In this backdrop, Essar Foundation, in collaboration with Centre for Responsible Business (CRB), the New Delhi based specialist centre on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and Shift, a New York based independent non-profit center for business and human rights practice, organized a dialogue on March 28, 2014 at Equinox Business Park, Mumbai to deliberate measures for effective engagement of corporate organizations operating in the core sector with communities in which they operate. The dialogue was attended by participants associated with core sector businesses, financial institutions, corporate social responsibility, academic institutions and NGOs.
The event got underway with a welcome address by Mr Deepak Arora, CEO, Essar Foundation, who spoke about the relevance of the dialogue, thus setting the tone for the event. Dr Bimal Arora, CEO, CRB gave the introductory remarks and provided the context for the dialogue. Organizations like Vedanta Resources Plc, L&T Finance Holding, Samhita Social Ventures and TISS participated in the event.
One of the highlights of the event was the special address delivered by Mr Rana Som, Former Chairman, National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), who shared his experiences on the CSR initiatives undertaken during his tenure with NMDC in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. Mr Som touched upon how NMDC redefined engagement with the community and started activities that met the aspirations of the community. He stressed on extending the community respect and personalized care. He emphasized that corporate organizations need to develop an activity-centric budget rather than a finance-based budget.
Ms Caroline Rees, President and CEO, Shift presented the findings of a multi-country research on the extractive industry conducted by Shift, which attempted at understanding the costs to extractive companies and the impact on local communities. Ms Rees reported that the costs of the conflict include monetary losses and costs of senior staff time spent on managing conflicts. She emphasized on giving a patient hearing to the concerns of the community, however small and setting aside appropriate time for stakeholder engagement.
During the deliberations, it was shared that it is vital to comprehend and appreciate that the community is not homogenous with various sub-categories and it is essential to reflect on how to engage in such complexities. A suggestion to initiate research to explore aspects related to different dynamics within and outside the organizations, and which takes into account the historical context of a place was made.
After the discussion, Mr SS Khandwawala, Group Head, Security Intelligence and Vigilance, Essar delivered the valedictory remarks. He underlined that the CSR team should have knowledge of the local setting, culture, local language to create an atmosphere of faith.