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Axis Bank CSR Report: Creating Sustainable Livelihoods

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Axis Bank is a leading private sector bank in India, which commenced its operations with the opening of its first branch in Ahmedabad in April 1994. It focuses its CSR initiatives in creating sustainable livelihood, promoting education and skills development, creating awareness amongst the public at large on public interest topics including financial literacy, facilitating and providing access to formal banking channels for the unbanked and under-banked, promoting environmental sustainability, and supporting health and sanitation initiatives.
Below is the video that highlights the CSR initiatives of Axis Bank Limited.
In FY20, when the corporates were struggling with labour and the financial crisis because of COVID-19 and therefore were cutting down their CSR spending, Axis Bank not only met its prescribed CSR spending amount but exceeded it by spending 100.96 crores on its CSR initiatives as against the recommended amount of 100.62 crores.

1. Axis bank CSR

The Bank undertakes its CSR activities through Axis Bank Foundation. The foundation reaches out and impacts the lives of millions of households across rural, suburban and urban India. Its work is around the core theme of ‘Sustainable Livelihoods’ wherein it works towards creating and strengthening rural livelihoods and imparting skilling to youth, including the differently abled, in rural and peri-urban areas.
Axis Bank Foundation works with experienced implementation partners with strong expertise in grassroots developmental solutions. Under its Mission 2 Million, the foundation has committed to supporting 2 million households by 2025, and has adopted a progressive and knowledge‑based approach that is closely aligned to India’s developmental priorities. Currently, the foundation is active in 7,097 villages in 153 districts in 22 states.

2. CSR Policy

The CSR Policy of Axis Bank is driven by its corporate vision and its aspiration to be the Bank of choice for its customers, shareholders, employees and the community. In this regard, the Bank’s CSR Policy outlines the governance structure, operating guidelines, monitoring mechanism, reporting framework and the CSR activities that may be undertaken, in line with the extent CSR norms. The CSR Policy is reviewed annually by the CSR Committee/ Board, and new focus areas, as deemed necessary, are deliberated and approved, in alignment with Schedule VII to the Company’s Act.
The Bank executes its CSR activities directly by leveraging its geographical presence across the country, through Axis Bank Foundation (ABF), through registered NGOs, or in association with any other trusts, agencies or entities as deemed appropriate. Wherever possible, the Bank tries to align its CSR activities with pertinent Government schemes, with an intention to create a multiplier effect in the true spirit of the extant CSR norms. A Board level Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of the bank is responsible for reviewing the CSR Policy annually. In addition, the committee is responsible for approving and recommending to the Board new focus areas, as deemed necessary,  in alignment with Schedule VII to the Act.

2.1 CSR Committee

The CSR Committee of Axis Bank comprises of Rakesh Makhija, Independent Director (Chairman), Rajesh Dahiya, Executive Director (Corporate Centre) and Rajiv Anand, Executive Director (Wholesale Banking) of the Bank.

3. Axis Bank Foundation (ABF)

Axis Bank Foundation (ABF) is the Bank’s CSR arm that reaches out to millions of households across rural, suburban and urban India. ABF’s work is around the core theme of ‘Sustainable Livelihoods’ wherein it works towards creating and strengthening rural livelihoods and imparting skilling to youth, including the differently abled, in rural and peri-urban areas. ABF works with experienced implementation partners with strong expertise in grassroots developmental solutions. Under its Mission 2 Million, ABF is committed to supporting 2 million households by 2025, and has adopted a progressive and knowledge‑based approach that is closely aligned to India’s developmental priorities. ABF is active in 7,097 villages in 153 districts in 22 states.

4. COVID-19 Relief

During the FY20, Axis Bank stood by the nation in its battle against COVID-19, announcing its commitment to set aside an amount of INR 100 crores to support its customers, employees, vendors, government agencies and the community at large. In addition to adopting several customer-friendly measures aimed at offering seamless and convenient banking, the Bank also scaled up its support to government agencies such as Municipal Corporations and Police Departments towards battling the virus and to vulnerable communities towards helping them meet their most basic requirements. Employees from across the Axis Group have committed to support the nation in its hour of need by donating a day’s salary towards the PM CARES Fund.

5. Project Axis Dil Se

Axis Dil Se’ – Connecting Remote Communities is an ambitious initiative launched by Axis Bank in FY 2017-18 towards promoting inclusive growth in India’s remote borders through education to create an enduring change. Under the programme, the Bank undertook the transformation of over 100 primary schools in the remote villages in Leh and Kargil districts in the Union Territory of Ladakh over a period of three years, and joined hands with its local implementation partner, 17000 ft. Foundation.

In the first year of the project, playground equipment was set up in the ‘DilSe’ schools as well as libraries in these schools were refurbished to include age appropriate books that aided in inculcating a reading habit. In addition to this, a Central Library in Leh called the ‘The Next Chapter’ was inaugurated, where children come to read books and take part in various non-curricular activities that are conducted there.
In the second year of the project, ‘DigiLabs’, an innovative digital learning intervention comprising tablets with curated educational content and completely powered by solar energy were set up in the schools. Additionally, training was provided to the teachers to effectively utilise Digilabs.
In the third and final year of our DilSe intervention in Ladakh, age-appropriate classroom furniture was installed and learning material was provided to the supported schools. Significantly, the phase includes integration of Aanganwadi centres (Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres) with an aim to enhance the learning levels of the children coming to these Aanganwadis. An important aspect of the intervention is imparting training to teachers, Aanganwadi workers and the villagers, for effective utilisation of the Centres by all stakeholders. In addition to this, block-level training was conducted for headmasters and DigiLabs administrators to enable them to effectively use DigiLab.
The Axis DilSe Programme has been lauded by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which aims to use the programme as a template for scaling up the development of other schools and Aanganwadi centres in the Union Territory.

6. Axis Evolve

The MSME sector in India has an immense potential to contribute towards achieving the Government’s ambitious growth targets for the economy. Recognising the need to build deeper capacity within the sector participants, the Bank had launched ‘Evolve’ as a knowledge sharing and capacity enhancement platform that brings SME participants together with experts, leaders and professionals. As a part of this initiative, domain experts from diverse sectors share their expertise and experience, and discuss the case studies focused on MSME sector growth and development. The theme for Evolve’s sixth edition, concluded in this reporting period, was “Gearing up for the 5 Trillion Dollar Economy”, with the series covering 26 cities in India, touching close to 3,800 SME participants.

7. Project Akshar

Project Akshar was launched by Axis Bank in 2017 to help create a financially literate society in the digital age, focusing on helping people improve their personal financial responsibility. The platform uses an interactive and gamified approach to make learning fun and interesting, while demystifying the financial space for a common person, such as financial terms and other jargon that are often difficult to understand and ignored, despite being an essential part of every financial contract. Akshar aims to provide the necessary knowledge that can help users enhance their creditworthiness through the right steps and initiatives. Akshar offers a knowledge bank to its users that consist of lessons, blogs, quizzes, scenarios, and infographics on credit reporting and financial management, segregated into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Since its launch, over 3 Lakhs users have availed the platform.
As Akshar is completely online, it has been able to penetrate not just the metros, but also tier 2 and 3 cities as well as many rural centres. Akshar’s success has created a ripple effect with thousands of users recommending it to their friends and families. In the FY20, thousands of active Akshar users reported an improvement in their credit scores.
Akshar has also been enabled in the Hindi language. The localisation should especially be able to cater to the needs of different customer segments in the Hindi speaking regions, particularly in the smaller towns. Akshar also hosts blogs that boast of a high reading presence, and are available in 5 languages – English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. Under the project, the bank has launched a new initiative focused on expanding financial literacy among women, focusing on providing personalised financial plans and credit awareness sessions, especially for women participants.
Project Akshar has been recognised with notable accolades for its impact, during the year. It bagged two awards – ‘CSR Project of the year in Banking and Finance’ at the Brand CSR Awards 2019 and the ‘Best Digital Campaign by a Banking Enterprise’ Award at the Drivers of Digital (DOD) Summit & Awards 2019.

8. Supporting Swachh Bharat

Marking the 150th year of Gandhi Jayanti in 2019, Axis Bank and the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) collaborated in a unique public-private partnership aimed at improving solid waste management in the city of Bhopal. Bhopal is already among the best performers in the Swachh Bharat Mission’s annual national survey and the Corporation sought to further strengthen its solid waste management practices through improvements in on-ground monitoring and supervision.
Bhopal is a city with a population of approximately 2 million citizens and is divided into 85 wards. Each Ward has its own set of officials and infrastructure for overall waste management, including the ward ‘Daroga’ whose primary responsibility is to ensure waste management is being done satisfactorily. Under the partnership, the Bank equipped each Ward with one electric scooter each, totalling 85 scooters, which shall allow the Darogas, as well as other officials such as health inspectors, to improve the speed and coverage of their supervision.

Axis CSR Swachh Bharat

The electric scooters were formally handed to the BMC leadership and senior bureaucrats from the Government of Madhya Pradesh, by the Bank’s Managing Director & CEO at an event in Bhopal. To further strengthen efforts to improve public habits on cleanliness, the Bank has also provided 200 Android-based POS Machines to BMC, to be used for spot fines against littering or other solid waste management related breaches by citizens.

9. Axis Sahyog Programme

Community-based interventions towards expanding financial inclusion and deepening financial literacy in urban and rural India are an integral strategic focus of Axis Sahyog, the Bank’s retail microfinance initiative. Especially focused on women empowerment, Axis Sahyog undertakes community-focused, capacity building activities directly or through its on-ground implementation partners aimed at promoting self-empowerment, personal growth, and inspiring an entrepreneurial spirit among women. Cumulatively, Axis Sahyog’s diverse interventions have touched over 8.5 Lakhs lives as on 31 March, 2020, and we aim to significantly scale this impact going forward.

9.1 Financial Literacy Programmes

Axis Bank through its CSR programme continues to run three key initiatives under financial literacy with its on-ground partner Accion in various states in the country.
– Mass Awareness Camps: Mostly conducted through street plays, dance-dramas, street poetries and magic shows, the camps’ objective is to spread awareness on inculcating good spending habits, monthly budgeting plans, identifying the appropriate avenues to save funds, and being aware of the fraudulent activities that can happen while they undertake their usual monetary transactions. Camps are usually carried out at community centres or other places of social gathering in a village. In FY 2019-20, the camps covered 30,295 participants.
– Money Plan Programme: The programme imparts information on efficient money management by educating participants on various savings, insurance and investment services available to them. The Programme uses specially designed training tool kits such as audiovisuals, flip charts, games and didactics. The programme also facilitates adult learning in a classroom environment and is easily adapted to a digital environment. A typical session incorporates quizzes, role-plays and games, and includes demonstrating activities such as using or making a financial planner. The Money Plan Programme covered 22,645 beneficiaries until March 2020.
– Vocational Training: This intervention focuses on providing an educational training emphasising specific trade, craft or job function-based knowledge and skills. The programme has been effective in supporting employability and practical skills development, and it the shown positive results.

9.2 Skill Development Programmes

Various studies on educational levels in the country have highlighted the poor participation of women in secondary education, which has been especially visible in rural India where access to formal education for women remains challenging. Vocational training has emerged as an effective tool to fill this gap as it can not only facilitate lifelong learning but also improve employability. Axis Sahyog’s skill development initiatives operate under this objective keeping a strong focus on rural women.

Axis Bank CSR Vocational Training

Skilling – Poor skilling among rural women has often forced them to take up traditional roles such as supporting the occupations of their spouses or families, and typically not being paid for their work. Axis Sahoyg focuses on skilling such women in income-generating skills that can augment their personal as well as family incomes, typically activities that do not require a large upfront investment, offer steady income and could be run from within their own homes. For its effective implementation, the bank has partnered with NIIT Foundation on skill development facilitating training for the underprivileged & the under-served youth seeking employment opportunities. As of 31 March 2020, the partnership enrolled 771 beneficiaries.
The skilling interventions by the Bank also focus on providing soft skills such as personality development and communicating in English, thus offering participants an opportunity to take up customer-facing, value-added roles, especially for women participants. 

9.3 Health Camps

Axis Sahyog continues its partnership with Thyrocare to conduct women-focused, health camps in rural India. At the camps, participants are provided a detailed health card and they can avail free tests for diabetes, thyroid, blood profile, among others, with reports delivered to their doorsteps. The Camps touched 8,784 lives in FY 2019-20.

9.4 Axis Sahaayata

The Axis Sahaayata initiative under the Axis Sahyog programme aims to proactively respond to natural disasters and other such exigencies across the country, delivering direct relief measures and materials, and supporting on-ground relief efforts in disaster-affected regions. During the year, apart from Odisha, Axis Sahaayata provided support towards floods in the states of Assam, Bihar, Karnataka and Kerala, distributing close to 23,000 flood relief kits and covering approximately 37,800 beneficiaries across 30 districts in these four states.

10. Waste Management at Axis House

Axis Bank has a centralised and robust waste management system that helps segregate, collect, transport and recycle all the different categories of waste generated at its corporate headquarters, at Axis House, Mumbai. The Bank has undertaken several initiatives that have helped reduction in waste generation, responsible waste disposal & recycling and reduce landfill.
In a move to reduce paper consumption, the Bank has cut down the supply of printing papers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, paper-cups and tissue papers. In FY 2019-20, the Bank recycled 78 tonnes of dry waste such as newspapers, shredded documents, dry paper cups and tissues collected annually at Axis House and converted into stationery items like notebooks, notepads, envelopes and bookmarks. It also recycled and converted 40 tonnes of wet waste/ food waste at Axis House, into compost through a composting machine, which is further used in landscaping and gardening purposes. Owing to a high dependency on electronic devices for running daily operations, disposal of e-waste is a major environmental concern for the Bank. In order to tackle this, the Bank has engaged authorised vendors empanelled with MPCB (Maharashtra Pollution Control Board) and CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) for disposal of e-waste in compliance with pertinent government regulations. In FY 19-20, it collected and recycled 11.68 tonnes of e-waste through vendors.

12. Environmental initiatives – Axis Cares

Under the Axis Cares employee payroll giving programme, ABF supports various interventions that focus on environmental protection and restoration. Through various implementation partners, ABF undertakes large scale plantation of native trees with an aim at improving the quality of common lands by arresting land degradation which also supports the revival of biodiversity in the region. It also reduces pressure on native forests and common lands for providing for fodder, fuelwood and water while supporting the livelihoods of poor rural households. Community engagement is strongly fostered for long term benefits as well as sustained care of the plantations. Through the project, technical know-how is also transferred to participants for not only being equipped to monitor the plantations but also for raising nurseries and or plantations in their villages with quality saplings provided to them.
Under this programme, ABF set itself a target of planting 3.8 Lakhs saplings over three years beginning in FY 2018-19, in partnership with two implementation partners, NM Sadguru Water and Development Foundation and Foundation for Ecological Security (FES). Under this programme, NM Sadguru had planted 1.3 Lakhs saplings in FY 2018-19 itself in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat and is nurturing and protecting the saplings this year. FES had planted 95,000 saplings in the previous reporting year and has planted 1.55 Lakhs saplings in this reporting period in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

Conclusion

The Axis Bank believes in empowering rather than helping while conducting its CSR initiatives. By focusing on creating sustainable livelihoods the bank is focusing its CSR energy towards picking up the country’s economy to recover after the crash it experienced as a result of the pandemic.