Sustainability and CSR are the foundational principles of growth, development, and good business, which has been well-encapsulated in Jindal Stainless Limited (JSL) vision statement – “Improving lives through trustworthy and innovative stain-less solutions.” Although essential, I believe that CSR laws in India should not be limited to being a compliance issue and through government legislation but it should more importantly be an integral part of a Corporation’s business ethics and business responsibility. The Companies Act 2013 is prescriptive in many ways on how CSR initiatives should be implemented and clearly spells out on how Corporations need to spend (NOT Invest) on CSR. The bottom line is to design need-based programs after carrying out a base – line survey and going ‘Beyond Business Responsibilities’ stressing on the importance of seeing a change in lives of communities.
Some of the key focus areas are Education and Skill training with a strong focus on self reliance and Entrepreneurship development, Women Empowerment, Integrated Health Care with specific focus on eradication of disease incidence from a specific target area. It has also been engaged in the program on Agriculture Extension by providing a direct connect between a farmer and the buyer and has been addressing the issue of Environment and in the process of reduction of Carbon emissions. The project design, which essentially focuses on various from soil testing to training with experts being brought in from across geographies to price actualization and linking farmers directly with buyers have brought about a lot of interest amongst various stakeholders.
While the activities, which can be undertaken under CSR as per the Act do not mention human rights it becomes central to all engagement, whether it is to do with education, health, women empowerment, environment or skill building. All have a direct impact on human rights. We championed and formed ‘India CEO Forum on Business and Human Rights’, the first across the world, wherein the focus has been on the second pillar of ‘Respect’ of the UN Guiding principles (UNGP). It is this pillar which will gives the businesses the much needed ‘License to operate’ and create a healthy business environment.
JSL has undertaken a number of initiatives on livelihood generation and Women Empowerment with the aim of ‘Entrepreneurship Development’. The projects undertaken included creating Self Help Groups and providing various activities around capacity building from activities linked projects, to sourcing and marketing initiatives. In addition to empower women in the urban rural areas in states like Haryana and Odisha, JSL in partnership with Xynteo, a Norwegian organisation, and the UNDP have empowered women to work in the stainless steel sector by imparting training to women in cutting, welding, Quality check and marketing of stainless steel products.
In addition we are linking our efforts to the SDGs framework through a technology based platform and adopting different approaches of reporting and documentation. Alignment and collaborations are the only way to scale as Corporations with limited budgets when compared with the Government reach and extent, need to develop partnerships with mutual adoration. We must respect communities and that can only happen once we respect ourselves and our own ilk. Hence compliance or compulsions should not be drivers of our
CSR initiatives and instead we must have clarity of focus and touch all stakeholders responsible to have a symbiotic relationship for co-existence and mutual benefit.