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

Fiinovation – The Future of Impact Investing in India

Impact investments is not something new to the world anymore. It might have started on a similar concept back in the 1980’s when Bill Drayton’s Ashoka started funding social enterprises. The term impact investing was coined in the year 2007 at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. The term was given to investments which are made with the intent of generating both financial and social and/or environmental returns.

In the last decade, India has become one of the world’s biggest impact investment market. The global investors are looking at India as a bright spot which is likely to grow rapidly in the next two-three decades. Along with this, there are several social and environmental issues which India would like to resolve while it continues to grow.

It is expected that with all the growth in several sectors, India could absorb $6-8 billion of capital annually by 2025. In the past six years, there has been $4.1 billion worth of cumulative investments with an annual growth of 15%. It is believed that impact investments has touch at least 60-80 million lives in the country focusing on sectors such as financial inclusion, agriculture, healthcare and education. Last year, impact investments touched the billion mark for the first time.

Understanding the present situation, Fiinovation believes that there is a huge importance of impact investors in helping socially relevant enterprises grow and prosper. There is need to focus on increasing investments to promote financial inclusion, clean-technology solutions, education, healthcare and agriculture. Fiinovation comprehends that the potential of impact investments needs to be unlocked as it provides vast opportunity for social and financial dividends.

With the impact investments growing at fast pace, it will be necessary to keep track on the returns. Fiinovation believes that there is a need for guidelines and monitoring frameworks to strengthen the entire investment process. The bottlenecks related to policies and government regulations need to be managed keeping in mind the adequate measures that can help the impact investment market expand. Fiinovation also understands that increase in investments will lead to requirement of professionals and therefore, government policies promoting skill development in sectors such as clean-tech, healthcare, education, digitalisation, financial inclusion, agriculture, etc.

In future, the struggle with access to capital will be done with and the massive challenges, which the sector is still facing, is expected to be addressed. It is also expected that the limited number of investors need to grow over a period of time. Fiinovation expects that better governance and talent will be required to provide support in the market expansion process. For bridging the gap between priviledged and the marginalised, it is important for impact investing to become mainstream.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation Observes – International Volunteer Day

Across the globe, several initiatives are being implemented to solve prevalent issues of the society. The International Volunteer Day or International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development provides an opportunity for volunteers (both individuals as well as institutions) to contribute at local, national and international levels towards achievement of the socio-economic and environmental goals.

The day was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly through a resolution on 17th December, 1985. Every year on 5th December, the day provides opportunities to volunteers for causes such as eradication of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, degradation of the environment, discrimination against women, etc. Over the years, the International Volunteers Day has been utilised strategically by governments and corporations to encourage volunteerism aligning them with the Millennium Development Goals.

Fiinovation, with its vast experience in social development initiatives, has been encouraging corporations to urge their employees to volunteer for social causes. Although, cost involved in volunteerism doesn’t fall under the CSR rules in India, yet it is definitely a positive process to engage with the local communities. It is observed that volunteers around the world work tirelessly to craft a better future for everyone, especially during crisis situations. On this day, Fiinovation acknowledges the efforts of more than 6700 UN volunteers, 12,000 UN online volunteers and 1 billion community volunteers for their selfless contribution in the upliftment of society.

Understanding the prevalent crisis situations such as in the middle-east, Africa and other parts of the world, volunteers have risen up and provided shelter and requisite support to millions of refugees who have been forced to flee from their homes. The floods in Haiti and malaria outbreak in Sri Lanka are examples in the recent months where volunteering has helped in saving thousands of lives. “Founded on the values of solidarity and mutual trust, volunteerism transcends all cultural, linguistic and geographic boundaries. By giving their time and skills without expecting any material reward, volunteers themselves are uplifted by a singular sense of purpose,” was the message from UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. In his message he pressed on the need to lend a hand and applauded volunteers for their commitment towards building a peaceful, prosperous and a dignified future for all.

Fiinovation believes that the role of volunteers will be crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Therefore, let us all increase the awareness of voluntary contributions, thereby motivating more people from different walks of life to offer their services as volunteers.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation Observes – WORLD TOILET DAY

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Every year, 19th November is recognised as the “World Toilet Day” across the globe. The day is celebrated to spread awareness about the issues related to sanitation and eradicate taboos related to health and hygiene. The United Nations passed a resolution in July 2013, recognising World Toilet Day as an official International Day for drawing the world’s attention on the current sanitation crisis. On this day, several campaigns are run worldwide on educating the world about benefits of sanitation, health, and hygiene. This year the World Toilet Day is based on the theme, “Toilets and Jobs”.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that around 2.5 billion (about 1 out of 3) people lack access to improved sanitation facilities and around 1 billion of them still practice open defecation. The forced unhealthy sanitation habits lead to chronic diseases such as diarrhea, malnutrition, soil-transmitted heminthiasis and schisosomiasis. It is estimated that around 58% of the diarrhea cases are caused due to poor sanitation, poor hand-washing and lack of hygiene. In 2013 alone, around 340,000 children under 5 years of age have succumbed to death due to unhealthy sanitation habits. Not only this, open defecation is also an infringement of privacy and dignity of young girls and women bringing them embarrassment and fear exposing them to sexual assault, violence, harassment and psychological trauma. However, this menace can be put to end by providing them access to toilets and basic sanitation facilities.

In India alone, around 55% of people out of 1.2 billion people have no access to toilets mostly comprising the people living in urban slums and rural areas. The central government has taken the uphill task of creating an open defecation free country by 2nd October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. They have pledged to construct 12 million toilets in rural India at the cost of Rs. 1.96 lakh crore. In his speech Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in open? Poor womenfolk of the village wait for the night; until darkness descends, they can’t go out to defecate. What bodily torture they must be feeling, how many diseases that act might engender. Can’t we just make arrangements for toilets for the dignity of our mothers and sisters?”

Deriving inspiration from the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Mission, many states in India have done commendable work in the field of sanitation. In a press note released by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation on the progress of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin, around 15.04 lakh toilets have been built under the MNREGA scheme across rural India. Under this mission, 446 percent increase in construction toilet work has been observed. One lakh villages have been targetted under 35 districts to declare them as open defecation free. Sikkim has been declared as the first open defacation free state followed by Himachal Pradesh and Kerala.

Even the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been actively working towards providing people safe access to toilets and end open defecation in the world. The Government of India and World Bank has inked a $1.5 billion loan agreement for supporting the nation’s sanitation initiatives. Additionally, the World Bank will also extend technical assistance of $25 million to capacitate selected states in implementing community-led behavioral change programmes, to end the toilet related taboos and spread awareness about the regular usage of toilets by rural households.

“Sustainable development goal 6 calls on the international community to ensure access to toilets by 2030. Delivering on this basic human right — the right to water and sanitation — is good for people, business and the economy.” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications

Fiinovation

Fiinovation Celebrates International Day of Forests

Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihood.

Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. It is a widely acknowledged fact that anthropogenic activities has led to massive depletion of forest cover across the globe. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. They also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent communities. The United Nations suggests that 33% of land should be the minimum forest cover for any country to follow. Currently, India’s forest cover is only 23% and as per plans it was suppose to be 33% by 2012. It is also seen the afforestation work which is being carried out by governments are also reducing the biodiversity of the countries by just focusing on a few species of trees and plants. India like other nations is highly dependent on forests for many valuable resources.

The forests not only serves as a means of livelihood generation but also helps preserve the environment from further depletion. Understanding the importance of green cover, the government through the environment ministry has been working to increase India’s forest cover. Fiinovation understands that as humans we have stopped respecting the nature and the consequences are reduced biodiversity, extinction of species, droughts, floods, soil degradation, global warming etc. Therefore, Fiinovation urges to promote the cause of environment conservation by highlighting the importance of all types of forests, and trees outside forests, for benefit of not only the current but future generations as well.

Each year, the International Day of Forests is observed on March 21st after it was established through a resolution on November 2012 in the United Nations General Assembly. This year the theme is “Forests and Water” which focuses on the role of forests in supporting water systems. It is understandable that investing in forests is an insurance for the planet. This day provides us an opportunity to introspect on the fact that despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Fiinovation reviews that deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Therefore, Fiinovation believes as nation we need to develop more forested catchments that will provide freshwater for farms, industry and homes. Development of forested catchments or forested watersheds helps in saving costs of building new infrastructure for water purification. It is also understandable that forests are central to addressing climate change. Increasing forest cover provides cost-effective and efficient natural carbon capture and storage system.

It is the need of hour to work towards afforestation and conservation of forests so that we can mitigate the risks of climate change and provide a healthy ecosystem for the future generations. Let’s hope that governments, businesses, civil society and other partners adopt holistic policies and practices to protect, restore and sustain healthy forests for our common future.

If you like the article, share your views at publications@fiinovation.co.in. For more information follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications , Fiinovation

Autism, Where the Smallest Successes Are the Most Joyous!

World Autism Awareness Day

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. It is a developmental disability that remains with a person throughout his or her life, affecting the brain functions. A person suffering from autism bears difficulty in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and exhibits repetitive behaviors. About one percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder.

Declared by the United Nations as World Autism Awareness Day, 2nd April stands as a reminder to bring the condition of autism to light and help spread the word on how crucial its diagnosis is. Internationally recognized and dedicated to autism, this day seeks to highlight and become the voice of children and adults who are undiagnosed, misunderstood or looking for help.

ASD can be related with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues. The most obvious symptoms of autism appears to emerge between the age of 2 and 3. It is a general tendency of children with ASD to fail to respond to their names and often avoid eye contact with other people. Due to their condition, these children tend to speak later than other children and face difficulty in interpreting what others are thinking or feeling as they are unable to comprehend social clues. Due to their condition, all ASD patients show no signs of empathy. About 20-30% of children suffering from this condition develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood. But, in spite of all this, some people with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.

India also has a high number of people suffering from ASD. There is a tremendous lack of awareness and misunderstanding about autism among the medical professionals, who at times either misdiagnose or under diagnose the condition. Moreover, there are a multitude of people with autism are left undiagnosed and hence do not receive the care they need. One of the major difficulties faced by parents of children with autism in India is obtaining an accurate diagnosis.

Fortunately, the process of diagnosis of autism in India is improving slowly and the doctors are becoming aware of the condition. Although there is no medical cure for ASD at present, there are therapies and behavioural interventions that have proven as a fix for specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. It is important for children with autism to receive training in functional living skills at the earliest possible age. The schools should be able provide assistance through facilitation of services that address their special needs.

In India, there are not enough services to meet the needs of children suffering from autism. As much as there is a need to give proper care to them while they are growing up, there is an urgent need to set up residence facilities and centers to take care of their needs when they grow old. This is important because many will require considerable support once their loved ones are no longer there to look after them.

As far as their livelihood is concerned, there are adults who are working a full-time corporate jobs while some are self-employed. There are many more who take up jobs which are tailored to their strengths. Their number might be small but they are still striving to fit into the society. It’s a known fact that people suffering from ASD display heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail. This can be a boon for employers but it is estimated that more than 80 per cent of adults with autism in the world are unemployed. If we are able to address issues of shortage of vocational training, inadequate support with job placement and continuous discrimination, the world can gain hard-working and highly skilled workers.

A great example and effort to connect people suffering from autism with mainstream, SAP, a German technology giant recently launched a global collaboration with Specialisterne to employ people with autism in roles best suited for their skills such as software testing. Specialisterne is an internationally recognized company which works towards harnessing the talent of autistic people and providing them employment in technology oriented jobs. The first wing of the project is a pilot program launched in SAP Labs India called Project Prayas which focuses on education, employability, and engagement of people with autism.

If people with autism are to have an opportunity to reach their maximum potential and have dignified future, the community will have to continue to work together as a team and advocate for the rights of this often marginalized and vulnerable section in the society.

By – Shantanu Negi

Media Team – Fiinovation