- Jamshed Naval Cooper, Managing Director, Heidelberg Cement India
What are the activities you are involved under CSR commitment and how the government mandate is prescribing various benchmarks?
Having obligated itself to build on the three pillars of ecology, economy and social responsibility, HeidelbergCement Group has been fulfilling its CSR obligations across the globe. In India, we have identified five areas to which we devote our CSR contributions.
Education: HC India recognises the need, spelt out under RTE and contributes towards providing quality education to students who are unable to afford the same. We have been involved in improving the infrastructure of schools in rural areas and offering scholarships to meritorious students at Anganwadi centres.
Health: We organise for the communities dwelling around our plants, mobile health checkup camps, multi-speciality health camps and provide support to government hospitals and health centres by way of enhancing their facilities.
Livelihood: HC India has been in the forefront when it comes to improving means of livelihood of the society around its plant locations. The Company has set up "Sakshamta Vikas Kendras" with a mission to enhance the skills of the rural folk and to empower them earn a respectable livelihood. Training is provided to farmers both in terms of improved farming techniques and livestock development.
Infrastructure: In our own small way, we have over the years invested efforts into improving the rural roads by concreting them. Built community halls, parks and other facilities based on the felt needs of the communities living in close vicinity of our plants.
Social engagement: We recognise the importance of sports and cultural activities that drive the local communities and support them organise sport tournaments both for the physically-abled and for the challenged people. To build confidence of the especially abled section of the citizens, we provide support to the schools meant for them.
We respectfully honour every mandate of the government and adhere to the CSR guidelines keeping in sight the millennium development goals (MDG) and sustainable development goal (SDG).
How are the actual and prescribed budgets for the last three years? How long it will take for you to complete the mission you have undertaken in that particular region?
The mission to develop the communities around our manufacturing establishments is an endless journey. Enough is not enough to satiate the needs of a society that craves even for small bites of happiness. When it comes to our spends on CSR, as per the act, we are obliged to spend minimum 2 per cent of our average net profits of last three years, which for FY2020 translated close to 69.7MINR for our Group's operations in India against which we spent 72.2 MINR.
What has been the impact of various CSR activities in various geographies? What is the criterion adopted in choosing the target group or community for CSR initiatives?
The impact of various CSR initiatives led by us has been very heartening. Not only have we succeeded in putting smiles on the faces of the people, the feeling of satisfaction and worthiness, our employees get out of every project gives us a sense of great achievement. The sense of belongingness, harmony and togetherness our projects have brought about among the communities is what propels us to keep doing more and more for them.
We have undertaken several projects to provide clean and safe drinking water, deepening of ponds, building check dams, etc. Our interventions have improved the chances of employment for the youth and we have seen better farm and livestock productivity. Education of the girl child is gradually improving women empowerment and the health care services provided by us are contributing to build a healthier society. By improving the literacy levels of the community, we are making the rural folk capable enough to avail the opportunities that await them away from home.
The planning of CSR programmes is done in close consultation with various stakeholders like village institutions, gram panchayats, schools, Aaganwadis and local administration. These thereafter are made out as Projects and detailed from start to finish with clearly defined benefits for the target stakeholders. These projects are assigned specific timelines for completion and handed over to the community. In some projects when we feel the necessity of experts, we involve requisite agencies in the interest of optimising its overall potential. We assign due weightages to the project based on the parameters like who will benefit most, what will be its impact on society both in the short and medium term and finally its contribution in building a united resilient India.
Can you give us the best case study that has yielded highest/ best results?
Project Title: Transformation of rural education institutions With a view to encourage rural children to take education, we embarked on a mission to improve the infrastructure of the Govt. educational institutions operating around our manufacturing unit in Damoh district. Right from refurbishing the school building, to providing laboratories, school furniture, boundary walls for safety and bright classrooms. This would attract the children making them come to school willingly and happily, including the teaching staff who in a conducive environment would feel responsible and obliged to impart quality education to the excited students.
District Education Department, District Women & Child development Department, government schools, government Aaganwadi centres, Gram Panchayat are the major stakeholders of the project.
Impact of project:
Beneficiaries of Project:
What are the crushing challenges our country is facing in the socio-economic sphere and how could CSR contribute towards mitigating the same?
Rural India's lifeline is agriculture. If we can improve the productivity of the farmlands and the livestock and impart a reasonable amount of education, rural communities would develop and become as prosperous as the ones in urban spaces. Farming requires water which is unevenly distributed across regions and this turns out to be a challenge posed by mother nature for us to address at a national level.
Gainful and respectable employment is yet another challenge given the growing share of the young generation in our population. While automation will work contrary to the objectives of job creation, it will reap in benefits in terms of higher productivity making goods and services affordable. As the growing pace of technology will generate a new era of employment opportunities as a Nation, we would still have to address the aspirations of those who would not be fortunate enough to make it there and would require earning a living. Rural India will be a home for them and the farm sector their source of livelihood.
A lion's share of the CSR contributions therefore needs to be allocated to the development of the communities that dwell in the hinterland of India. Water harvesting projects need to be taken up on top priority so that waste lands could be brought under cultivation. In most parts of the country, farmers harvest just one crop a year and a few two crops whereas the potential remains three crops a year. Water harvesting, drip irrigation and advanced farming techniques should be made available to the farmers at subsidised and affordable prices. To supplement the income of the farmers, livestock management needs to be promoted.
CSR activities directed on this front will add towards reinforcing the economy at a ground level. Ensuring availability of subsidised mineral enricheddiet for cattle will boost the productivity of the livestock resulting in better incomes that will encourage the farmers to invest into animal care and increasing their numbers. Skill development programmes especially for the women are a must do under the CSR initiatives. Women empowerment in the rural context needs greater reinforcement which in return would deliver a better generation of citizens.
What are the CSR activities you have undertaken post the outbreak of Covid-19 and what are the challenges you have faced so far?
The pandemic has caught everyone unaware. While the privileged took to hiding in their safety of their comfortable nest,it's the underprivileged who have been left out in the open to fend for survival. Initially, we struggled to find solutions for our own people but soon we realised the plight of the communities around us and started educating them about the disease and prevention methods. We distributed masks and sanitisers at the same time carried out sanitisation drives for villages.
Our employees contributed their one day's salary with an equal contribution from our organisation was given into PM Cares-Fund including contributions to State relief funds. Being part of the construction industry, our feet always remain on the ground as our teams visit construction sites where we interact with workers, masons and contractors the so-called real builders of our nation. During the lockdown period, we were unable to be with them, but the thought of their wellbeing kept haunting us.
No sooner the lockdown was called off, HeidelbergCement decided to contribute Re. 1 for every bag of cement sold by it. The proceeds of which would fuel its initiative "annam" under which food supplies would be provided to the under privileged section of the society. Our business associates have extended a helping hand by ensuring that the beneficiaries are the ones who are in real need of help.
How do you think the CSR scenario will pan out in general in the next two to three years, given the impact on business and profitability projections in the wake of Covid-19?
The lockdown in March 2020 struck a panic alarm making one and all run for cover. From then to now, we all have learnt to accept the reality at the ground level with greater degree of experiential learning to handle the situation which is here to stay for long. If at all there is a lesson this pandemic has taught us, it is - "our wellbeing is dependent on the wellbeing of the people surrounding us".
As businesses get impacted by the pandemic and economic activities slow down, corporate profits would shrink and so would the CSR budgets. Nevertheless, humanity would rise on the other side and the privileged would come forward to contribute and serve those who served them once, thereby reinstating the balance. Besides this, there still would be many organisations who would continue to fulfill their CSR obligations beyond what is required of them. It is they who would emerge champions of humanity and earn the goodwill and loyalty of their customers and society at large.