Image: Mukesh Gupta / Reuters
As IT companies across the country vouch for sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) to create a socially inclusive and equitable India, education forms a major chunk of their CSR spends.
As per a study conducted by Nasscom Foundation, about 80 percent of the IT companies in the country made multifaceted efforts focusing on pedagogy, infrastructure aid, training of teachers, supplementing teaching staff and building school essentials. After all, education is the basic tool for economic development.
Here are some numbers from the global market: According to a 2015 UNESCO report, as many as 250 million children cannot read and write despite being in school, while some 130 million cannot read and write even after spending more than four years in school. Further, about 774 million adults, two-thirds of which are women, cannot read and write. India has the largest number of illiterate adults in the world and with about 40 percent of the population under the age of 18, the figures of illiteracy were alarming.
Apart from education, the other sectors that are evincing interesting for CSR initiatives include health care, agriculture and environment.
“CSR is not PR,” says Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO at MyGov, the government’s innovative citizen engagement platform, at the CSR Leadership Conference organised by Nasscom supported by Forbes India and CNBC TV
18 in Delhi. One of the common mistakes that companies make is to undertake certain activities for mileage, even if those are far off from their areas of expertise.
“CSR has to be a part of one’s business. At Intel, for the annual bonus that we get, one of the goals is linked to CSR initiatives that we undertake. This is in addition to the usual business goals,” says Debjani Ghosh, managing director, South Asia, Intel Corporation. “It’s also a part of our culture. From hiring to our code of conduct values, CSR is extremely important and we encourage volunteering,” she adds. The IT giant invests a significant portion in education.
So how important is leadership in CSR?
“A leader needs to be honest and motivate people towards CSR. You can’t be talking about CSR and looking at the balance sheet,” says Harsh Vinayak, senior vice president, NTT DATA, adding “It’s all about doing good. We do good because we want to do good. It’s not about the position you are in.”
Both charity and philanthropy are the main drivers of CSR and volunteering is no longer seen as a one-time activity like tree planting or painting a school. In fact, it is increasingly taking centre stage in CSR as more and more IT companies invite people participation in driving the social change.