CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility denotes how organizations manage business processes to have an overall positive impact on the society. There is much debate on whether CSR is used as a cloak to hide ulterior motives of the organization or do organizations genuinely care about creating a positive impact on their external environment. The organizations, on their part, maintain that they undertake CSR activities to fulfill their role of good corporate citizens. They believe this can be achieved by discharging their responsibilities through conducting philanthropic activities around their operational sites. Their largesse, however, props up two important questions -
Whether the companies undertake CSR initiatives because they want to be good, responsible corporate citizens or because they want to be perceived as responsible citizens,
How much of their CSR activities are actually exercises in image building, increasing brand value or simply diverting attention from the fact that their core business activities are sucking into the environmental resources and dumping back toxic and potentially lethal waste?
For some companies, the driving factor toward organizing CSR activities is complying with the legislations. Some claim that it's the guiding principals of their founding fathers that compel them to engage in CSR. Whatever be the case, there can be no denying the fact that CSR actions, however voluntary, are mostly driven by business needs. Those needs may manifest themselves in the form of obtaining social licenses to perform business, mitigating reputational risk, or driving their sales on the basis of their 'responsible image'.
Ideally, the CSR model should be one involving the concerns of all stakeholders- employee workplace issues, customer expectations and aspirations, supplier issues, environmental issues, etc. Most companies, however, have limited the idea of CSR to engaging with the community. The programs dealing with other stakeholders are mostly limited to legal compliance. Voluntary or proactive action in this regard is seldom witnessed.
Also, CSR initiatives by the companies may not be viewed favorably by its shareholders. Using shareholder's money to engage in charity may prop up ethical questions of its own. Hence, it may turn out to be a double edged sword for companies.
Under such a scenario, today's organizations have to develop and implement strategies to carve out a meaningful presence as a good corporate citizen, else they risk eroding their brand value, losing out to competition and ultimately suffering losses.
Details of the project
This research project aims to study and dissect these issues from all the company's, shareholder's, customer's and the society's perspective. There will be special focus on the service sector, which is the fastest growing sector in most economies and is much more sensitive and flexible than products.
On many occasions, the service sector encounters a lot of difficulty in advertising or branding, possibly because of the high costs involved. For many of these companies, CSR activities present an opportunity to build a positive image of them, project themselves as socially responsible organizations while simultaneously, albeit indirectly, creating brand awareness. It is not an uncommon site to see heavy branding done and media noise created while these CSR events are conducted. Even for companies that do regularly advertise, CSR turns out to be an excellent initiative in building a positive image around their brand.
Objective of the Project:
To understand how CSR plays a strategic role in the development of an organization.
To understand real motives behind organizations' CSR initiatives.
To examine how CSR is used as a marketing tool and in building the brand image for some organizations
The project will mainly involve Desk research, finding out the companies' perspective through their web portals and journals, studying the actual impact of their CSR activities and analyzing many impartial social commentators' views and opinions on CSR and the services companies' initiatives. Secondary research data will be used to fulfill the project objectives.
The notion that organizations have a responsibility towards the greater social environment which they operate in, including the manpower that produces the good or service and the end consumer, is as old as the early 1920s. Early British industrialists like Lord Lever took a paternalistic view of capitalism. Lever built an entire town for the employees of his Lever Brothers factory, encouraging them to walk to work and engage in a kind of early profit-sharing plan. He named it Port Sunlight, after the Sunlight Soap brand that was so integral to the accumulation of his fortune. Similar "company towns" became a hallmark of industry across the Atlantic as well, with Carnegie, Mellon and other captains of industry adding their own American twists to the model.
As the industry evolved over the century, unethical practices by organizations like unsafe manufacturing, child labor, tainted food started making headlines and consequently ushered in a wave of government regulations. Today though, many organizations have willingly adopted holistic strategies that benefit the world around them, including their own brands.
It is increasingly becoming apparent that CSR is no longer isolated from brand identity. It is not a separate cost of doing business and is even looked upon as a brand investment by some. While a few organizations indulge in CSR with genuinely philanthropic intentions, many have started viewing it as a legitimate brand building exercise and have carved out specific strategies to use CSR for enhancing their brand's established identity and growing their own brand value.
Either way, CSR has now ceased to be a choice with almost all major organizations, especially the service organizations, investing huge sums of money toward CSR activities with biggest examples being IBM, Microsoft together having more than 4 billion $ invested in CSR activities across the globe.
CSR in Services
Compared with other industries, service industry's corporate social responsibility has its own characteristics.
Human resource of the service industry
Service industry afford a lot of people's employment, this is the biggest contribution of service industry's growth .A part of the employment increase is the absorption of additional labor force, but the most main part is the absorption of surplus-labor which moves from other economic sectors. The reason for this phenomenon is from the two aspects:
Many sectors of service industry are labor-intensive, as an inevitable increase in demand for services stimulating growth in the supply of products, in order to expand the scale of service-sector employment.
As a result of the social productivity's enhancement and service industry's own rapid development, the labor force transfer to service industry vastly, thus, to provide more equal employment opportunities for the community and provide more services and handle the relationships with staffs and community well have become the service industry's most important social responsibility.
Characteristics of service industry's products
Service industry contacts with consumers directly, products provided by service industry is invisible, this product cannot be delivered and stored in advance, moreover the time of service must be short enough to the customer's demand, and the quality of service must be conform to consumer's judgment standard, can maintain and promote customer's satisfaction. As a result, credit management; provide consumers with standardized, reliable quality and safe services are particularly important responsibilities of the service industry.
Service industry's function of new technology
Service industry is a major user of new technology; enterprises and individuals have provided the substantial return to new technical inventor and play an important role on development of new technologies. Service industry guides the direction of new technologies' development, generates new demands from the existing technological research and development. Services industry is the main spreader of new technology, particularly those engaged in technical services and support services. Service industry promoted mutual communications and interactions between the many technologies, for example, transportation and warehousing industry fuse transportation, warehousing management and information technology fields directly. Thus, coordinate with the manufacturing industry, use and promote the environmental protection technology and product positively, establish the perfect environmental protection system, improve the environmental protection work continually, avoid environmental risks positively, are the primary responsibilities of service industry in the environmental protection aspect
Stakeholder expectations v/s evolving business
It is no longer descriptively rich enough to speak of "corporate social responsibility." In the ever changing CSR paradigm, we see that how a corporation interacts at every level is an essential and integral part of its identity.
A broader definition of CSR, then, would be the company's positive contribution to society based on the way it treats the core elements of its business-which are the six fields of play:
The communities in which it operates
The governments that influence its operations;
The planet it relies on for its existence
What is really emerging here is a holistic view of the organization as a global citizen; as a vital member of communities whose actions affect and are impacted by all it touches.
The six fields of play depict the various stakeholders and highlight the fact that CSR should be used to fulfill their expectations. But in today's business scenario, CSR's role doesn't end at fulfilling stakeholder expectations. CSR has become a key strategic tool for organizations to achieve their ends while simultaneously avoiding pitfalls in an evolving business environment.
With the recession squeezing earnings, organizations need every advantage they can get. Brand has become even more important in separating the winners from the losers in a marketplace where corporate reputations have been battered by scandal and bruised by recession. Transparency is now an essential for any company seeking an edge. In this environment, effective CSR initiatives, well told, can help significantly bolster stakeholder trust and boost bottom lines.
CSR can also help mitigate risk. There is always the question of guilt by association and if there are elements in the organization's supply chain that are not safe to do business with, public perception of the organization, the brand and the actual product take a hit.
There is tremendous potential upside to initiating positive social responsibility programs. With a return to increased government regulation a real possibility, and the public's awareness of corporations' environmental impact peaking, sustainability measures will help cut business costs and demonstrating willingness to self-police may forestall more aggressive regulation.
Also, CSR helps corporations follow that age old adage, better to prepare and prevent than repair and repent. The most recent example is that of British Petroleum. In the wake of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, their entire brand is tainted, their market position eroded and at risk of further deterioration, and their profits in peril. It is worth underlining that the cost of rectifying problems after they've exploded is far greater than the price of prevention.
Difference between Charity and CSR
There is a general propensity to confuse charity with Corporate Social Responsibility. There is a clear distinction between the two. While charity may imply donating money, time, effort or any other kind of selfless giving to help the needy, CSR's function is seen as part of a much wider domain. Companies aim to align their values with their CSR activities and whether the activities are people or planet centric, there is seldom any selflessness involved on part of the organizations. They look to derive long term benefits from CSR activities and many of them find a strong business case for CSR. The long term benefits, CSR proponents argue, cannot be derived from checkbook charity. Many organizations like TATA, WIPRO, and INFOSYS have set up dedicated CSR wings and they now form an integral part of their strategic planning.
A social commentator came up with the term "educated rupee", which means going beyond the superficial checkbook charity and attempting to reach out to the intended beneficiaries, making sure the allocated funds reach those beneficiaries and also ensure that the positive difference in the lives or environment of the beneficiary is permanent and sustainable. Many organizations have endeavored to do this, i.e., not just donate their money but their educated rupee, aiming to make a visible, sustainable difference in the society.
Building Brand equity through CSR initiatives
The use of CSR as a valid marketing tool looks to be on the rise. Organizations are now looking at Corporate societal marketing, which includes any or all marketing initiatives that use the company's resources and the objective highlighted is non-profit in nature. Whether the non-profitability of the objective is in both letter and spirit, is another matter altogether.
Organizations are growing to realize that the society and individual's perception about the company goes a long way in building or damaging its brand equity. Customers, both current and prospective, are bound to have a positive image of organizations that associate themselves with relevant social causes, and the prospective ones might even be willing to switch brands.
Corporate societal marketing can be used to satisfy different objectives including an enhanced corporate image, building an emotional bond with customers, increasing the employee morale and creating that all important point of differentiation with respect to their competitors. Also, it creates tremendous goodwill in the customer's mind which might be helpful if the company were to face a time of crisis. These and other sundry benefits can be accrued through detailed CSR programs which help in building, shaping and sustaining brand equity.
A strong brand image is one of the most important steps towards building brand equity. This is where the concept of customer based brand equity comes in. CBBE, as defined by Keller, is defined as the "differential effect that brand knowledge has on customer response to marketing activity".
Above is the customer based brand equity (CBBE) model. At a very basic level, this model explains that the strength of a brand lies in what feelings the customers have developed about the brand over time, through their exposure to the brand or the brand elements through communication messages. Brand equity in short, is what is established inside the customer's mind about the brand. Marketers try and expose the customers to the appropriate experiences with their product and services through their marketing programs with the hope that the desired positive responses become associated with the brand.
CSR initiatives help building brand equity through varied ways. One of the more important ways is through building brand awareness. Brand awareness generally implies the level of brand recall and brand recognition. At a deeper level though, brand awareness is more about associating the brand elements with certain parts of the memory. This is what's exhibited through the customer's brand recall and brand recognition. Brand Recognition is the extent to which a brand is recognized for stated brand attributes or communications and brand recall is the extent to which a brand name is recalled as a member of a brand, product or service. CSR initiatives can be a good way to increase the brand recognition, if not the brand recall, since the latter's more difficult to occur because of the inherent nature of CSR programs. On the other hand, repeated exposure to the brand can occur through CSR programs, which can go a long way in increasing brand recognition. Hence, CSR programs help in increasing brand awareness through increased recognition but not necessarily brand recall.
The company's CSR program may eventually lead prospective customers to form positive images of the existing brand users, and this might be a status to which they themselves might aspire, like in terms of being socially responsible or being a good citizen.
Not unlike people, brands also acquire character traits and values, not least of which is sincerity. CSR programs shore up this exact character trait for a brand, in a way that the customer's perception of the brand becomes one of caring and authenticity.
CSR programs can evoke a variety of judgments from customers. These judgments may arise from a variety of issues , like the credibility of the organization in question. Brand credibility denotes the level to which the brand is rated in terms of its expertise, trustworthiness and likability. CSR initiatives can impact all three factors in a positive manner, since an organization willing to invest in CSR initiatives may be viewed as more caring, dependable, and likable for doing the correct things.
If the cause bears some relation to the line of business for
the firm or the nature of its products, the firm may seem
more well-rounded and thus more expert. For example, a
recent campaign by Procter & Gamble (P&G) linked two of
its brands (Always and Tampax) to women's health issues.
Specific associations may have resulted in terms of P&G as
the brand that cares about women's issues. In that sense,
CSM could help consumers link P&G and its specific
brands (Always and Tampax) to women's health. Moreover,
consumers might transfer some of the positive feelings they
have in regard to the importance of women's health issues
to their attitude about P&G as a corporation or to the specific brands. Analogous to the Liz Claiborne example, consumers may believe that P&G is a caring company that supports good causes. Furthermore, true credibility could be
enhanced for the P&G brands if more direct effects are
The expertise of P&G could be enhanced if consumers
perceive synergies between P&G's support of health-related
research and the firm's ability to develop innovative new
products. Of the dimensions mentioned previously, likability or positive "halo" effects are probably the most likely to
be transferred from CSM programs. Yet firms should not
underestimate the ability of CSM programs to build both
trustworthiness and expertise. In general, CSM programs
may be especially good at creating credibility because the
nonprofit organization may be perceived as unbiased and as
a highly credible source. This may affect how firms communicate their involvement with the CSM program.
INDUSTRY EXAMPLES OF CSR ACTIVITIES
Wipro Cares is an initiative by the Wiproites, their family members and friends to contribute in the areas of education, community and social development. Wipro Cares philosophy is to utilize the collective wisdom of volunteers to bring long term benefits and satisfaction to the community, as they believe that providing funds alone will not help the community. This is a unique corporate experiment to channelize the contributions of the Wiproites matched by Wipro, and the desires of Wiproites to make meaningful contributions to society, on a continuous basis.
Wipro Cares contributes through two pronged strategy: providing rehabilitation to survivors of natural calamities and enhancing learning abilities of children from the under privileged sections of the society
Leaning enhancement: Wipro Cares has initiated Learning Enhancement Programs at schools catering to the children from the under privileged section of the society. The main objectives of this program is to improve the standards of learning, build confidence, ignite curiosity, broaden their awareness levels, improve their communication skills in English, build a healthy self-esteem and help them break through self imposed limits to achieve his/her greatest potential. In line with its focus, these programs have been successfully implemented in Olcott Memorial School in Besantnagar, Chennai and Government Secondary School in Viveknagar, Bangalore.
The Olcott Memorial School in Besantnagar: Chennai is a 110 years old Tamil medium school run by the theological Society. Wipro Cares volunteers work with the students of classes 4 and 5 (total strength -120 children), for about two hours on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month. The Government Secondary School in Viveknagar, Bangalore in run in three different languages-Tamil, Telegu and Kannada.Volunteers who are comfortable in communicating in one of these languages take up the responsibility of each class where they devote 2 hours every Saturday. The volunteers work with children from class 2 onwards. There is a plan to further implement this program in several other cities.
Wipro Cares volunteers devote 2 hours every Saturday with the ultimate desire to make learning fun for these children.Â Once the volunteer builds a good rapport with a group of three-four children, he or she would work on the holistic development of these children - to instill confidence among them, to build communication skills, encourage their creativity and thinking ability.
Makkala Jagriti - Wipro Cares Learning Centre:A Learning Center focused on providing enriching, exciting, safe and secure environment to children from under privileged sections of the society was inaugurated by Makkala Jagriti, and Wipro Cares in Bangalore. Makkala Jagriti is an NGO, whose focus is to work with underprivileged children in the area of education. The Learning Centre will also provide opportunities for contributing to the community to Wipro employees, their friends and families. They can get involved by interacting, involving, teaching & learning in mutually enriching way to reach quality-learning environment to the economically disadvantaged children in an integrated manner through the Learning Centre.
Summer Camp for ChildrenÂ : The idea of interacting with the children of the school using creative and innovative ways such as arts, crafts and other fun activities appealed to the Wipro Cares volunteers. It had two fold objectives: First, to stay in touch with the children that they were involved with during the summer break. Second, to make the summer holidays enjoyable for these children, who would otherwise have to spend time playing with mud and sand outside their homes, when their parents go to work. The activities also brought forth the hidden talents of these children (and the volunteers) be it story telling with hand puppets, painting or clay modeling.Â
A group of volunteers take on the additional responsibility of organizing the camp, with the support of the administration. They plan out different activities every Saturday. The summer camps also helped these children develop their skills, confidence and motivation to succeed not just in classrooms but in life.
Providing Basic Infrastructure at the School
For a child to come regularly to the school and stay interested in school activities, it is necessary hat the school is equipped with proper infrastructure. Moreover, research has shown that lack of toilets facilities for girls is the main reason for the high drop out rates among students. In the Government School in Veveknagar, Bangalore-India, Wipro Cares has constructed toilet blocks to cater to the student population. Along with that, we have provided a gate, which will ensure that the kids will not run out of the school to the roads, which may be dangerous. These are small but thoughtful contributions from Wipro Cares.
Wipro Cares has adopted Pushpavanam village in tsunami-ravaged belt of Tamil Nadu with a desire to rehabilitate survivors and rebuild the village. Their partner in this effort is BITsunami, a trust formed by the alumni of BITS, Pilani.Â
Pushpavanam, about an hour's drive from Nagapattinam, has around 1200 house holds with a population of about 6000. It lost 19 people to the tsunami which washed away 200 houses; 500 families lost their livelihood and another 250 families were affected indirectly; 35 boats supporting around 200 families, an important means of livelihood were lost or damaged and almost all cultivable land (about 100 acres) was left barren, leaving both cultivators and the agricultural laborers without a means of livelihood.
In Orissa and Gujarat
The damage caused by calamities was huge; thousands of lives were lost, lakhs rendered homeless, land owners suffered incalculable losses. The calamity affected people had to begin from scratch.Â
Wipro Cares' contribution in both these states, which were hit by two calamities of hither-to-unseen dimensions, (Cyclone in Orissa in 1999 and earthquake in Gujarat in 2001) is unique. After mobilizing funds from Wiproites which was matched by Wipro, Wipro Cares set up a team to evaluate the damage during both these calamities. The rehabilitation work was done after detailed discussions with the survivors and analyzing their needs.
The Company is a responsible corporate citizen, and strives to give back to the community it operates in. The Corporate Social initiatives, which the Company has identified and implemented are as under:
IIM Ahmedabad - Idea Telecom Centre of Excellence
The Company has entered into a tripartite agreement with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad ("IIMA") and the Department of Telecommunications ("DoT"), to set-up a Telecom Centre of Excellence at the campus of IIMA known as "IIMA Idea Telecom Center of Excellence" (IITCOE). This Centre of Excellence focuses on the areas of telecom policies, governance, regulation and management, especially marketing and customer care.
IITCOE will identify and capture best practices across countries; will enhance human capital through training and teaching programs for policy makers, regulators and the industry; will bring fresh insights from other countries in telecom and in related sectors, and will find solutions to India's specific situation, especially in the development of rural telephony.
Pocket PCO project:
Idea Cellular, along with International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of The World Bank Group, has taken an initiative for designing and implementing a "Pocket PCO" program inÂ India.
Idea Pocket PCO is easy to use mobile phone that comes with a special Idea SIM having PCO software embedded in it. The device can be used by the individual as a mobile phone for personal use and as a PCO for business opportunity. The project will help
rural micro-entrepreneurs to create pocket Public Call Offices (PCOs) inÂ India's under-served areas. The focus is to provide access to telephony services in rural communities, while creating income generating opportunities. The company is committed to help people to improve their lives by providing high quality access to telecommunications.
FICCI-Aditya Birla CSR Centre for Excellence
For the purposes of creating greater awareness and promoting Corporate Social Responsibility ("CSR"), as a part of the corporate mission and values, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry ('FICCI'), the company and other group companies of the Aditya Birla Group, viz., Hindalco Industries Limited, Grasim Industries Limited, Aditya Birla Nuvo Limited and Essel Mining and Industries Limited have set-up a CSR Centre called as 'FICCI-Aditya Birla CSR Centre for Excellence'. The object of setting-up the Centre, amongst others, is to create and develop the culture and concept of CSR among corporates, businesses, industries, organizations as well as other institutions, which benefit employees, their families and the society at large through welfare and training programs.
Reduce Paper usage:
Due to technological innovations such as e-bills and electronic recharging, Bharti Airtel customers are given a chance to help save the environment. This has led to the major achievement of paper savings of approximately 32,500 sq meter every month. This leads to the saving of 96 trees every year. In addition, as per calculations during 2005-06, and is continuously improving since then. Approximately 49,000 sq meter in plastic is saved monthly as the reduced usage of paper coupons and bills.
Bharti Airtel promotes and believes in sharing of infrastructure (passive) with other telecom operators. This ensures that they can continue to serve their customers while utilizing minimum resources. This is of great help in nation like ours where we have a huge burden on our natural resources
At present, Airtel shares around a quarter of their mobile cell sites across the country, with other service providers.
They have extended their approach of sharing even for the rural areas, where it makes lesser business sense for operators to roll out. Airtel's efforts have been well acknowledged by the regulator and the government, who have initiated efforts for shared rural roll out.
Reducing Fuel Consumption due to travel:
Bharti, having grown to be a large company on many counts, faces the key issue of operations coordination. While one would usually coordinate with others through face-to-face meetings, Bharti has institutionalized the habit of using videoconferencing and intranet facilities to interact. This significantly reduces the need for transport and thereby fuel consumption, it saves on time and generally creates a much more efficient working atmosphere. Bharti's earnings calls, i.e. sharing the results with our stakeholders, also happen via audio-bridge. This enables investors and analysts world-wide to link in to the call and raise queries. Bharti does not stop at providing these facilities for internal use though. By offering its services, Bharti enables people across the country to follow the same path and cut down on transport. This is not only convenient; it also saves tremendous fossil fuel consumption.
Green-Shelters: Another key initiative has been the deployment of environmental friendly green-shelters at around 7,000 sites. These green-shelters use high insulation material and Passive Cooling techniques like PCM, a thermal salt, for indoor Base Transceiver Stations (BTS). Due to its high freezing point, PCM provides cooling for 4 to 5 hours without any Air conditioning, thus negating any need of electrical power or diesel generator during that time. This not only saves cost but also minimizes pollution. These green-shelters also keep noise at a minimum. Bharti is the first company in India to initiate such a measure, and is well ahead of governmental regulations on the matter.
Bharti's Green shelter initiative has been appreciated by operators across the world and is being studied for mass deployment in many countries.
Free-Cooling is another technique that we use to maintain temperature level during night hours by circulating cooler natural air from outside to inside the shelter by reworking air conditioner flows. This has reduced air conditioner consumption by almost 30%.
Bharti Airtel is also working with its suppliers and experimenting with alternate sources of energy like solar, wind, bio-fuel/ hydrogen to further reduce environmental impact. It is also very keen to look at the viability of these technologies once experiments are being found to be successful like in the case of Green Shelters.
Advertisement Material: Bharti Airtel uses aqua-based ink for all its in-shop branding, in spite of its cost being three times the cost of ink which is normally used. The aqua-based ink is environment friendly and does not emit any fumes and hazard. Sometimes flex materials are used for hoardings, but since they are not disposable these hoardings are donated to poor people so that they can use it as roof-material on their huts.
Rural banking and agri-business
ICICI offers financial solutions to farmers, commodity traders & processors, SMEs & corporates in the agriculture sector and microfinance institutions.
They have financed about 3.5 million low income customers in collaboration with micro finance institutions. ICICI endeavors to not only increase finance to this sector but also their ability to mitigate risks by offering micro savings, investment and insurance products. It launched the Kisan Credit Card for providing adequate and timely support to farmers under a single window with flexible and simplified procedures. Another key focus area was to increase warehouse based finance to the farmer/small aggregator at the village level. To mitigate the risk associated with financing small warehouses it uses technology solutions to help monitor these warehouses and thereby greatly increase the feasibility of financing small warehouses at the village level. ICICI continued to finance suppliers and vendors of corporate and medium enterprises engaged in agriculture linked businesses. They have also increased their relationships with co-operatives that are constituted by farmers.
ICICI have taken several initiatives to increase awareness among rural customers for enhancing credit penetration in rural areas. It launched the "Kamdhenu - Cattle Loans Campaign" to reach out to cattle farmers.
Promoting Inclusive Growth
ICICI Bank has always viewed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as integral to its core mission of delivering value to its stakeholders. The Bank's CSR activities have taken three broad strategic directions: CSR through commercial activities, CSR in partnership with civil society and CSR through the ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth.
I. CSR through commercial activities
By ensuring that its products and services meet fundamental social needs, ICICI Group's commercial activities have for over five decades sought to provide value to its customers and society alike, through project finance, consumer finance, technology-based retail banking and financial services for small enterprises.
ICICI Bank continues to offer value to its customers and society through its commercial activities, seeking to build sustainable business models that are consistent with the Bank's own growth and profitability while simultaneously stimulating the development of all sectors ofÂ India's economy.
Under-served customer groups: ICICI Bank's Rural, Micro Banking and Agri Business Group (RMAG) caters to the financial needs of farm and non-farm sectors, including under-served customer groups like agri-enterprises, Self Help Groups (SHGs), individual farmers and low-income households. To provide access to financial services to low-income and other under-served customer groups, RMAG has undertaken a range of initiatives:
Financial services for agri-enterprises: During this fiscal year, RMAG provided financial services aggregating about Rs.151.00 billion to about 3,000 agri-enterprises, supporting the employment of significant number of people. It provides credit and banking services to SMEs active in the agricultural value chain and has enhanced credit access for farmers.
SHGs and micro lending: ICICI Bank's SHG and micro lending programmes facilitate access to financial services for low-income households, a segment of the Indian population that ICICI Bank has been serving for close to a decade. Through direct credit linkages to SHGs promoted by Self Help Promoting Institutions, the Bank has provided loans to SHGs. With a micro lending book of Rs. 25.82 billion, ICICI Bank's micro lending initiative reached 2.58 million low-income households inÂ IndiaÂ this year.
Cattle funding: Cattle farming provides a means of livelihood for millions of farmers inÂ India. The Bank's cattle funding initiative enables farmers to take a loan to purchase even a single cow, enabling small cattle farmers to grow their dairy businesses. It has partnered with dairies to provide financing to farmers to purchase milch cattle. During fiscal 2009, ICICI Bank disbursed cattle loans to the tune of Rs. 1.00 billion benefiting about 31,000 farmers.
Small and Medium Enterprises: The Bank's Small Enterprises Group proactively reaches out to millions of SMEs across the country, using multiple low-cost channels such as the Internet, dedicated call centre teams, mobile (SMS) banking, ATMs, debit and credit cards, as well as through the branch network.About one million SMEs were extended financial services by the Bank this year. The Bank has also promoted usage of energy and fuel-efficient technologies among SMEs and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MITCON Consultancy Services Limited and Agrienergy Consultancy. These partnerships aim to provide one-stop solutions to industries for Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects and emissions trade, including carbon credit business. The Bank expects this arrangement to benefit SMEs who want to avail a complete package of services through guidance from reliable partners with experience in the carbon credit business.
II. CSR in partnership with civil society
In these partnerships, ICICI Bank seeks to achieve a number of medium-term goals, which include:
Offering its employees and customers high quality philanthropy products and services:
In this area, ICICI Bank has partnered with CSO Partners (ww.csopartners.org.in) and its various partners.
Payroll-giving: Since 2003, ICICI Bank has facilitated employee donations to social causes through GiveIndia (www.giveindia.org), a donation platform that enables individuals to support social causes by donating to 100 non-government organizations (NGOs) that have been screened for transparency and credibility. Currently about 5,000 Bank employees participate in the payroll-giving program, which allows them to donate a part of their salary to a cause of their choice every month.
Employee volunteering: Given that there are a number of civil society organizations that could benefit from the skills of ICICI Bank's employees, the Bank has been working with Mitra (www.mitra.org.in) to offer a number of options for Bank employees to volunteer with civil society organizations (CSOs).
Flood relief: In 2008,Â IndiaÂ experienced massive flooding in the states of Bihar,Â Orissa,Â AssamÂ and parts ofÂ West Bengal, causing significant damage to human life, property and crops. ICICI Bank responded immediately, mobilizing funds to help people affected by the floods by appealing to its Internet banking customers and its employees. More than 55,000 individual customers responded, for a total contribution of Rs. 32 million. Nearly 63,000 employees of the ICICI Group supported the cause by contributing a day's salary, and several ICICI Group companies made a matching employer contribution, for a total of Rs. 107 million. The ICICI Group is working through CSO Partners, GiveIndia as well as SphereÂ IndiaÂ and its partners to utilize this amount for the rehabilitation of flood victims in Orissa, Bihar andÂ West Bengal.
Developing partnerships designed towards buildingÂ India's talent pool:
Read to Lead: ICICI Bank's Read to Lead programme invests inÂ India's future by facilitating access to elementary education for 100,000 out-of-school children from 6-13 years of age. It aims to provide lowincome children, including girls, tribal children and children from remote rural areas, with access to education by strengthening the government system of education. Read to Lead is a nationwide initiative, spanning 14 states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. ICICI Bank, through CSO Partners, has partnered with various NGOs who have vast experience in this field to share their knowledge and help the Bank run this programme effectively. The Bank's partners have been chosen on the basis of their years of experience in the field of education, the sustainability of their models and their outreach.
III. CSR through ICICI Foundation for Inclusive GrowthÂ
Given its size and level of engagement with the Indian economy, ICICI Bank believes that its own long-term growth and profitability are directly linked to the inclusive growth of all sectors of the nation's economy. It is therefore in the interest of stakeholders to invest in inclusive growth. To give a focus to its commitment to makingÂ India's economic growth more inclusive, the ICICI Group started the ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth (www.icicifoundation.org) on January 4, 2008. The ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth (IFIG) envisions a world free of poverty in which every individual has the freedom and power to create and sustain a just society to live in. IFIG's mission is to create and support strong independent organizations which work towards empowering the poor to participate in and benefit from the Indian growth process.
IFIG's first year has been a period of learning, building the Foundation's vision, mission and strategy. Rather than build departments within a large monolithic foundation, IFIG has chosen to collaborate with and foster the development of independent organizations with focused expertise in five areas: (i) basic health, (ii) elementary education, (iii) financial inclusion, (iv)civil society organizations (CSOs) and (v) environmental responsibility.
Through these examples, an attempt has been made to understand and appreciate the CSR activities of various service organizations. As explained earlier, many of them use this as a plank for brand building, others do it for solely philanthropic purposes but the fact remains that CSR is slowly ceasing to be a choice and beginning to be a necessity for organizations to sustain themselves in a competitive environment.