Essar Foundation in collaboration with Global Compact Network India (GCNI) organized the ‘Crossover Series’ on the “Paradigm Shift in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): India - EU Experiences and Learning”. The event was held on September 26, 2014 at Equinox Business Park in Mumbai. The objectives were to promote the exchange of innovative ideas and experiences in CSR in India and the European Union (EU). This will help build a broad-based perspective on addressing some of the key social and environmental challenges of our times. The event was attended by participants associated with corporates, CSR, academic institutions and NGOs.
The event began with Mr Anurag Mishra, DGM, Essar Foundation, addressing the participants. Mr Pooran Chandra Pandey, Executive Director, GCNI, then spoke about the significance of CSR with the passage of Companies Act 2013, which has legally mandated expenditure on CSR in India. He also said that the event was a great platform to learn about the approaches that India and the EU have towards CSR.
The highlight of the event was the panel discussion. It was moderated by Mr Lalit Kumar Gupta, Managing Director and CEO, Essar Oil Limited. Mr Gupta began by providing his insights on the importance of CSR in current milieu. He underlined that progress should reach even the last person in the country. He also emphasized that while making money per se is not a demerit, what is earned should be used for the welfare of communities around the businesses. With CSR expenditure getting legislated in the Companies Act 2013, corporates can’t use CSR merely as an advertising opportunity. They need to make a real difference by creatively investing time, skills and funds to find solutions to social issues, he pointed. He also said that investors, especially global ones are focusing on sustainability. He added that the EU has a strong social fabric and India can learn a lot from it.
Ms Marina Stefanova, Executive Director, Global Compact Network, Bulgaria, said that there are 28 countries in the EU, which might not be the same but they are going in a similar direction. She said that all the countries participate in the process of problem solving as equal stakeholders since they share the same issues. Ms Rufina Fernandes, Group Head - Corporate Communications and CSR, GTL Limited, told the participants that her company had found unique ways of funding CSR activities by requesting employees to contribute 5 percent of their performance bonuses. Subsequently, Dr Yogendra Saxena, Chief Sustainability Officer, The Tata Power Company Limited, stated that every project has an integral component of CSR from inception itself. He stressed that CSR has to be beyond any Act and more than anything, individual social responsibility is the key.
Another panelist, Mr Kumar Anurag Pratap, CSR Leader, Capgemini India, mentioned that the company has 50,000 employees, which is a big opportunity to contribute towards CSR through their skill-set. Ms Chitra Pandit, Senior Director, Development and Communications, Akanksha, shared the non-profit organization’s journey on educating slum children. She mentioned that the support from corporates has been wonderful but the challenge was to keep it sustained since results are not immediate due to the long years of schooling involved. Mr Srinath Komarina, Senior Vice President – Responsible Banking, YES Bank, spoke about their initiatives including the effort to save the endangered Great Indian Bustard and ‘Yes I am the Change’, where the young people are invited to make small films on social causes.
Subsequently, Ms Marina Stefanova delivered a presentation on the CSR Policy in EU. She traced the evolution of CSR approach and also spoke about the new European Union CSR Policy’s scope and objectives along with GCN Bulgaria. During the event, various participants shared their views and asked the panelists questions which they answered. After the engrossing discussions, Mr Ralph Sunil, Vice-President and Head, Administration, Essar Steel India Limited, Hazira delivered the closing remarks. He pointed out that sustainability and CSR are becoming the major deciding factors of success amongst various companies. The event ended with his vote of thanks.