Importance of Professionals in Corporate Social Responsibility – Fiinovation

The advent of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in India opened new avenues for employment for people belonging to the social development sector. The mandate under the Companies Act, 2013 made it a more focused area for the businesses which might look at CSR in a strategic manner. Hence, the effectiveness of CSR initiatives lies in the hands of CSR professionals who are well versed about the concept and can utilize the initiatives for benefiting the organization.

It has been observed that in most of the businesses, there is still no CSR department, rather it’s the Human Resource department or the senior management which takes care of such initiatives, that too because of mandatory compliance. When called to enquire regarding the CSR department, most of the times the calls are answered by the HR and not by the CSR committee members. This brings us to the question that, are the businesses really serious about giving back to the society or considers CSR as a tick-box exercise?

The presence of CSR professionals in the organization is definitely an indicator of the seriousness of the initiatives. There are several benefits attached to having a CSR professional within the organization. Not only it provides chances to improve the social return on investment, but also improves the communication of CSR initiatives to the stakeholders. As a brand, businesses look to increase their consumer base and market outreach. CSR definitely provides an opportunity to boost the brand value, and the CSR professionals do play a significant role in devising implementation strategies.

Globally, leading CSR professionals have moved one step ahead and are looking not just to initiate ‘give back’ projects, rather incorporate the concept of being a responsible organization across the value chain. They help the corporate communications department to put a number on the value that has been created through the CSR initiatives. It is always recommended to not to give the job of handling the CSR manager position to someone in the HR or any other department, so that there can be a complete analysis on the social return on investment.

With increasing competition among the businesses, CSR could be an innovative mechanism to differentiate a brand from its competitors. The increase in effectiveness of the CSR programmes due to the presence of CSR professionals is definitely a motivating factor for the socially responsible investors. It is also due to the increasing demand of CSR professionals in the businesses and business foundations that several b-schools have started offering degrees in CSR. It is expected that in the years to come, the businesses which doesn’t have CSR professionals will look to recruit them to optimize their social return on investments. Hence, for a CSR professional the future seems to be bright in terms of employment opportunities, but their definitely will be more pressure on them with greater responsibility towards the organization and society at large.

 

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

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Fiinovation Reviews India’s Migration and Malnutrition Problems

The rising disparity among the people of India is a stark reminder that growth after the liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation reforms of 1991 has not been inclusive. Although, the country developed significantly, yet the development ripples have not reached the remote villages. The initial plan of focusing on the service sector to reduce the dependency of the Indian GDP on the primary sector (Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Dairy, etc.) paid off well, but didn’t solve the problem of the rural population which is nearly 70 per cent of the total Indian population.

As the primary sector didn’t receive as much investments, there wasn’t much growth to improve the standard of living of the rural population. The problems associated with agriculture and allied sector ensured that millions had to migrate to the urban areas for employment opportunities. Migration is not a recent phenomenon, rather the pace of it has increased in recent times due to widespread distress in the rural areas. As per the Census 2011, there were about 45.36 crore migrants. In fact last year 2.06 crore people migrated looking for employment opportunities and education.

It is understandable that the impact of migration is one the entire family and it’s the children who suffer immensely. It has been observed that the rapid development which ensured India becomes the fastest growing major economy in the world is not helping to curb poverty and malnutrition. As per the global hunger index, India ranks abysmal 97 out of 118 countries which much worse that its neighbours Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. Fiinovation reviews that about 38 per cent children living in India are stunted or too short for their age. There seems to be a link between growing urbanisation and increase in malnutrition as it has been observed that significant proportion of children living in urban areas are stunted.

Alarmingly, it is estimated that 90 crore people will be added as urban residents in just three countries (China, India and Nigeria) by 2050. It seems that there is a paradigm shift of the burden of malnutrition from rural areas to urban areas, especially due to persistent child undernutrition. Fiinovation reviews that the problem of malnutrition is evident amongst the 6.5 crore slum dwellers in the country. Hence, the reason behind urban poverty and malnutrition is definitely India’s incapability to develop the rural areas while promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.

The road ahead will not be easy as the government plans to double the farmers’ income by 2022. Currently, there is very less industrial development in the rural areas. Agriculture in India is a seasonal activity with majority of the regions being mono-cropic, especially due to lack of irrigation facilities and dependency on the monsoon. Therefore, it is important to create livelihood opportunities and promote healthy lifestyle amongst the rural population. If the migrant population start finding employment opportunities in their inhabited regions, it will reduce migration, poverty and malnutrition significantly.

Hence, Fiinovation urges the government to implement policies which promote growth of the rural economy. Efforts to increase the farmers’ income will definitely pay huge dividends for the country. The impact of this will also be visible on the global hunger index and help the country eliminate extreme poverty as per the Sustainable Development Goals. However, this massive task cannot be done only by the government and the role of the private sector will be significant in providing resources for the development of rural infrastructure. The businesses should also contribute towards betterment of the farming community and the people residing in the rural areas through their corporate social responsibility funds. Investments in the agriculture sector by the businesses supported by agriculture credit from the government will significantly boost the primary sector thereby reducing the burden of the rural households.

Let us hope that the next two decades India grows inclusively and sustainably becoming one of the largest economies of the world with a higher human development index ranking.

 

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

CSR Contributions – Is it a Burden for the Companies?

Despite global turmoil, India continues to emerge as one of the fastest growing investment destination in the world. The Indian government’s efforts towards ‘policy reforms’ and ‘ease of doing business’ are major steps directed to meet the demands of its citizens. Socio-economic growth of the nation is directly linked to profitability of businesses. Without growth, the domestic consumption is not likely to increase. This is one major reason for the businesses to invest their share of profits in activities that are aimed to benefit the marginalised sections of the society.

Although, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is mandatory in India for businesses falling under the CSR ambit, yet the attitude of the Indian companies have not changed much. Businesses are mostly interested in earning profits even after realising that businesses can sustain only if communities prosper. Fiinovation, a global CSR consulting company suggests that companies who are mandated to contribute towards CSR are merely focusing on compliance, rather than impact of the initiative.

In such a situation, when there is not much visible impact, the companies tend to believe that funds have gone wasted. Hence, CSR becomes a burden for them.

It is understandable that while the CSR spending went up from Rs 8,330 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9,882 crore in 2015-16, the utilization of funds and overall social outcomes have not been quantified or reported. As per experts, it is important for businesses to understand and measure the impact and return on investment of CSR initiatives. Research has also suggested that the rise in contributions by the larger businesses is related to partnership with implementation agencies, mainly CSOs for execution of the CSR programmes. It is noteworthy for the companies facing challenges in CSR to understand that partnership with CSOs help boost compliance of the law.

Effectiveness of the CSR programmes can also be determined through monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment studies. The companies must understand the purpose of CSR and actively engage in its implementation. It is not a matter of compliance, rather it’s about their survival. Companies should be looking to leverage the initiatives to build their brand image. Through CSR, the government is also trying to push the rural development agenda to spur economic growth. As per the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the CSR process which is perceived as burden by the businesses in India can help double the income of farmers. Hence, in this collective effort to eradicate poverty and boost socio-economic growth, businesses should play a pro-active role through collaborations with the civil society organisations.

 

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Preserving National Heritage Through CSR – Fiinovation

In the past few years, it has been observed that the rising global warming, mishandling and inadequate restoration of cultural arts and monuments has caused deteriorating effects on the historical masterpieces around the world. Although the developed countries practice best methods for the conservation of their art and culture, the developing countries often lack both funds and willpower to carry out this exercise. For instance, European Union started the project CHARISMA, which brought industry experts from universities, museums, research institutes and historians from the respective disciplines to share their knowledge, expertise and innovative ideas for preserving their national heritage.

The project aims at developing innovative tools through research to identify the materials and methods originally used by the artists as well as the modern techniques to safeguard them against rising challenges related to environmental degradation. Under this project, different art works like paintings, sculptures, ceramics, manuscripts, monuments, art work of different forms like metal and glass etc., books and archaeological items will be investigated by the historians and archaeologists. Apart from this, several grants and funds are raised through government, civic bodies and private sector for the preservation of its prestigious art and culture.

However, in a country like India, the heritage conservation is often taken for granted and there a very few corporates who are involved in initiatives related to the protection of culture and heritage. Kiran Seth, the recipient of Padma Shri award and founder of SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) voices her concern saying, “We have failed to protect so many art forms and now they are lost to us forever. Ustad Asad Ali Khan’s death meant the end of the Khandar Vani style played on the rudraveena. The Koodiyattam style of theater in Kerala has almost no takers now. So much knowledge about our heritage is getting lost every day.”

Even corporates are also lagging behind in extending much support in this sensitive matter. In a recent study it was found that in FY16, the CSR spend on the projects related to heritage conservation by corporates has declined by 40% as compared to FY15. In the first year of CSR rules, the projects related to heritage conservation received Rs 67.87 crore but the funding fell to Rs. 40.88 crore in FY16. Experts believe that sufficient efforts aren’t being done by the government and corporates for preservation of art and cultural heritage and the lack of funds is aggravating the matter further. The government allocates funds for the projects related to heritage conservation only from the tourism point of view. So, if a monument or a historical piece is not important from the tourism perspective, it doesn’t receive funds and precious pieces of glorious history are eventually lost.

The projects related to education, poverty, health and environment receive maximum focus from the corporates as they lack awareness about the benefits associated with programmes related to heritage conservation. Hence, if seen positively, this field has immense scope for executing successful CSR programmes which can integrate a corporate’s activity with its core business objectives. For instance, industries related to tourism and hospitality can derive maximum benefits through the strategically designed CSR initiatives. The programmes can include site maintenance and restoration, carrying out awareness programmes and setting up of management frameworks for maintaining the historical sites. Similarly, other companies whose area of operations holds historic significance can also make valuable contribution towards executing such kind of projects.

In India only few corporates have taken up CSR projects related to heritage conservation. For example, IT giant Infosys Ltd. funds a part of its CSR budget for the restoration of monuments and organising cultural shows in south India. In 2016, Infosys Foundation (the CSR arm of Infosys) completed a restoration project at the Somanatheswara temple complex at Lakshmeshwara in Karnataka, spending around Rs 5 crore over four years. It also organized performances at the two restoration spots in Andhra Pradesh at Lakshmeshwara and Anupu.

Similarly, Yes Bank has used a part of its CSR funds for organising over 100 heritage walks and 50 cycle rides at various heritage spots like Lodhi Garden, Qutub Minar and Hauz Khas in 2016. It has further plans to extend these activities to different cities. It spent Rs. 29.52 crore in FY16 and plans to invest Rs. 34 crore in FY17 for conducting these initiatives.

Many PSUs such as ONGC, NTPC, GAIL and Indian Oil have also undertaken the renovation and maintenance activities for temples and monuments around their areas of operations. The Indian conglomerate Tata Group has been traditionally involved in promoting historical monuments and setting up museums through their institutions and trusts. The group has also helped the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) through grants.

In 1966, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has set up the National Culture Fund (NCF) to channelise funds for the preservation of historical monuments and arts. It has identified 100 monuments of national significance which has been put up for adoption by the corporates.

In response to the poor feedback received on the hygienic conditions of the sites, the Ministry launched “Clean India Campaign” in 2012. As part of the campaign, the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) adopted Qutub Minar while ONGC also expressed interest in adopting sites like Taj Mahal, Khajuraho Temple and Ajanta-Ellora Caves for their conservation. The main objective of this campaign was to foster a collaborative model wherein corporations are encouraged to adopt a site and the local bodies such as schools, banks, authorities and trader’s associations can come forward for maintaining the nearby areas.

Maharashtra and Rajasthan governments have taken the lead and in creating platforms for corporates to adopt monuments of historical and cultural significance. Government should create awareness programmes and encourage corporates to utilise their CSR funds through structured planning and execution.

Fiinovation, a global CSR consultancy working in the domain of CSR and Sustainability urges the corporates to initiate projects related to the preservation of cultural heritage especially in their area of operations. It will not only help in keeping the history of glorious culture alive but will also enhance their presence as a culturally evolved organisation among the stakeholders.

“It has been said that, at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” — William J. Murtagh

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation Reviews: Need of Stringent Policy on Rare Diseases

In the year 2013, a petition was filed in Delhi High Court by the seven-year old Mohammed Ahmed suffering from the rare disease Gaucher. It is a hereditary disorder which is caused by the absence of enzyme which breaks down fat and releases energy. The absence of this enzyme leads to fat building all over the body and patients suffer from bone pain and anemia. In some cases, it may also lead to death. Although, this disease can be treated through the replacement therapy of enzymes and the person can lead a normal life under all medications and precautions, however, it can never be completely cured. The cost of therapy is Rs. 6 lakh per dose and has to be administered every month till the patient is alive. Since, his father is a rickshaw-puller and earns daily wages for survival he knocked the door of High Court for help.

Gaucher is one of the 7,000 rare diseases that afflict less than 6% of the global population. Looking at the rare phenomenon of this disease, pharmaceutical companies don’t consider it as an economically viable drug and end up pricing them as high as possible to derive profits. Even these companies don’t invest much on the research of the Orphan Drugs making them almost inaccessible for the weak and marginalised sections of the society.

In order to encourage the pharmaceutical companies to stimulate research for the treatment of rare diseases, the Orphan Drugs Act was passed by the US government in 1983. The law offered different incentives like smaller clinical trials, higher rates of regulatory success, extended exclusivity and tax rebates. Laws on similar line have been replicated in other countries such as European Union, Japan and Australia making it economically viable and commercially attractive for investing in the Research and Development (R&D) of the rare diseases. However, these companies ignore the incentives offered by the government and sell the orphan drugs at inflated prices. Rituximab, an orphan oncology drug, is one such drug in this category which is also the second highest selling drug in the world. The patients of developed country have higher per capita income and also governed by good government health policies hence they can afford them whereas it is completely unaffordable for the patients of developing countries considering their economic status and flaws present in the healthcare policies.

The Delhi High Court gave full attention to the case of Mohammed Ahmed causing lot of stir and scrutiny in the existing healthcare policies governing the nation. Before giving his judgment, Justice Manmohan analysed many other cases which have proved that the right to health and access to healthcare is implicit in Articles 21, 38 and 46 of the Indian Constitution.

He concluded that “every person has a fundamental right to quality health care – that is affordable, accessible and compassionate.” While recognizing the fact that every citizen cannot expect to receive free medical treatment at the state expense he also held the government responsible for not devising favorable policies for ensuring that every citizen can afford the treatment of rare diseases.

The court suggested the government to increase investment in the healthcare sector and formulate best practices and polices related to the treatment of rare diseases. It also confirmed that the act of financial aid treatment of rare diseases will be qualified as a CSR activity. It also directed the state government to arrange treatment for Mohammed Ahmed free of cost at AIIMS whenever he requires it, as per his constitutional right.

Learning lessons from this case, Karnataka became the first state in India to release a Rare Diseases and Orphan Drugs Policy. It recommended to implement the preventive and carrier testing, which is a means of reducing morbidity and mortality. Considering the fact that around 80% of the rare diseases` have genetic connection, it also suggested to the pharmaceutical companies to use genetic testing for accelerating the identification of the critical genes involved in rare diseases.

The state also highlighted about the flaw present in the Insurance Laws of India due which often acts as huge disadvantage for the patients suffering from the rare disease in India. The private insurance companies of India consider the genetic disorders as pre-existing conditions, hence, on that basis doesn’t provide any insurance cover for the same. Since, most of the rare diseases are genetic in nature; hence patients don’t get any support from the existing insurance policy.

The state emphasised on the awareness programmes to combat delay in diagnosis and treatment. It also called for the enactment of an orphan drugs statute to allow for tax breaks, funding and exclusive marketing rights as incentives for orphan drug discovery.

The policy has requested the IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) to re-consider this exclusion from the above mentioned laws and at least provide basic coverage of rare diseases at reasonable premiums.

Fiinovation recommends the other states of India to follow the footsteps of Karnataka to ensure every citizen of India has access to affordable healthcare facilities. The state-led PSUs and private companies can utilize their CSR funds to undertake healthcare initiatives involving rare diseases for extending support to the weak and marginalized sections of the society.

 

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

 

FIINOVATION OBSERVES: WORLD CANCER DAY

World Cancer Day is observed all over the world on 4th February to spread awareness about cancer, its diagnosis, detection and treatment at an early stage. The day commemorates the contributions and efforts made by WHO, United Nations, NGOs and governments. It also formulates new strategies to intensify the fight against cancer. The day was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) for supporting the goals of the World Cancer Declaration written in 2008.

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year around 8.8 million people in the world succumb to death due to the disease. Hence, the main goal of observing the World Cancer Day is to create awareness and fight against the disease to reduce the number of cases and deaths due to Cancer.

This year the theme of the World Cancer Day is #WeCanICan. It is the second year of the ongoing campaign, aimed to unite people for intensifying fight against the disease. Experts believe that proactive actions can help in saving millions of preventable deaths (around 4 million people) by spreading awareness and education about the disease through rallies, marches, initiatives, seminars and social media pressing governments and individuals across the world to take effective actions. For example, #NoHairSelfie movement was started to encourage people for shaving off their heads either physically or virtually in order to support people undergoing treatment for cancer.

The main event is organised by UICC every year which involves the participation of various NGOs, research agencies, government representatives, medical experts and individuals. The idea is to target common people and educate them about the leading causes of Cancer such as chewing tobacco, smoking ciggrattes, obesity, unhealthy food habits, lack of physical activity, sexual transmission of HPV-infection, genetic factors, overexposure to sunlight etc. They are also informed about the vaccination method against both the human papilloma virus and hepatitis B virus. Experts present encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyle, practice balanced diet and weight management in order to reduce the risk of occurrence of the deadly Cancer disease.

Another important aspect of celebrating this day is to end stigma and various myth related to the disease prevalent in society. Several cancer survivors have started their own foundations and are now engaged in cancer care treatments. Yuvraj Singh’s case is one famous story from India where the charismatic cricketer after fighting the deadly disease is back on the field scoring centuries. Many other celebrities who have fought cancer have came out creating awareness about the disease.

On this day, Fiinovation urges businesses to develop diagnostic centers across the country under CSR to help early diagnosis and treatment which is essential in the fight against cancer.

“On World Cancer Day, we have an opportunity to collectively examine cancer control strategies to identify winning formulas that will accelerate progress. The goal for all of us is to ensure fewer people develop cancer, more people are successfully treated and that there is a better quality of life for people during treatment and beyond.” – Heather Bryant, VP, Cancer Control, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

MOBILE APP HELPING WOMEN IN SLUMS FOR SMOOTH PREGNANCY

As per the estimates by WHO (World Health Organisation), 5,29,000 maternal deaths occur in the world every year. Out of these around 1,36,000 or 25.7% of total deaths happen in India. Every five minutes, one Indian woman die during pregnancy and child birth.

In a statement released by WHO, it was stated that, “Two-thirds of maternal deaths occur after delivery and postpartum hemorrhage being the most commonly reported complication. The incidence of emergency postpartum hysterectomies is about 83/100,000 with a maternal mortality of 17.7 per cent and a perinatal mortality of 37.5 per cent”.

India carries the burden of around 17 per cent of the global maternal deaths and post-partum haemorrhage, accounting for as high as 37% of the maternal deaths. This situation will prove to be a major hindrance for India in achieving the goal of a healthy and developed nation.

Majority of women dying and facing complications during pregnancy and childbirth are from the lower income group and neither they are aware about reproductive health nor have the money to consult the doctors or afford appropriate healthcare facilities.

In order to improve the healthcare conditions of pregnant women for safe child birth, better health post delivery, the Maharashtra based NGO has started free mobile voice call service known as mMitra for giving free consultation to the women during their pregnancy. A voice message has been regularly sent to the enrolled women, reminding them continuously about the mandatory medicines, tests and scans required during their pregnancy.

Nearly 1.30 lakh women from the Nalasopara slum area of Maharashtra have enrolled for the service. Women have enrolled for this service and were guided through short voice messages like regular health checkups, ultrasounds, diet, etc. Many women have claimed multiple benefits from the service like better health, “uneventful” delivery which means without any complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure or bleeding during the childbirth. Inspired by the benefits, they are also encouraging the many other women in their area to register for the services.

The initiative is the brainchild of Dr. Aparna Hegde, alumna of a Sion Hospital in Mumbai. “The success of the initiative shows that there was a great need for an information medium. Women are now demanding iron and folic acid from hospitals, which was always available for free but they had no knowledge about it.

During a study conducted by the same NGO it found that there is a 36% increase in the knowledge of women listening to the voice messages consistently and 47% increase in women knowing about the three family planning methods. Looking at the success and popularity of the programme, the NGO is planning to extend services to other states of India like Delhi, Assam, UP, etc. to educate and help women during pregnancy and childbirth as well as maintain good maternal health post childbirth.

Fiinovation urges the leading hospitals and health consultancies to extend support for such initiatives through their CSR funds and technical expertise for creating a huge impact in the lives of millions of young women, focused on reducing maternal mortality rate and achieving universal access to the reproductive health care.

Manisha Bhatia