capital region where Maruti Suzuki employees could go and volunteer on Sunday mornings. The programme offers a bouquet of volunteering options – mentoring, teaching, community development, raising environmental awareness and organising health camps. Since its launch in November last year, the programme has enabled Maruti Suzuki employees to put in over 3,200 hours of active volunteering.
Your views on Students / Employees acting as volunteers
A wide institutional community of student representatives plays major role and also they get the opportunity to develop leadership skills while working on college initiatives and participating in college governance. When students actually involves in CSR initiatives, they will get to know the reality of social life and also can understand and estimate the real challenges people face in the actual environment that will be beneficial for them when they take the actual positions in life. Students have the opportunity to:

  • Discuss important issues of society
  • Collaborate and network with fellow students, faculty, and staff across the college
  • Recommend improvements to CSR programs, policies, and services
  • Develop leadership skills
  • Plan engaging college wide and academic centre activities
  • Serve on various state-wide committees and councils including their College Council etc

Why should students study CSR
Students should study CSR for practical approach on society and learn to make how society successful with small support of social initiatives. Evaluations of well-conceived programs designed to foster early development demonstrate that students who participate in these programs tend to be more successful in later part of their life, are more competent socially and emotionally, and show better verbal, intellectual and physical development during early student hood than students who are not enrolled in high quality CSR programs. Benefits of CSR interventions can be found in the following areas:

  • Higher intelligence scores
  • Higher and timelier school enrolment
  • Less grade repetition and lower dropout rates
  • Higher school completion rates
  • Improved nutrition and health status
  • Improved social and emotional behaviour
  • Improved parent-child relationship
  • Increased earning potential and economic self-sufficiency as an adult.

These are the some of my experiences while working with various organisations in India. Views expressed are personal and not necessarily represent official views of the company.