Humanising a brand through CSR initiatives enriches the brand equity
Monitoring and evaluation form the crux of the project implementation under CSR. Below are the excerpts from an interview with Srinivas Kadambi, Chief Manager-CSR Vicat i9n India, and M Sai Ramesh, Chief Manufacturing Officer at Vicat India.
How important is CSR for our economy and what impact does it have on your business?
Social development and economic development are interwoven with each other. The indices of social development are directly proportional to economic development. More than the classes, it is the masses that really nurture the business. The doctrine of social responsibility assumes that quality of life is as important as the quality of a product. It holds that consequences of business activity extend beyond the production of goods and services. Real business involvement is essential to turn around deprived neighbourhoods and build strong and healthy communities.
In the case of businesses especially which are into manufacturing, it is vital to have a strong community connection, as the community is one of the important stakeholders. For instance, in a scenario of cement production, land acquisition is a major activity for setting up the cement plant which is acquired from the local community. Thus, the community forms an integral part of the manufacturing business if manufacturing operations cease to exist.
CSR is an important function on the business radar to fulfill the organisational social obligations towards the community. It not only builds the economic fabric of the organisation but also helps in strengthening the economy of local communities around the manufacturing plant.
CSR also helps in building a positive image of the brand and hence gaining customer loyalty. Do you agree? Please explain.
Brand loyalty is all about emotional connect. Humanising a brand through CSR initiatives enriches the brand equity in the market. CSR reposes immense trust in the customers and thus contributes to the overall business development. The impact of corporate social responsibility initiatives of an organisation tremendously improves the competitiveness of the organisation in today’s aggressive market environment.
For instance, a manufacturing unit, which is highly conscious of the environmental issues engulfing the plant on account of its operations tends to project itself as a Green company and reposes confidence in the minds of several stakeholders. It could be water bodies’ protection, green belt development, combating air pollution, offsetting carbon emissions, rainwater harvesting to increase water table, farm ponds, etc., under CSR, which tends to build a stronger connection both with internal and external stakeholders.
Do you think a socially conscious image is important to remain in the competition today? What are business areas where CSR helps?
Apart from being ethical in business, it is highly essential to be socially conscious in today’s competitive world. Several stakeholders right from the investors through customers believe in the theory of corporate sustainability encompassing responsible behaviour towards investors, workforce, customers and society at large. Hence, a socially responsible organisation has a competitive edge over others in all spheres of business operations. For instance, from a manufacturing business perspective, CSR helps in the smooth conduct of operations in production and logistics. The social responsibility towards the community, by and large, ensures uninterrupted management of the manufacturing business.
What was your CSR spending for FY20? Could you brief us on what kind of CSR activities were done?
Our CSR spending for FY20 was Rs 7.38 crore for both the cement plants of Bharathi Cement, Kadapa Plant (Andhra Pradesh), and Kalburgi Cement, Kalaburagi Plant (Karnataka). Our CSR portfolio embarks upon infrastructure, healthcare, education, skill development, and contributions (like encouraging buddying sportspersons, disaster response, supporting Government health centres, etc.).
Some of our flagship projects include primary healthcare through telemedicine, standalone community dialysis unit for the poor, construction of individual sanitary latrines (ISL) for the needy under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, ISO certified Anganwadis, community waste management (SWM), providing safe drinking water through reverse osmosis plants in all the villages, child nutrition, nutritional supplementation for HIV/AIDS patients, etc.
What is your CSR budget for FY21?
Our CSR budget for FY21 is INR 7.51 Cr. Our reporting period is the calendar year – January to December for two cement plants.
Please tell us about various partnerships/committee associations, if any, you are involved in CSR projects?
All our CSR projects are being implemented by a posse of NGOs which are domain experts in the ambit of project management. We strategically align with these partner NGOs after thorough due diligence in terms of demography, work experience in other terrains, technical know-how, sustainability quotient, reporting methodologies, and lastly and more importantly impact measurement. We have also aligned with various Government agencies like Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), etc., for unveiling CSR initiatives in the adopted communities.
During pandemic what CSR activities did you carry out and how has it helped you in sustaining and remaining competitive?
Coronavirus has hit the nation hard and Bharathi Cement swung into action to aid fellow citizens in many ways. We have contributed Rs 5 crore to the Government of Andhra Pradesh, contributed hi-flow nasal oxygen equipment to South Central Railway Hospital, Secunderabad during the first wave (March 2020-June 2020) and during the second wave (April 2021-June 2021) we have set up a 20 KL oxygen plant at Government General Hospital, Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh worth Rs 60 lakh and donated oxygen concentrators for the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
What CSR framework or strategy do you have in place? What best practices do you follow to make it successful?
Bharathi cement has evolved a robust framework for CSR implementation much before the enactment of CSR laws in 2013 by the government. The ideology behind the CSR framework is to make the adopted villages as model villages in terms of infrastructure, healthcare, education, and empowerment. The framework entails bringing in a holistic social transformation of the communities living around the cement plants. A thorough need assessment is done in these villages before any project is unveiled. The best-ever NGOs are roped in to deliver these projects which have won many accolades nationally.
How important it is to evaluate and monitor CSR activities? How is it done?
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) are used to assess the performance of projects, with an objective to improve current and future management of outputs, outcomes, and impact. M&E forms the crux of the project implementation under CSR. Monitoring is checking progress against plans., evaluation is apprising data and information that influence strategic decisions, thus improving the project or programme in the future. The implementing partners (NGOs) are asked to submit quarterly reports depicting before and after impact studies which are reviewed by the management for corrective actions if any.
Please tell us about your future plans for CSR.
Our CSR trajectory embarks upon a sustainable and holistic social transformation encompassing core human development models. Our long-term goal is to forge ahead on the human development index by 2025. We envision an all-around development of the neighbourhood vicinity around the cement plant for long and healthy well-being, knowledgeable through the means of education and improved standard of living through our CSR interventions unveiled from time to time.