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What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
“At United Technologies, social and environmental responsibility is at the heart of our business.” - Palash Roy Chowdhury (Chair – UTC India CSR Council)
Many of us have no clue what Corporate Social Responsibility is, and we don’t feel the need to know. However, CSR is the primary reason multiple corporations manage their business’ functioning to include ethical and social considerations.
The past decade has seen CSR make a sharp rise in businesses’ agenda, its relevance is constantly increasing. Corporate accountability is playing an important role in an ever-changing market.
Why does CSR matter?
Consumers like us are getting pickier about the products they chose to purchase and the companies they chose to buy from. This recently emerging trend has had a definite impact on large corporations since people believe that companies should be held accountable for their social record. Companies are quickly adapting to this demand, to appeal to their customers as well as beat their competition. Corporate Social Responsibility in education sector getting the momentum. This also helps attract staff, increase reputability and increases customer loyalty. After all, wouldn’t you rather buy from a company that cares about the environment rather than a company that doesn’t? That’s why in a fluctuating market, companies are doing the most they can to stay on the top.
CSR in India
India is a country that constantly contradicts itself. While growth rates are quickly increasing, there are a plethora of issues India has to combat, such as poverty, overpopulation, sanitation, healthcare, and education. Can anyone of us envision a life without sufficient healthcare or education? I don’t think so. Corporate sustainability, therefore, offers corporations to take an active part in changing the current scenario. Ranging from simple donations to starting foundations, companies have undertaken various incentives.
Corporate social responsibility has been around in India for a long time. There are several CSR activities by IT companies. Some companies, like the Tata Group, are known for their public service since their inception. However, the crazy part is that the government has made it mandatory for corporations worth more than 500 crore rupees to take up some form of CSR activities.That’s why companies are using this to give back the most they can to society while getting acclaims and accolades for the same.
Education in India
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
Amongst the various socio-economic problems, India has, lack of education is an important issue. Only a meager 12% of our population complete our higher education and move to studying in university or college. Along with this, as many as sixty million children between ages 6 to 14 are not in school. 10% below the world literacy rate, India needs to combat illiteracy by employing various programs and schools. However, due to the immense population, any changes in the education sector happening is far too slow or due to the government policies, completely regressive. There is a strong need for CSR activities in education.
Underprivileged children that manage to combat familial pressure and enroll themselves in school have to deal with a large student to teacher ratio, as large as 41:1 in certain schools, lack of sanitation or bathrooms or lack of water in some cases. Doesn’t that make you worried for the future generations of our country? After all, like Whitney Houston said, “The children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way”.
CSR and Education
“The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” – Malcolm Forbes
It is difficult for one person to make a tangible change towards a problem of such enormity; corporations have the required resources, funds, and expertise to facilitate the change that is required. Education is an attractive field for large companies, since education is a universal requirement, regardless of gender, age, social situation or geographical location.
Investing in education or starting programs to tackle educational issues, companies make a direct impact on the people, receive large amounts of media visibility and raise much awareness. The schools or centers, the teachers, and the students themselves benefit largely from the experience and knowledge a business brings. Combined with government and partnerships with other NGOs, corporates could bring much towards educating those who truly need it.
Education Fields to Contribute to:
Scholarships: Many worthy but needy children do not have the money to continue their education
Libraries: Books are fundamental towards learning
Infrastructure: Companies can set up school buildings, laboratories, computer labs or simply provide furniture
Establishment/Management of a school: Corporates can start schools in rural areas, establish new schools or set up vocational centers/primary schools.
Known for Bharti Airtel, the Bharti Group has started the Satya Bharti School Program. Active for over ten years, there are over 254 Satya Bharti Schools in various states such as Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. These schools cater to over 42,000 underprivileged children.
They focus on transforming the children into self-reliant and confident citizens of the future and try to make a lasting impact on the children. The schools also recognize the importance of combating the female illiteracy rates, which are significantly higher than the male illiteracy rates.
The Satya Bharti School Program has adopted 50 government schools, a wonderful example of CSR and the government working together. Not only does the Program help students, it also employs teachers that belong to underprivileged sections of our society. If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face, what will?
United Technologies Corporation
UTC combined with SOS Children’s Villages of India started Project Vidya in 2014, where the education of over 800 children living in SOS Village is supported. This Project seeks to empower children from age 4 to adults aged 21 via education and mentoring.
Project Vidya is functional in over nine locations including Chennai, Cochin, Faridabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata and more.
The Azim Premji Foundation has been active for over a decade, making a large impact on the education of underprivileged children all across India. Combined with the government, they have affected over Combined with the government, they have affected over three million children via 20,000 schools.
They are the largest foundation in India to have such a deep and meaningful impact on education.
All in all, India needs to evaluate its current education system and restructure the entire curriculum at all stages. However, that might not happen anytime soon. Thus, any additional help from other agencies, such as businesses and large establishments towards education is greatly appreciated. Education is an extremely important sector, and we need to continuously focus on improving it. After all, everyone benefits with better education!
There are various Foreign multi-nationals like Merck which are also investing in Indian education through their CSR activities.
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