What was the first CSR initiative of Capgemini in India and when was it undertaken? Kindly share with us the areas you are focusing on.
Our CSR approach in India is based on four thematic areas—education, employability and livelihood, environment, and natural disaster response. Employee volunteering is one of the crucial elements we look at while appraising a project. Our visibility and reach in the immediate community thus plays a vital role. We also do not limit ourselves geographically when responding to natural calamities in other regions. Thirty per cent of our fund allocation is for the national causes. Through its various projects, interventions and employee volunteering initiatives, Capgemini CSR is reaching out to impact and transform the lives of 7,35,014 people in the communities that it operates from. We believe that corporate responsibility and sustainability deliver added value to our clients, employees, shareholders, business partners and the communities in which we live and operate. The School Adoption Programme was one of the first programmes initiated in Pune as a pilot intervention in government schools. In the second phase of the programme, 20 schools in Mumbai and Pune were added to create a two-year holistic intervention.
What changes have been brought in your CSR programmes following the enactment of the CSR Act? Is Capgemini contributing in the government programmes like Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?
The introduction of Company’s Act of 2013 gave Capgemini an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to transforming the lives of people, communities and the environment around us. The law also gave us the time to put into place, practices and policies that have helped us to make a concerted shift towards strategic integration and collaboration with all our stakeholders. Almost all of Capgemini’s programmes have been designed to add elements that promotes, protects and empower the girl child. The range of projects in all our thematic areas, from education to employability and environment, support the lives and aspirations of girls, young adolescent girls and women. From providing access to quality elementary education at government schools through the school adoption programme to ensuring opportunities for access to quality education for girls from multiple marginalized and stigmatized backgrounds, providing scholarships to more than 200 aspiring meritorious girl students for a college degree, ensuring that women get livelihood training in traditional and contemporary skills and opportunities to earn better wages, and ensuring women from rag-picking community get their deserving work environment and wages, all our programmes are women and girl child centric.
What are the challenges that you face as the CSR head—internally while strategizing and externally while implementing the programmes?
Challenges are integral part of any initiative undertaken at the community level. Add the heterogeneous nature of the existing demographics, it gets further compounded. We must understand, there is no ‘one size fits all’ concept when we work with diverse communities. The geographical, cultural, social, economical, ethnical, political differences call for customization in the way projects are implemented. As a CSR leader, I am constantly striving to convert challenges into opportunities for our NGO partners, the community and the company’s internal perspectives and policies. In the past years, the biggest success has been to strategically bring together the collective energies, acumen and skills of the huge resource pool at Capgemini, the leadership, employees, clients and numerous stakeholders, to become partners in driving societal change.
Do you have a skill development programme for the youth?
We experienced that completing certain level of academic years does not ensure instilling of employable skills amongst the youth. They tend to get into petty jobs with no guarantee of its continuance. To enhance the employability potential of these youths, we have intent of setting up skill-building training centres. We have named this programme LEAP (Livelihood Education through Action against Poverty). This programme would primarily target youths who are school and college dropouts. Along with the hard skills pertaining to training in various identified trades, soft skills will also be part of the comprehensive modules to be delivered, thus equipping them for employment opportunities. If the students/ trainees meet our employability criteria, we welcome them as employees. All LEAP centres focus on helping the trainees get placed and provide them direction with good careers. This year, we intend to start the process to make more than 5,000 youth ready for the industry
What are your CSR plans for Fiscal 2018?
Our future plans are aligned to our global ambition of touching one million lives through our Education and Skills programmes. In India alone, we plan to reach out to more than 10 lakh people in our communities by the end of 2017. The year will also focus on driving higher levels of community engagement with our employees, creating models of excellence within our existing projects, bringing greater effectiveness in our projects through use of technology and strengthening partnerships in the community to promote social innovation using technology as an enabler.
How do you view the CSR initiatives undertaken in India and what more do you think can be done?
CSR and sustainability have been part of the business lexicon in the Western world — especially in Europe. In India, however, while there are companies who are actively pursuing social development efforts, many have largely chosen to approach CSR in a very limited sense. The bill has settled the question: ”Should CSR be mandated?” and this makes it imperative for all the corporates to focus on ways and methods to integrate CSR and sustainability into their business strategy and growth plans and engage with civil society, shareholders, clients and government to account for their social and environmental footprint. This may sound simple but multiple challenges and complexities are involved in this. The key for all the corporates is to maximize the return from their CSR investment would be in drastic transformation from “sporadically investing resources here or there, leaving no significant impact behind” to formulating projects with identified outcomes and systems for measuring progress and results. We are positive that the most significant impact would be to help cover the development deficits that exist for many people/communities in India. While we are sure that the ecosystem will undoubtedly build-up, but as a corporate we need to understand the landscape across different development sectors, evolve strategies that are impactful and yet most appropriate to their needs and find the right implementation partners to help them deliver.
Please highlight on any particular project of yours where you have brought a sea change in the lives of the needy.
Enlight’ is Capgemini’s girl child sponsorship project which encompasses girl children in difficult circumstances. It began with an informal discussion on vulnerable children and the ground realities which are beyond our comfort. The project is unique in nature as it works across geographies and social groups which have been historically exploited, ignored and still exists in negligence. With a two-pronged approach of school and community-based intervention, the second year saw the project reaching out to 2,002 girls across nine locations and targets to work with 10,400 girls mentored by 10,400 Capgemini employees across 10 locations and more than 150 schools by 2020.