Rallying Towards Social Impact

This is a great opportunity to drive change at a societal level with a long-term vision

The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) landscape in India is evolving with companies moving beyond compliance and monetary obligations. CSR now necessitates giving back programs that engage employees towards long-term impact for the beneficiaries.

Organizations are also looking at CSR from a strategic brand value perspective. Customers appreciate that they are doing business with a company that shares their values and has an agenda besides revenue growth. Sustainability has now become a business imperative and not just a ‘nice-to-have’.

This is a great opportunity to drive change at a societal level with a long-term vision by engaging employees in causes that are close to their hearts. In turn, this is providing employees with a fulfilling platform to come together and collaborate, work better as teams and bring about the changes that they wish to see, through a collective momentum. In fact, the younger generation seems to care a lot more about what a company does from CSR perspective as a criteria to join companies.

Creating an adjacent CSR vision
Companies are devising strong and more importantly, relevant CSR programs to ensure there is a positive impact not steering too far from their competency areas. For example, in a populous country like India, our future growth depends on how many more individuals can acquire skills and are employable.

Education is the biggest leveler for many households that struggle to make ends meet. Not surprisingly, many employees from humble backgrounds seek a connect and are passionate about this. They make for great role models to many young people. Engaging a qualified workforce around education and associated areas like hunger and hygiene can make a difference for many children. STEM education awareness- specifically among young girls, can help build the technology workforce of the future.

Similarly, many industries take up adjacent area activities that serve to use a willing workforce and have a long-term benefit for everyone involved.

Partnering for success
Implementing the vision of a CSR program with a worthy NGO can enhance the impact and the experience of the program manifold. This relationship is fundamental to the success of the program. Many employees who volunteer individually find that they cannot get their efforts to scale. NGO partners add scale and expertise to the programs, bringing more employees into the fold.

From the NGO perspective, getting volunteers is one of the biggest challenges they face and this is where corporates can pitch in. Allocating a few hours per month to employees, companies are also encouraging employees to design CSR campaigns from scratch, giving them the complete freedom and responsibility to be the change drivers, of course keeping in mind the organization’s ideology. Startups like Goodera and DonateKart are doing some great work to improve the efficiency and accountability of NGOs as well as the CSR activity itself and are showing tangible results.

Talking about it
Social media enables companies to build pride, momentum and awareness around the impact they are creating. Empowering the internal champions- the employees, to motivate change across the organization often results in greater volunteer hours for the effort. It shows how easy it really is to make a contribution.

In the age of digital democracy, a company’s brand image is linked to the thoughts and conversations in the online universe. Absolute transparency via authentic social media and public relations channels is key. Showcasing the genuine strides made for the cause, whether this means hours volunteered, beneficiaries helped, or communities impacted highlights the company’s commitment.

CSR communication conveys the impact of efforts and brings in authenticity.  Message credibility improves over time as employees become the spokespeople as champions of a cause that they helped move. Start with something as simple as a picture with a caption and steadily leverage the power of the social network to bring a positive change in your CSR efforts.

-- Deepak Visweswaraiah, Senior VP and MD, NetApp India.

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