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CSR Is Not A Marketing Campaign That Delivers Short-Term Results: Bhasker Sharma, India Giving Manager At Dell

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Technology leader, Dell Inc. is well known for its presence in the IT industry. In an interview with The CSR Journal, Bhasker Sharma, India Giving Manager at Dell, shares his views about their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and how CSR is impacting communities and improving lives.  What are the activities undertaken by Dell in India under CSR? In 2013, Dell introduced the 2020 Legacy of Good Plan as a formal part of its business strategy to bring about a positive change for social and environment sustainability. Under the plan, there are 20 goals classified under 3 focus areas- environment, communities and people. In India our CSR programmes are focused on youth learning, children cancer care, disaster relief and motivating employees to volunteer for charitable causes & non-profit organisations (NPOs). Partnering with innovative NPOs, Dell places state-of-the-art technology into the hands of underserved youth, provides funding to support program success, and engages Dell team members to share their talent and expertise. We actively participated in the flood relief initiativesduring the Uttarakhand, J&K and Tamil Nadu floods. Dell allows employees to take time off for volunteering at manager’s discretion.  As a result in FY16, over 64% of Dell India employees were engaged in volunteering efforts and clocked a total of over 1,25,338 hours. What are the challenges that you face when it comes to social activities in India different from your global activities? Each country has a different ecosystem for CSR to operate. The challenges we face in each country are highly dependent on the stakeholder community. Initially in the country there was lack of awareness about CSR as a social responsibility. But in recent years, the CSR landscape has undergone a huge transformation and many organizations have been actively engaging in CSR, bringing about a larger social change. How do you monitor the social activities carried out and evaluate the impact of the same? CSR is a tool to lead impactful social change, and it is not a marketing campaign that delivers short-term results that will help improve business. To measure the impact of CSR and sustainability initiatives can only be done in terms of value delivered – community benefits, changing mind-sets, reducing impact on the environment and better employee satisfaction among others. We cannot expect to yield maximum impact or Return on Investment (ROI) for the money spent. While sometimes CSR can be measured in monetary terms, a large part of it is value driven. My advice will be to clearly articulate what area the organisation wants to impact and how and thereon focus all efforts in creating that impact. For example, Dell’s Youth Learning initiative launched in 2013 looked at providing advanced learning experience to underserved youth, and facilitating this goal through technology was our objective. Our initiatives focused on supporting learning goals for underserved children by imparting training in ICT (Information and communication technology) skills which aimed at closing the big gap in technology. This leads to improving, enhancing and jumpstart learning for life. While the number of children we reach is important; we also consider the quality of our learning programs and the access to technology we provide as the true indicator of our success. What is your view about CSR in India and its future impact? Philanthropy has always been an integral part of many businesses in India. Today, we see a rising number of companies developing CSR strategies that involves communities in a meaningful manner and aims at making a transformative difference in this space. This trend will pick up in the next few years, with CSR soon becoming a crucial part of a business’s overall strategy. CSR is here to stay as an impactful tool to empower societies and communities. By ensuring that companies channelise their efforts ethically, CSR also plays a part in leading a responsible path for all of us to conduct business in the marketplace What kind of co-operation or guidance do you think the government could come up with to further ease the impact of CSR projects? Government plays a pivotal role to boost the CSR sector by providing impetus to some of the commendable initiatives undertaken by Indian corporate houses. For example, endeavours like constructing a forum for exchange of best practices among corporate houses and ensuring that information on various government schemes for social sector are disseminated evenly. This can encourage development in this domain. Another area that would require government intervention is the education space, by ensuring that the computing infrastructure in government schools is functional and advanced.

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Regards, The CSR Journal Team