CSR efforts that merge seamlessly into larger company goals and objectives usually stem from a core philosophy of collaboration and progressive inclusion. Corporate social responsibilityallows the business to become an agent of development; especially so if executed in partnership with the Government or with civil society groups.
Essar Foundation has, over time, introduced strategic initiatives to oft neglected areas which lie in the vicinity of Essar’s various businesses. Not only does this foster an environment where shared value can be created , but it also ensures that the CSR efforts become human-centric rather than business-centric.
Impact, not just numbers
Measuring impact ought to go beyond numbers so that it can encapsulate both qualitative and quantitative aspects of CSR. This makes for richer data as well as a holistic overview of the efforts. For instance, a quick comparison of any improvement in the quality of life orease of access to basic amenities is a fair indicator of the impact a company has been able to make within a certain community or area. Quantitative data, such as increase in overall income for members of a community, may lie adjacent to these indicators. Impact can be measured in depth in this way.
A reflection of the business
Despite the fact that CSR has become ubiquitous, what more and more organisations are realising is the need to link the business and the initiative. Essar Foundation has worked encourage first generation entrepreneurs to establish businesses, from start to finish.Essar Foundation’s ‘Ajeevika’ programme provides soft skills in an environment of interactive learning and mentoring that has allowed many a participant to establish a career.
Essar companies often operate in areas where the communities are at a disadvantage because they lack access to basic infrastructure. These areas stand low on development indicators like healthcare and education. Essar Foundation has undertaken strategic interventions to improve development indicators in such areas with initiatives in health, education, livelihoods, entrepreneurship and women's empowerment.
Human involvement – building relationships
With small strategic initiatives in place, a holistic long term-plan emerges. This is possible only if stakeholders, over a period of time, begin to own the initiative, as has been the case with Essar Foundation.
Involving employees in CSR efforts is also an interesting approach that creates value for multiple stakeholders at the same time. Essar Foundation’s award winning Edufest, Indradhanush is an event where Essar volunteers contribute to the community. In 15 villages across the districts of Jamnagar and Dwarka, Gujarat, Essar Foundation has brought together employees and students to schools and Anganwadi to collaborate and beautify the space.
Partnering with the specialists
Local authorities, self-help groups, non-profit organisations, even experts from local communities are the most valuable partners that can help bolster a CSR initiative. Essar Foundation’s Integrated Water Resource Development has been one such project. It won the accolade of 'Best Practices on Water' Award recently. This initiative was deployed across 15 villages in Gujarat after involving communities and local authorities as well.
From recharging the water table to reducing salinity and making water available for agriculture as well as for drinking, Essar Foundation supported the work from start to finish.
Odishais yet another location where Essar’s partnership with the State Government through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the district administration of Keonjharhas led to the adoption of Government-run Community Health Centers. At all Essar Foundation locations, the local Government's work in development is supplemented by the Foundation's resources.In addition, collaborating with non-profit organisations allows better CSR outreach. Essar Foundation was recognised for this practice at the Asian Customer Engagement Forum recently.