CSR gets innovative with street plays for truck drivers, stock exchange bells for women
New Delhi: Sensitising truck drivers against drunken driving, telling farmers to reduce use of pesticides, ringing the stock exchange bells to promote gender equality –companies are going from roads to farms to trading floors to meet their CSR commitments.
India is among the few countries to have a law requiring a large number of companies to mandatorily spend a portion of their profits on CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities.
The law is just about four years old and even some large corporates are not able to meet the mandated 2 per cent of profit towards CSR spending, but the trend is catching up fast and several companies have come up with innovative ideas to meet these goals.
This has also opened up opportunities for some startups who are seeking to attract CSR funds for various social causes.
Saira Aslam, a journalist-turned-entrepreneur and founder of 'D For Darzi', for example feels the traditional tailoring sector is one of the largely untouched areas so far and needs the much-needed boost of the CSR funds.
Among major corporates, global retail giant Walmart's Sustainable Trade Initiative supports cotton producers in India in adopting better cotton production principles by reducing use of water in cotton production, reducing use and impact of pesticides, improving soil health and biodiversity and promoting fair wages.
So far, the program has trained 60,000 farmers, including 4,922 women, while the Walmart Foundation provided a grant of USD 650,000.
According to Walmart India, its other CSR initiatives include Agribusiness Systems International Sunhara Prayas Project, which focused on empowering women with a grant of USD 1 million from the Walmart Foundation.
Besides, its TechnoServe project empowered farmers by upgrading farming practices and developing the local logistics connecting farmers to the formal retail sector, among various other initiatives.
Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt Ltd, on the other hand, recently celebrated the National Safety Week 2018 with more than 350 truck drivers. Besides sensitising them about safe driving, the campaign also informed the truck drivers about ill-effects of drunken driving while two 'nukkad nataks' (street plays) were organised for them.
Last month, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India also started an exclusive initiative for female riders where more than 10,000 women across 12 cities in India took the 'HelmetOnLifeOn' pledge.
The International Women's Day last month also saw the World Bank Group's IFC (International Finance Corporation) together with leading stock exchange BSE organising an event titled 'Ring the Bell for Gender Equality'. The campaign called upon businesses everywhere to advance women empowerment and gender equality.
Aslam's venture seeks to cater to the poor tailoring community across the Indian subcontinent and will soon launch its e-commerce platform to make custom tailoring affordable and easy to order.
Aslam said people spend big amounts for buying a designer sari or suit, but the profit might not be passed on to the weaver or tailor who worked extremely hard on it.
Besides, tailors in big cities get much more than those in smaller cities, while those in export houses or manufacturing hubs end up working very long hours and under inhospitable conditions. "We at D For Darzi want to link CSR activities of firms to uplift the poor tailoring community of the Indian subcontinent by identifying and partnering with them through local NGOs.
"We want to revolutionise the CSR architecture by passing on regular jobs to these tailors and also ensuring a minimum profit percentage," she said.
D For Darzi also plans to conduct training for tailors to better understand custom tailoring and popularise it over factory-style stitching.
"This would also make custom tailoring affordable for the public and ensure a win-win situation for all. We look forward to collaborate with firms for such CSR activities and campaigns.