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CSR: Indian companies aligning their goals to SDG 5

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The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) formulation has been a more open and more inclusive process than the formulation of the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) driven by United Nations Member States.
Whereas MDG 3 had a single target focussed on education, SDG 5 proposes a range of targets to end discrimination, violence and harmful practices, recognise and value unpaid care work, participation and leadership in decision-making, and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
The main feature of SDG 5 of promoting gender equality and empowering women is that it challenges cultural norms and traditions and requires deep changes in day-to-day individual behaviour and practices, which are normally regarded as a “private matter”. If the laws and mechanisms by which society operates and the underlying cultural patterns are not modified, policy will be swimming against the tide.
Empowerment indicators measure changes in absolute levels of women’s well being. According to data presented in the Lok Sabha, India accounted for about 2,00,000 missing women and children in 2015. Child in Need Institute, using Accenture’s technology solutions, is tracking, proactively identifying and preventing such human trafficking trends, thus aligning to SDG 5.
Since 2010, Accenture’s Skills to Succeed initiative is empowering women from economically weaker sections ― apart from youth and persons with disabilities ― who receive training in the skills needed in some high-demand job areas; IT and digital skills and sectors such as hospitality and facilities management, retail, construction and micro-enterprise.
Accenture works with its implementation partners to promote equality and inclusiveness, and to ensure that beneficiaries reflect diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences. Of the total skilled, 230,000 have been women, representing more than 40% of the total skilled. The company has also developed an AI-powered, 24/7 interview practice aid that uses emotions analytics, voice and facial recognition to help prepare women from ‘Her Second Innings’ to reenter the workforce after a career break.
Welspun India has partnered with UN Women, subsidiary organ of the United Nations mandated to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women. The home textile conglomerate currently has 23% women workforce and aims to achieve the target of 30% women employees by 2020.
“HUL believes that a gender balanced workforce is essential to run a sustainable business,” says Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever Ltd. “The company has achieved 39% gender diversity in management positions through consistent efforts towards building a strong talent pipeline of high potential women leaders, providing excellent parental support and flexible working options and creating a truly inclusive work environment.”
The SDG 5 has now reflected the value of care and care giving and women’s assumed special responsibility. The visibility and value of care and care-giving has increased now and care across the life-cycle is recognised as the joint responsibility of society and the state, rather than women alone. Johnson & Johnson’s Health for Humanity 2020 Goals impact a billion lives in underserved areas, with programs like healthcare mobile messaging reaching 1 million mothers in India.
Viacom18 has gender inclusive policies such as a 36-week maternity leave and flexible work arrangements. The latest addition to the policies is Viacubs – a child day-care service for Viacom18 employees, as part of Viacom18’s WAVE initiative which focusses on safety, wellness, life events and career development of employees. The first centre in Mumbai in partnership with KLAY Schools, is spread across 2,500 sq ft.
Says Abhinav Chopra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Viacom18, “WAVE was introduced with the aim of encouraging women to grow and take on more leadership roles to promote gender equality and inclusion at the workplace in line with SDG 5. Our women employees should not be in a position where they must choose between their careers and family. Viacubs will ensure a smooth transition for the returning mother with the assurance that her child will be well attended to, in a nurturing environment.”
Programmes of cash transfers and targeting cash payments to caregivers support women’s empowerment by increasing their control of resources and decisions within the household.
As more companies reflect on how gender equality can benefit their business, we will see more corporations develop programmes that align with SDG 5 and empower women across their value chain.

This article was earlier published in the April 2019 print edition of our magazine. To grab a copy, click here