By Surojit Mahalanobis
NEW DELHI: ONGC is expected to earmark Rs 502 crore from its profit after tax (PAT) during 2011-2012 for its corporate social responsibility (CSR) for 2012-2013. This fund would be added to the carried forward money unutilized in previous years. Altogether it should create a huge corpus. How to spend this money?
Asked at recently held annual results declaration day (May 29th) about ONGC’s CSR vision for coming fiscal, chairman Sudhir Vasudeva mentioned a few community services like sports encouragements, distribution of ambulances, education drives etc. all of which are small-time charities, and not sustained socio-economic drives for bettering life of the project-affected people.
It was a fun to see ONGC HR director detailing its CSR. This vindicates the general complaint that companies today do not really understand the connotation of the CSR. They think CSR in terms of ad hoc charities, which flay the norms set by United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).
Like most PSUs, ONGC also does not have any CSR director, who should be required to plan and strategise the CSR, integrating into business systems of the company. Therefore, despite Sudhir Vasudeva taken on board of the UNGC, ONGC is yet to develop a plausible CSR vision and insight into CSR programmes.
Looking deep into the ten UNGC principles of CSR, ONGC claims as under:
“….. , ONGC, is the only oil company in SAARC region and the only public sector in India to have Carbon Credits on its balance sheet. Among noteworthy initiatives, … achievements of ONGC have been in reducing emissions, effluent discharge, phasing out of halon fire-suppression systems with environment-friendly systems, extensive mangrove plantation for shoreline protection, ringal bamboo plantation in upper Himalayas, for sustaining Himalayan ecosystem, bio-remediation for sludge treatment on ONGC installations… also been actively pursuing a number of Clean Development Mechanism (CMD) projects, alternate sustainable source of energy and Carbon Neutrality.”
These, if accomplished, are but expected. Every company engaged in massive drilling has to do these. If you take from the environment, you have to return the same or more to replenish the lost patches. This is not a big deal.
The question dogs: Whether or not a company should integrate CSR in its functional systems? For an answer, let us examine ONGC’s recent CSR claim. Its Frontier Basin is zealously claim to have accomplished a CSR “by providing the district hospitals of Kota, Bhilwara and Baran three state-of-the-art ambulances”. At a recent ceremony at Jaipur, CMD Vasudeva handed over the keys to concerned district authorities; and the ambulances were flagged off by Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot. How much of emergent healthcare can three ambulances ensure in ever growing populous towns?
The CSR strategies have to be planned, schemed, effectively implemented into day today corporate systems, sustained with a futuristic approach. CSR is not ad hoc charity, it is a part of the business, because it benefits business, improves work culture, and immensely boosts corporate image. Well thought-out CSR strategies effectively create profits with humane face and social bonding.
In the PSUs, CSR moves are fundamentally inadequate. CSR tasks are handled mostly by the HR managers, whose myopia of vision convince them that setting up hospitals, colleges, internet kiosks in panchayats, financing a few students’ education, promoting sports clubs or events, and constructing market places for the rural people — are all CSR activities. In private companies there are CSR head, who often aspire to take the tepid baths to limelight for glamour just to save on taxes. CSR has thus become a snobbishly easy game today. Definitely, neither the DPE nor the UNGC expected the CSR concept be relegated to this myopia.
With the DPE left to grind without teeth, let us tell the PSUs to rise up to become role models in nation-building tasks and use CSR funds only for that purpose.
The question is, with so much fund on hand, UNGC and DPE guidelines to direct, why the PSUs fail to sit up to address itself for sustained strategic CSR moves? We can mull a few CSR initiatives at project areas, for example :
- Coastal villages and small towns can be illuminated through solar power, as REC always succeeds to fail at the job.
- Solar panel manufacturing units can be set up from the unspent CSR funds as projects.
- Cold storages can be constructed at short distances covering all villages.
- Sanitation, healthcare and drainage infrastructure can be constructed in rural and small towns, to stop air pollution.
- Schools can be constructed in line of community colleges for skills development of BPL and disadvantaged youths.
- Afforestsations can be done done for social forestry for forest dwellers and thus create scopes of gainful employment for them.
- Protective job-oriented programmes can be carried out in jungle areas to protect flora and fauna from smuggling.
- Railway stations can be adopted to set up escalators for elderly people and physically challenged for reaching overbridge routes to platforms. In India crossing to platforms through overbridges is a painful experience for the target people. Etc.
These are the real CSR tasks and cannot be termed as ad hoc charities. At least in ONGC project areas, these missions can be carried out. There is no paucity of funds for CSR, and no dearth of social, cultural, economic and academic problems in India. You only need to have a vision for CSR. (IPA Service)