How effective CSR strategies can help organisations engage their stakeholders in socially responsible activities, strengthen partnerships, and drive the business forward

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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How effective CSR strategies can help organisations engage their stakeholders in socially responsible activities, strengthen partnerships, and drive the business forward

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is increasingly becoming the heart of an effective corporate strategy. It is a driver of innovation and improvement, a competitive factor for businesses, and a way to add value while engaging team members. Gauri Bahulkar, Director, Marketing, Global CSR, and India Client Experiences at NTT DATA Services, shares her thoughts with ET Edge on the significance of having effective CSR strategies and how they help organisations engage their stakeholders in socially responsible activities, strengthen partnerships, and drive the business forward.

What have been the key wins of NTT DATA’s CSR journey thus far?

In 2022 alone through our CSR program, we have impacted over 2,15,000 lives, supported 70+ villages, empowered over 250 women, offset above 8,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, and upskilled and educated nearly 1,300 youth. Over the years, we have undertaken several initiatives to support underprivileged communities, women, the differently-abled, and environmental conservation efforts. We have donated ambulances to remote villages to improve access to healthcare, digitally enabled government schools, revamped water bodies, restored biodiversity through habitat restoration, and digitised forests. At the same time, we strive to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls through our skills development programs.

At NTT DATA, we continually drive a culture of giving among our people. Our team is passionate about working on projects that can create a positive change. Our biggest strength is creating a holistic CSR program that keeps our beneficiaries and CSR partners in focus while engaging our people.

How have you integrated the organisation’s CSR approach with the business’ overarching strategy?

As part of our commitment to building an environmentally sustainable and equitable society, we have aligned our CSR strategies with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Earlier this year, we shifted our focus to funding education and environmental programs. Among the projects we have undertaken is digitising forests for wildlife conservation. We are supporting the Hostile Activity Watch Kernel (HAWK) system, which has built-in analytical capabilities that helps forest officials monitor and manage all aspects of forest and wildlife crime. Implemented in more than 30 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, the technology safeguards 20% of India’s elephant and tiger population. We are also working with IIT Kanpur’s Startup Incubation and Innovation Center (SIIC) to develop floating solar panel technology that can help reduce pollution while enabling local boatmen to save money by switching to clean energy.

As part of our efforts to drive social change through education, we have partnered with Inspire Institute of Sports to support the NTT DATA Learning Center and Academics Program. The facility provides customised education programs and tutoring opportunities to more than 100 young athletes as they train to become India’s next Olympic champions. We have also joined hands with several NGOs to create better school infrastructure and STEM learning opportunities. Over 8,000 children from underprivileged communities can access digital education, allowing them to be at par with children graduating from private schools with better facilities. At NTT DATA, we are constantly looking for projects that local communities can embrace to drive sustainable change and make a lasting impact.

How has NTT DATA made CSR tangible to its employees’ everyday working lives?

At NTT DATA, we believe in holistically creating a socially responsible workforce. We strive to keep away from the quid-pro-quo approach to volunteering and create a culture where giving back is appreciated and celebrated throughout the organisation. The most significant incentive is seeing how their contribution impacts the community around them.

All team members at NTT DATA have access to a one-stop volunteer platform to find volunteering opportunities, record their acts of kindness, and create volunteering events. We also encourage everyone to share their volunteer stories through this platform and promote them across our global networks to encourage more participation.

The power of CSR in creating an engaged workforce is undisputed. Not only do CSR programs keep the team members motivated, but they also enable us to attract talent who are determined to join companies that care about their well-being and that of the community. Every team member is unique, and we want to allow them to participate in a meaningful program that offers a sense of fulfilment.

How do NTT DATA’s CSR programs create opportunities for stakeholders? Could you share an example with us?

At NTT DATA, we are passionate about creating an equitable society for all. And as a part of our efforts, we present our stakeholders with opportunities that can drive real change in their lives. This year, NTT DATA together with Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled supported a five-month coaching and skilling program for 56 visually impaired cricketers across various states and backgrounds in India. While 17 were selected to further represent India at the 3rd T-20 World Cup Cricket for the Blind in December 2022, the hope of a better tomorrow and future was evident as we saw the program conclude. This program showcased the skills of these players on the ground and the life skills beyond the cricket pitch. The power of sports to influence minds, drive confidence, unite communities, and offer hope is undeniable. We felt this was one of those proud programs that provided hope and confidence to everyone watching, on and off the cricket ground.

What are the ‘must-dos’ for an organisation to drive a successful and sustainable CSR program?

While compliance with the CSR process laid by your company and the government is crucial, the most important factor in driving a sustainable CSR program is the passion and emotion we bring to the job. Here are three high-level recommendations from our experiences:

Create a culture of giving from the top down: Involvement of top management in the CSR program goes a long way towards creating a more engaged and empathetic workforce. It encourages team members to actively participate and promotes teamwork within the company while making a difference in society.

Gauri Bahulkar
Director, Marketing, Global CSR, and India Client Experiences, NTT DATA Services

Keep your goals in sight and communicate: It is important to set realistic, achievable, and measurable goals. It is also important that we share the success or failures of our programs with our team members, so they feel involved. Being able to see the impact of the program offers additional motivation for continued participation.

Be agile: When planning any new CSR program, you start with a strategy based on certain assumptions. Those assumptions are likely challenged on the ground during implementation. At such times, it is important to adapt and realign the strategy to truly empower the community it is designed to represent.

At NTT DATA, we believe we are responsible for serving the community we live in. We believe in giving back and are proud of our culture, where everyone considers CSR a passion project.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members