By: Navpreet Kaur, Director, HCL Samuday and Officer on Special Duty, Chairman’s Office
In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 ambitious goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which aim to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030. These are audacious goals and India has played a significant role in shaping them. Therefore, it is no surprise that the country’s national development goals are mirrored in the SDGs.
The need to switch to more sustainable development paths is becoming more urgent with every passing day. The SDGs will need strong ownership, robust implementation plans, and enough financing. This is why the private sector is such a central partner as we shape the post-2015 development agenda. The government has the infrastructure and reach, while the private sector can provide dedicated expertise and commitment, in terms of time and financial. It is not only funds that are important, but the way in which we use our inherent expertise and the human resources to innovate and spend in the areas where there is maximum incremental impact is also important. Most policymakers and economists agree that private sector investment is key for sustainable growth.
Private sector participation in corporate social responsibility is not a new concept in India. But since CSR has become mandatory, companies have embraced social causes with a fervour. They now apply the same rigour to causes as diverse as hunger, poverty, healthcare, education, environmental sustainability, and rural development, as they bring to their business. Companies have dedicated departments for social development activities, and many are taking initiatives for developing infrastructure in rural areas. In fiscal year 2017 (FY17), an actual spend of Rs 6,810 crore was recorded for the 92 companies whose annual reports were studied to collect the data by Goodera (previously NextGen), a CSR and sustainability management platform. The CSR spend on the rural development sector has considerably increased from INR 443 Cr. (8.84 per cent) in 2014-15 to INR 804 Cr (12.34 per cent) in 2015-16. What this shows is that companies are moving beyond compliance to focus on creating long-term impact for beneficiaries of their CSR projects. Entities like Reliance, Tatas, HDFC etc. are not just scaling up their social activities in terms of spending but are aiming to forge enduring partnerships to bring about lasting change. They are among the top spenders on CSR activities.
Another big spender is HCL Technologies which, through the HCL Foundation whose stated core beliefs is “touching lives”, has committed itself to creating long-term impact in the rural communities it has chosen to serve. HCL Foundation’s Samuday project is one such unique effort towards holistic community development. The company has collaborated with the Uttar Pradesh government, NGOs, knowledge institutions and allied partners to create model villages. The work done focuses on improving and impacting sectors such as agriculture, education, health, infrastructure and livelihood, and thus entire village communities.
With a strong focus on rural upliftment and empowerment, working closely with the state government’s support, this flagship programme has been able to change the CSR landscape, by ensuring growth and development at the grass root level. The project covers 164 gram panchayats, consisting of over 90,000 households and touching the lives of around 6 lakh people in 765 villages in three blocks of Hardoi district in Uttar Pradesh. In a little less than three years, Samuday has set up ICT-based classrooms in over 200 schools, benefitting more than 10,000 children of class 1 & 2. It has enrolled 4,000 women under the adult literacy programme. Samuday has also engaged 10,000 farmers under various interventions and facilitated construction of 25,000 toilets, which are currently under usage. In addition, 49 mini solar grids are being set-up across 63 villages.
From responsive activities to sustainable initiatives, corporate are clearly exhibiting their ability to make a significant difference in the society and improve the overall quality of life. In the current social situation in India, it is difficult for one single entity to bring about change, as the scale is enormous. Corporates have the expertise, strategic thinking, manpower and money to facilitate extensive social change. Effective partnerships between corporate, NGOs and the government will place India’s social development on a faster track. After all, economic growth and sustainable development are not zero-sum games. They are both prerequisites of the future we want, mutually reinforcing, and neither can succeed in the absence of the other.