Being human, most of us feel moved by the plight of the underprivileged and want to do something to help them. Most big organizations have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs in place to help us do just that, but how many of us actually participate? In an interview with Mahevash Muses, CSR Consultant Aditya Dhuri talks about the power of CSR, how we can become more socially responsible, and much more.
Who or what motivated you towards a career in corporate social responsibility?
It started back in 2013 when I was pursuing my MBA in Human Resources at the Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies (SIMS). I was fortunate to be a member of SIMS’ ‘Contribution To Society’ team. Our team assisted an NGO to plan and execute their annual overnight camp for about 400 children. After successfully concluding the event, we observed that there is a huge gap between the potential and actual performance of NGOs.
We then realized that after the IT sector, the social sector is where change and development will come next. And with the CSR part of the Companies Act 2013, there will be legal compliance attached to it. In April 2014, I closed my Food and Beverage Business and along with Garima Sangwan, Ishan Patra and Karan Kothari founded TMB Consultancy Products & Services. With a vision to create more efficient and effective social change organizations, we started our work with three corporates and one partner NGO.
As a CSR consultant, you have surely seen the best and worst of human behavior. Tell us about an incident that touched you and about an incident that disgusted you.
In my opinion, human beings and their behaviors are a factor of their environment, their upbringing and the circumstances they are in. When one starts looking at what is happening in society from a cause-effect perspective, nothing is surprising.
The most memorable moment for me was when a child (who was part of the Computer literacy Program I had designed) secured admission for a diploma in Computer engineering. On the other hand, the most painful experience was when we were trying to help a girl who was being sexually abused by her father. It was a difficult situation as once the father was imprisoned, it would leave the family with no source of income and sustenance would be a major concern.
Convinced that CSR programs are little more than scams, some people do not participate in their company’s CSR activities. How can such suspicions be put to rest?
CSR programs are not scams, they do make a meaningful contribution to society. However, they have a frail perception because of the following reasons:
i) Leadership (including supervisors) does not believe that the company is genuinely contributing to social responsibility.
ii) Company does not have a strategy on how to engage stakeholders in CSR initiatives.
III) CSR activities are not linked with the interest or area of strength of the employees. For example, teaching children science when the employee is not someone who likes or was good at science.
iv) Company does not appreciate employees contributing to social responsibility initiatives. This could be with regards to policies like no volunteering for CSR on working days, or team leads not sparing employees to participate in CSR activities.
The onus lies on upper management and organizations like ours to promote CSR and make CSR activities more engaging and meaningful.
What can corporate India do to ensure that employees and their families become more socially responsible?
Corporate India can do the following to ensuring employees and their families are socially responsible:
i) Firstly, encourage volunteering. Volunteering is a powerful tool to engage employees and their families in sensitizing them to the marginalized section of the society. Effective volunteering is when volunteers are able to connect their strengths, areas of interest and needs in the society. I value the interaction between volunteers and beneficiaries because these conversations help build aspirations among beneficiaries and sensitivity among volunteers. A corporate that encourages employees to bring their families to volunteering activities will have better engagement levels too.
ii) Management can help create socially responsible citizens by providing support to social change organizations through their skills and expertise. For example, employees from a software development firm can help develop custom software for an NGO to help speed up the time taken to process salaries on a monthly basis.
iii) Create a reward and recognition framework in the organization that values non-economic contributions made by employees and their families in the social sector.
iV) Lastly, build a culture of humility, mutual respect, and care in the organization which in turn will create socially responsible employees.
Aditya Dhure is the founder CSR consultant of TMB Consultancy Products & Services. To work with him, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.