Sanjay Mehta, President, Shree Cement: CSR-An intrinsic business objective
Having a defined and active CSR initiative increases marketplace respect for the company, potentially resulting in enhanced ability to attract qualified personnel, greater employee engagement, increased sales and profitability. Shree believes in regularly engaging themselves with the community through formal and informal interactions to identify their key issues and concerns.
How have CSR activities evolved in recent years and what is its impact on a cement business?
CSR in the current context is more of sustainability and being self-aware of its obligations. CSR as a concept has evolved from being a charitable or social cause to an intrinsic business objective and goal.
Having a defined and active CSR initiative increases marketplace respect for the company, potentially resulting in enhanced ability to attract qualified personnel, greater employee engagement, increased sales and profitability. Shree believes in regularly engaging themselves with the community through formal and informal interactions to identify their key issues and concerns.How have CSR activities evolved in recent years and what is its impact on a cement business? CSR in the current context is more of sustainability and being self-aware of its obligations. CSR as a concept has evolved from being a charitable or social cause to an intrinsic business objective and goal. As per United Nations, CSR is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders. In India, the enactment of Companies Act, 2013 has given CSR legal backing and the much-needed thrust to involve more and more corporates therein. Being a responsible corporate, Shree Cement, way before the enactment of the Companies Act, 2013 has tried its best to contribute to the local need to fill up the social and economic gap. Incubating sense of responsibility and ownership is considered while planning and implementing development projects under CSR. Aligning these core philosophies, Shree Cement’s CSR activities are planned and executed. Generating employment through the main business, giving a direct and indirect economic boost to the peripheral area would have to remain half filled if the CSR activities were not planned for various important sectors like education, health, sanitation, and livelihood. We have been and continue to be involved in meaningful, welfare-driven initiatives that distinctly impact the quality of life of the weaker sections of the society, surrounding hundreds of villages in proximity to our plants. CSR integrates the business objectives of the company with the social and economic goals of the local society and in the process, the local community also embraces the long-term business goals of the company. Accordingly, it transforms into a two-way process whereby both constitutes work in tandem to achieve a common objective. Due to growing importance and awareness, CSR has become a matter of public scrutiny and impacts the image of the corporate. Thus, impactful CSR initiatives leading and bringing about a positive change in the lives of nearby communities help the company to build a positive image leading to increase customer engagement, employee engagement and offers an advantage over competitors. Does it give your business a competitive edge and build customer loyalty? How? What are business areas where CSR helps? At Shree, it is our constant endeavour to give back to society through our various CSR initiatives. Having a defined and active CSR initiative increases marketplace respect for a company, potentially resulting in: Enhanced ability to attract qualified personnel, Greater employee engagement, Increased sales and profitability. SCL contributes to the area of education, skill development of people in the local communities, healthcare services for local communities, women empowerment, and infrastructure development in local communities. We regularly engage with the community through formal and informal interactions to identify their key issues and concerns and based on these need-based assessments, CSR programmes are customised and implemented while partnering with government agencies, NGOs, local Panchayats for implementation. Education and skill development are key areas in indirectly impact the business of the Company. It leads to skilled and trained contractual manpower to the Company leading to operational efficiency and productivity. What was your CSR spending for FY20-21? Could you brief us on what kind of CSR activities were undertaken? Please share about partnerships/ committee associations, if any, you are involved in CSR projects? During FY 2020-21, the Company incurred an amount of Rs 45.73 crore in terms of requirement of Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013. The same is in excess of Rs 0.89 crore against the statutory requirement of Rs 44.84 crore. The majority of the CSR activities are undertaken by the company through its CSR arm ‘Shree Foundation Trust’ specifically created for the focused implementation of the CSR initiatives of the Company. At the plant level, a dedicated team to oversee the CSR interventions has been appointed. This apart, Company has collaborated with other external implementing agencies viz. Rajasthan Foundation, The Bengal, Prabha Khaitan Foundation, Ess Bee Consultants, etc. to undertake the required CSR activities. What CSR framework or strategy do you have in place? What best practices do you follow to make it successful? Shree Cement has been implementing projects which contribute to the empowerment of the community which advances social and environmental sustainability. Consistent with that, we map, trace, and analyse the socio-environmental effects that our projects have in each and every context of their implementation. We have developed projects and design them in partnership with our stakeholders using a bottom-up approach, making use of different stakeholder involvement techniques according to specific purposes, topics, and targets. Efforts are made for ensuring the participation of all relevant stakeholders in identifying social development interventions which include consultation with the relevant stakeholders and understanding their requirements and needs. We engage in awareness building and motivating the rural masses for the acceptance and their involvement in the project right from planning to implementation and monitoring of the project and work in collaboration with local/ State Governments and their agencies, district authorities, village panchayats, NGOs, and other like minded agencies to widen its reach and leverage upon the collective expertise and experience of these agencies. CSR activities are also planned with various social tools like Participatory Rural Appraisal, Rapid Rural Appraisal, Focused Group Discussion with the involvement of villagers and opinion-makers along with line departments. While formulating any project, we begin with an informal interaction with local communities and Panchayat members. This is followed by focused discussions as well as formal interactions with the Government, NGOs, and other agencies once the preliminary need is established. Thereafter depending upon the size of the project and planned methodology, we may enter into a formal agreement with the concerned Government Department or NGO while consultations with local communities and Panchayats is a regular day to day activity, there is need based consultation with the NGOs and govt. bodies. For identification of issues and needs of communities, we have undertaken various processes such as: Household Survey, School Level survey , Village level meetings , Focused Group Discussions, Need Assessment by NGO/Other institutes. How important is it to evaluate and monitor CSR activities? How is it done? Social impact assessment exercises are conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of our engagement programs. Consultants are engaged to conduct the assessment covering nearby villages around plant operations. Based on the results and recommendations of the impact assessment, we identify specific objectives with integrated plans to effectively benefit the wider community and work towards the same in the reporting period. Broadly following monitoring and reporting system are employed to evaluate and monitoring CSR interventions of the company: What are the best tools for measuring CSR success (like HRIS SaaS software or other)? Apart from internal audit, CSR activities are also reviewed and audited by external agency / third party i.e. we have conducted impact assessment study and need assessment by a well-known organisation named ARAVALI, Jaipur (a semigovt. organisation). We also engage students from social institutes like XISS, TISS for a summer internship and they conduct various study programmes on our CSR activities based on the recommendations, we develop our programmes and undertake new activities We firmly believe that collaboration is key to driving the sustainability agenda as it cannot be just about operations. It has to be actioned across the entire ecosystem together with partners from that network, creating an ongoing ripple of change. Please tell us about your future plans in CSR. We continue to expand and grow in our business operations to different geographies. Diverse geographies present diverse community requirements and challenges in fulfilling the same. Thus, our future plans involve identifying and understanding the different and varied requirements of our marginalised stakeholders and try to fulfil the same to the best of our abilities. Further, we shall continue our contribution mitigating the impact of the current ongoing pandemic in all possible ways. Any final thoughts you want to share? SCL believes in a triple bottom line approach, which integrates the environmental, social, and governance aspects in achieving the long-term business objectives. One of the key aspects is social which is taken care through the CSR interventions of the company. We are leveraging our expertise to create a multiplier effect in bringing meaningful change in the lives of nearby communities. We identify new goals, integrates new ideas, and works with brand-new approaches and methods. That is one of the ways to effectively utilise resources that can thereby maximise social effects.