Sustainable Development Goal 10 (SDG 10) is a part of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The goal is to reduce inequality within and among countries. The target of SDG 10 is to achieve “substantial equality” by 2030. This means that the income growth of the poorest 40% of the population in each country must exceed the national average. It also means reducing inequalities in income, education, access to basic services, and opportunities for social, economic, and political participation.
SDG 10 aims to address the challenges faced by people who are marginalised and vulnerable, including women, children, indigenous people, refugees, and people with disabilities. It seeks to ensure that everyone has equal access to opportunities, resources, and services, regardless of their background or circumstances.
Achieving SDG 10 requires a collective effort from governments, civil society organisations, businesses, and individuals. Through CSR, corporates can play a significant role in achieving SDG 10.
Investing in Education
Education is considered one of the most powerful tools for reducing inequality and promoting social and economic mobility. However, despite significant progress in recent years, many children in India still do not have access to quality education, particularly in rural areas. According to the 2018 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), only 73% of children in rural areas of India between the ages of 14 and 18 were enrolled in school, compared to 91% in urban areas. Additionally, many schools lack basic infrastructure such as classrooms, toilets, and libraries, and the quality of teaching and learning is often poor.
This is where CSR initiatives can play a crucial role. By investing in education, businesses can help bridge the education gap and provide children from marginalised communities with access to quality education. One of the most effective ways that businesses can support education is by building schools and providing scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Tata Trusts, for example, has set up more than 4,500 schools across India and provided scholarships to thousands of students from marginalised communities. This has helped to improve access to education and increase the number of children who can benefit from quality schooling.
In addition to building schools and providing scholarships, businesses can also support initiatives that aim to improve the quality of teaching and learning. This can include providing training and resources to teachers, developing educational materials, and implementing innovative teaching methods. By improving the quality of teaching and learning, businesses can help to ensure that children receive an education that equips them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life.
Corporate philanthropy can also support vocational training programs that help young people acquire skills and improve their employability. Vocational training programs can be especially beneficial for people from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not have access to formal education. These programs can provide young people with practical skills in areas such as carpentry, welding, plumbing, and auto mechanics, which can help them secure employment and improve their economic prospects.
The Maruti Suzuki Foundation is an excellent example of a corporate philanthropy initiative that supports vocational training. The foundation has set up several skill development centres across India that provide vocational training to young people in various trades, including automobile engineering and hospitality. By providing young people with practical skills that are in demand in the job market, the Maruti Suzuki Foundation is helping to reduce inequality and promote economic mobility.
Supporting Healthcare Initiatives
Access to quality healthcare is a fundamental right, yet it remains elusive for many people in India, especially those from marginalized communities. Factors such as poverty, lack of infrastructure, and inadequate healthcare facilities make it difficult for people to access quality healthcare. This is where CSR initiatives can play a vital role in supporting healthcare by building hospitals and clinics, providing medical equipment and supplies, and funding research into diseases that affect the poor.
One of the most effective ways that businesses can support healthcare is by building hospitals and clinics that provide quality medical care to people from all walks of life. The Reliance Foundation is an excellent example of a corporate philanthropy initiative that supports healthcare. The foundation has set up several hospitals and clinics across India that provide quality healthcare to people from all walks of life. These hospitals and clinics are equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and staffed by highly qualified medical professionals who provide comprehensive healthcare services.
Corporate philanthropy can also support initiatives that promote preventive healthcare, such as vaccination programs and health education campaigns. Preventive healthcare aims to prevent diseases from occurring in the first place by promoting healthy lifestyles and providing vaccinations and other preventive measures. By supporting these initiatives, businesses can help reduce the burden of preventable diseases and improve the overall health of the population.
In addition to supporting preventive healthcare, businesses can also fund research into diseases that affect the poor. Many diseases that affect the poor, such as tuberculosis and malaria, are neglected by the pharmaceutical industry because they are not profitable. However, by funding research into these diseases, businesses can help to develop new treatments and vaccines that can save the lives of millions of people.
One of the most successful examples of corporate philanthropy in healthcare research is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation has invested billions of dollars in research into diseases that affect the poor, such as malaria and tuberculosis. These investments have led to the development of new treatments and vaccines that have saved millions of lives and improved the health of millions of people around the world.
Promoting Financial Inclusion
Access to financial services is crucial for economic empowerment, but in India, a significant proportion of the population does not have access to formal banking services. This lack of access is particularly severe for people from marginalised communities who may not have the necessary documentation or collateral to obtain loans from banks. This is where CSR initiatives can play a vital role in supporting financial inclusion by providing microfinance to small businesses, promoting digital banking, and setting up self-help groups.
One of the most effective ways that businesses can support financial inclusion is by providing microfinance to small businesses. Microfinance provides small loans to entrepreneurs who would otherwise not be able to access formal banking services. The ICICI Foundation is an excellent example of a corporate philanthropy initiative that supports financial inclusion. The foundation has set up several self-help groups across India that provide microfinance to women entrepreneurs. These self-help groups provide an opportunity for women to access credit and grow their businesses, which, in turn, creates employment opportunities and contributes to the local economy.
Corporate philanthropy can also support initiatives that promote digital banking. Digital banking is becoming increasingly popular in India, and it offers several benefits over traditional banking, including increased accessibility, lower costs, and faster transactions. By promoting digital banking, businesses can help to increase financial inclusion and provide access to banking services to people who would otherwise not have it.
The Digital India initiative launched by the Indian government is an excellent example of an initiative that promotes digital banking. The initiative aims to provide every citizen with access to digital services and promote digital literacy. Many businesses have also launched their own digital banking initiatives, such as Paytm, a digital wallet that allows users to make payments and transfer money online.
Corporate philanthropy can also support the establishment of self-help groups, which provide an opportunity for people to come together and pool their resources to access credit and grow their businesses. Self-help groups are particularly effective for women entrepreneurs who may face additional barriers to accessing formal banking services. By providing training and support to self-help groups, businesses can help to empower women entrepreneurs and contribute to the local economy.
The Mahindra Foundation is an excellent example of a corporate philanthropy initiative that supports entrepreneurship among young people. The foundation has launched several initiatives to promote entrepreneurship among young people, including a program to support startups in the social sector. This program provides young people with access to funding, mentoring, and networking opportunities, which can help them to start and grow their own businesses.
In addition to supporting financial inclusion, businesses can also promote financial literacy and entrepreneurship among young people. Financial literacy refers to the knowledge and skills required to make informed decisions about money, such as managing finances, saving, and investing. By promoting financial literacy, businesses can help young people to make informed decisions about money and set themselves up for long-term financial success.
Supporting Women Empowerment
Gender inequality is a pervasive issue in India, and it remains a significant challenge to achieve SDG 10 of reducing inequalities. Women in India are often denied access to education, healthcare, and opportunities for economic and social participation. However, corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives can support women empowerment by providing various opportunities and resources to address these challenges.
One of the most crucial steps towards women’s empowerment is providing them with access to education and employment opportunities. CSR initiatives can provide vocational training and employment opportunities, thereby creating a more gender-diverse workforce. By providing women with skills training, they become more employable and can contribute to their families and communities’ economic growth. For instance, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) Foundation has launched a program to provide vocational training to women from disadvantaged communities. Through this program, HUL Foundation is empowering women by providing them with the necessary skills and resources to gain employment and become self-reliant.
Apart from vocational training, setting up women’s self-help groups is another effective way to empower women. These groups provide women with a platform to discuss their problems, share their experiences and develop solutions for their issues. Self-help groups can be instrumental in providing women with access to financial resources, which they can use to start their own businesses or invest in their families’ education and healthcare. Moreover, self-help groups can be an excellent source of social support, providing a sense of belonging, and helping to reduce social isolation. Several corporations have set up self-help groups across India, including ICICI Foundation, which has set up several self-help groups that provide microfinance to women entrepreneurs.
Another important aspect of promoting gender equality is promoting gender diversity in the workplace. Studies have shown that organisations with a more diverse workforce are more innovative, creative, and successful. CSR initiatives can support gender diversity in the workplace by providing women with equal opportunities for employment and career growth. For example, companies can provide flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies, which can help women balance their work and family responsibilities. Moreover, companies can create women-friendly workplaces by providing women with access to safe and comfortable work environments, including separate washrooms and breastfeeding rooms.
Gender-based violence is another significant issue that needs to be addressed to promote gender equality. CSR initiatives can support initiatives that address gender-based violence, such as providing counselling and support to survivors of violence, training the police and judiciary on gender-sensitive approaches, and working with communities to promote attitudes that reject violence. For instance, the Azim Premji Foundation has set up several programs to promote gender equality and address violence against women. The foundation has developed a program to train teachers on gender-sensitive pedagogy, which helps them identify and address gender biases in the classroom. Such programs can be instrumental in creating a more equitable and just society.
Supporting Disaster Relief and Response
Natural disasters are an unfortunate reality that can cause significant harm to communities, particularly those who are already marginalised and vulnerable. These disasters can lead to loss of lives, displacement, and destruction of infrastructure, homes, and livelihoods. In India, natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, cyclones, and landslides have been known to have a devastating impact on communities, particularly those living in rural areas.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives can play a vital role in supporting disaster relief and response efforts in India. One of the primary ways in which CSR initiatives can support disaster relief and response is by providing immediate relief to affected communities. This can include providing food, water, shelter, and medical assistance to those affected by the disaster. The relief efforts can be coordinated with local authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure that resources are distributed efficiently and effectively.
In addition to immediate relief efforts, CSR initiatives can also support rebuilding infrastructure and homes that have been destroyed by natural disasters. This can involve investing in the repair or reconstruction of critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and hospitals, as well as the construction of new homes for those who have lost their homes due to the disaster. The reconstruction efforts can be carried out in collaboration with local communities and NGOs to ensure that the needs and preferences of affected communities are taken into account.
Another way in which CSR initiatives can support disaster relief and response efforts is by investing in disaster preparedness and response. This can include investing in the development of early warning systems, training first responders, and supporting disaster risk reduction activities. By investing in disaster preparedness and response, CSR initiatives can help to minimise the impact of natural disasters on communities and reduce the loss of lives and livelihoods.
Supporting Access to Technology
Access to technology has become an essential part of daily life in the modern world. From communication to education, technology plays a crucial role in social and economic participation. However, in India, many people still do not have access to technology due to various factors such as poverty, lack of infrastructure, and limited education. This digital divide can exacerbate existing inequalities and limit opportunities for social and economic advancement.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives can play a significant role in promoting access to technology in India. By supporting initiatives that provide computers and internet access to schools and community centres, promoting digital literacy programs, and investing in innovation and entrepreneurship, CSR can bridge the digital divide and support social and economic empowerment.
Providing computers and internet access to schools and community centres
One of the primary ways CSR initiatives can support access to technology is by providing computers and internet access to schools and community centres. This can help students and community members to access digital resources, including educational materials, online courses, and job opportunities. By providing these resources, CSR can support marginalised communities in developing the skills and knowledge required to participate in the digital economy.
For example, the IBM Foundation, established by IBM Corporation, has set up several programs to provide computers and internet access to schools and community centres across India. These programs also provide training and support to teachers and community members to ensure they can make the best use of these resources.
Promoting digital literacy programs
Digital literacy programs can also play a significant role in promoting access to technology in India. These programs provide training and support to individuals who may not have had access to digital resources before, helping them to develop the skills and knowledge required to navigate the digital landscape. By promoting digital literacy, CSR initiatives can empower marginalised communities to take advantage of the opportunities provided by technology.
For example, the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Foundation, established by TCS, has set up several digital literacy programs across India. These programs provide training and support to students and community members, helping them to develop the skills required to access and use digital resources.
Investing in innovation and entrepreneurship
Another way CSR initiatives can support access to technology is by investing in innovation and entrepreneurship. By supporting startups and innovative projects, CSR can help to drive technological development and promote entrepreneurship among marginalised communities. This, in turn, can create new opportunities for economic and social participation.
For example, the Google India Foundation, established by Google, has set up several programs to support innovation and entrepreneurship in India. These programs provide funding and support to startups and innovative projects, helping to drive technological development and promote entrepreneurship.
SDG 10 is a critical goal that requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including governments, civil society organisations, businesses, and individuals. Through Corporate Social Responsibility, India Inc. can play a leading role in achieving SDG 10 in India.