An interview with Nimmi Sebastian | Head – Corporate Brand & CSR | TBS & Tesco

| Nimmi Sebastian

Q1. Please elaborate on the CSR Programmes and key focus areas of TESCO Bengaluru.

We at Tesco, prioritized Waste Management in local communities, Sustainable Agriculture for marginalized farmers, and Education & Skilling for youth. While aligning to the global discourse on sustainable development and local needs, we adapted 5 of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals namely; Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Decent Work & Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption & Production and Partnership for the Goals; Our Corporate Social Responsibility programs are on a trajectory to consistently impact 3,00,000 plus lives in the state of Karnataka over the next few years.

Project ReWare

Waste management has been at the forefront of many a conversation, not just in Bangalore but in the world at large. TESCO’s Corporate Social Responsibility project ‘ReWare’, aims to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills by following a three-pronged approach:

1. Citizen participation: Inducing behavioral change in the community, by promoting awareness about segregation of waste at source and recycling, waste reduction at a personal level and composting at home.

2. Multi-stakeholder partnership: Reinforcing government established waste collection systems, by collaboration with BBMP, Dry Waste Collection Centers and compactors for segregation and recycling

3. Training: Train waste workers and rag-pickers to provide a robust waste collection system that covers households, schools, hospitals, offices etc.

ReWare focusses on 5 wards comprising 75,000 households or 3,00,000 individuals – Garudacharpalya, Kadugodi, Hagaduru, Hongasandra and HSR. Over the last 5 months, we reached 26,652 households resulting in a 21% increase in segregation of waste at a household level and collection 1800 tonnes of dry waste. Trading of recyclable dry waste material is a source of income for waste workers and rag pickers as better segregation of waste improves their livelihood.

Project AgriNext

Our project under Sustainable Agriculture – AgriNext, located in Yadgir is an aspirational district for Karnataka. It is predominantly an agricultural district and witnesses a high incidence of seasonal migration because of low productivity of crops. To improve long term livelihood security and quality of life, TESCO partnered with Kalike to provide a multilayered solution by empowering 5000 farmers with soil and water conservation techniques, decentralized energy sources, establishing farmer field schools, introducing backyard poultry farming for additional livelihood and creating entrepreneurs from the community for timely resource inputs in terms of machinery/ equipment, seeds, vaccination for livestock etc.

AgriNext targets to reach 5000 women led farming households, over the next few years and increase the household income by Rs.50-75K and increase productivity by 20-30%. Over the last few months,

• We have reached 50 villages.

• 5 solar water pumps for critical irrigation have been installed in a partnership between Kalike and the farmers, cumulatively irrigating 48.5 acres of land.

• 10 Farmer Producer Groups have been established, comprising 172 farmers with a target to save INR 2,06,400 per annum.

Q2. What special initiatives were taken by TESCO India during the Covid time?

Our support ranged from upskilling local youth from marginalised communities to empowering local farmers, to supporting migrant workers and underprivileged families with food and meals. Under the food pillar, over 11,530 lives were touched, and 2.2 lakh meals were distributed. Under the Education pillar we touched 1050 lives, upskilled over 150 students, and supported over 100 gifted scholars. Through disaster response we touched over 4420 lives and contributed to the PM Fund.

Additionally, we provided a platform for our employees to engage with various causes and contribute. We established a robust mechanism to conduct virtual volunteering initiatives, which was for the employees and by the employees. A multitude of initiatives were conducted ranging from live interactions with the LGBTQ community, mentoring youth, learning sessions for children and the sustaining the environment. Ours is a long-term view to help uplift society as a whole.

Q3. Does TESCO India have any partners that have collaborated with?

We believe in strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising partnerships for sustainable development. The long-term partnerships are with NGOs who are domain experts, have expansive knowledge resources and a wide network. We have partnered with several NGO’s over the past years right from Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, Foundation for Excellence, Kalike, Magic Bus India, Unnati Foundation, NASSCOM, Akshaya Patra, Rise Against Hunger and Goonj to name a few.

Q4. How do you view the CSR initiatives undertaken in India and what more do you think can be done? What are your expectations from the government in terms of policies etc?

With year 3 into the pandemic the ability to move projects, engagements and resources to a digital world was only about how fast companies could do it. Adapting to digital from a corporate sense was far simpler, the toll it took on the NGO’s however was far greater. CSR is about the impact we create in communities and the society at large and this was challenging with no physical on-ground support. Consistent communication, agility and adaptability in my opinion is how we will enhance our engagement strategy.
Governments however also have an integral role to play in ensuring that corporates behave according to the rules and norms of society, hence they play an important part in supporting corporate social responsibility initiatives. In an ideal scenario they can legislate, foster and partner with businesses in order to facilitate the development of corporate social responsibility.

Another point to note would be, that by virtue of the CSR law, companies are required to locate their initiatives around their operations – offices or manufacturing units. However, if one had to interpret the law loosely and if this could be extended to areas that are more in need and not only areas/zones that are in proximity to the companies, it may also provide an opportunity to do more far reaching work through CSR projects.

Q5. What is TESCO India’s overall goal in terms of sustainability and corporate responsibility?

In 2021, the Tesco Group purpose was revised after an extensive and exhaustive process. ‘Serving our customers, communities and planet a little better every day’ is a reflection of our commitment to a sustainable future. It is therefore imperative for all our actions and endeavours, not just our CSR activities, to align with our global purpose. At Tesco, our commitment to CSR and the planet goes far beyond campaigns. In line with our global commitment as mentioned above, we aim to reach net zero in our group-wide operations by 2035.

Our CSR goal in India is to enable communities in need with knowledge, expertise and resources that empowers them to break the cycle of poverty. We aim to touch 3,00,000 lives by 2024. Our geography lies in Bangalore and the aspirational districts of Karnataka and we specially focus on marginalised women, youth, senior citizens and children