A report by Pricewaterhousecooper (PWC) stated that 88% of the youth in the UK gravitated toward companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer’s CSR no longer met their expectations.
While such strong decisions to commit to a job that caters to both monetary and altruistic needs maybe rebuffed by some skeptics in India where getting a job itself can prove to be a massive ordeal, it’s pleasantly surprising to read that 75 of India’s top countries spent a whopping 4,000 crores for social causes a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. That CSR in India has been gaining much weight can be seen through certain crucial decisions taken by the government itself.
Under the Companies Act 2013, companies are mandated to spend 2 percent of their three year average profit on Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR initiatives including livelihood enhancement, promoting education, slum area development etc. October saw the government widening the scope to include initiatives like ‘Swach Bharat Kosh’ and ‘Clean Ganga Fund’, appending to it an eligibility of 100 percent tax deduction under the 80G tax exemption scheme.
Withstanding monetary donation, a large part of corporate responsibilities constitute employee volunteering. In an article titled ‘The ROI of Employee Volunteering’, RP Siegel talks about the power of employee passion, invoking the work of Michael Lerner who has suggested among others that “the quest for meaning is perhaps the central hunger in modern industrial society. And more often than not, that hunger expresses itself, not just in a quest for personal meaning, but for meaning in a context that is greater than one’s self.” In the last few years India too has witnessed in this ‘quest’ through some mammoth initiatives taken by companies.
Volunteering can help one gain or enhance their own skills in the process. An employee in his/her company can seize the opportunity to build their leadership qualities. One of IBM’s flagship community programmes is Corporate Service Corps (CSC), where high-performing IBM employees provide technology-related assistance to local Governments and community organisations.
Dr Chandrasekhar Sripada, Vice-President and Head of HR, India and South Asia, IBM, says, “Our experts have often gained valuable insights into the dynamics in emerging markets while carrying out community initiatives in the region. This improved understanding of the business dynamics has helped us offer more effective solutions to our customers.”
Other benefits range from building relationships, engaging the company staff to making one feel proud of being associated with the said company. Some CSR initiatives undertaken by companies seek to encompass all these salient features.
mjunction, of the largest eCommerce company, promotes ejunction, a trust created to spread eLiteracy and secure employability amongst the differently-abled and financially challenged. Viresh Oberoi, Chairman of ejunction and Managing Director, mjunction Services, states that 55 per cent of employees based in Kolkata, Jamshedpur, Chennai and Durgapur volunteer as trainers for a four-month basic computer course covering MS Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), Internet applications and communication skills. Oberoi says, “We have seen a marked change in the attitude of freshers who come on board. Having spent a considerable part of their college life busy with books and friends, they lose touch with some of the harsh realities of life.
Volunteering for social causes reignites in them the spirit of giving and sharing.” According to him volunteering can also teach patience, which helps in customer interactions.
Several other renowned companies too have hopped on the CSR bandwagon, citing benefits like a peak in job satisfaction among others. In 2010, Standard Chartered spent a total of 8, 014 days in Employer Supported Volunteerism (ESV). ESV was adopted in 2009 by the company, which has over 7,650 employees in India. 74 per cent of staff believes that employee volunteering increases job satisfaction and 81 per cent prefer working for a company supporting employee volunteering, as revealed by data from an internal survey in December 2010.
Such initiatives led to a contribution of $2.42 million in that year itself. Other initiatives include a pilot with Global Giving to develop reports on grass root level projects and in providing financial literacy to over 2,000 adolescent girls in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
Malini Thadani, Head – Group Communications, Public Policy and Corporate Sustainability, HSBC explains such growing popularity of volunteerism among corporates by citing sustainable retention among staff as a great driving force, “Using our employees to invest in the community helps to identify employer values and foster individual commitment. Corporate volunteers become more motivated and are likely to stay longer as volunteering increases employee morale and performance.” Encouraging volunteering outside daily job hours helps employees become more innovative, respect differences and increases their self-confidence, thereby, fostering potential for long-term retention, adds Thandai.
The increasing popularity of Employee Volunteering Service has opened new horizons for both the community and companies. With a fair backing from the government, CSR can be seen as an avenue for both corporate and social sectors to accrue benefit by forging a harmonious and symbiotic relationship.
Read a detailed report on India’s best companies for CSR in 2015 here.