PSU companies get a bad rap for starving NGO partners for funds, underspending from their corporate social responsibility budgets and burying projects in red tape. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has been coming down hard on cases of underspending in CSR as was the case with BPCL and Bharat Electronics. However, not only has integrated power major NTPC spending more than the mandatory allocation, it stands out for its dedication to social change and extensive health interventions.
Last year alone, NTPC CSR impacted 10 lakh lives in 500 villages across India. It’s no surprise then that NTPC is among the 10 PSU’s (public sector undertaking) that the government deemed fit for the prestigious Maharatna status.
1. What is NTPC?
NTPC Ltd. is India’s largest power-generating company, what we dub an “integrated power major” in globalese. The company has been around since 1975 and has a pan-India presence that permeates the entire value chain of the power industry.
Electricity generation and sale is the mainstay of its business. As with traditional power companies across the world, it started off with conventional coal-based energy and eventually shifted gears on reducing overall carbon footprint by diversifying into hydropower and renewables. The diversification doesn’t end there.
NTPC has also forayed into consultancy and training, coal mining and the ash industry. Being a climate-positive entity, NTPC is focusing with more vigour on renewable energy sources including solar, wind, hydro and small hydropower. The giant generated 1.5 BU (billion units) of renewable electricity in 2018-2019.
This high-efficiency PSU keeps things grand yet simple; whether it’s sustainability, corporate governance, community development or power generation. It has been, year-on-year among the five biggest Indian companies when it comes to market capitalisation.
Despite frenzied expansion of manufacturing assets, there is sustained output for stakeholders and shareholders. If you include Joint Ventures and subsidiaries, NTPC has 52 power stations spread across the length and breadth of the country, including Rammam in the northeast and Kayamkulam in South India.
2. Corporate Social Responsibility at NTPC
Back in 1995, before the term ‘climate change’ became a buzzword in sustainability circles, NTPC was the first public utility in our nation to create the comprehensive ‘NTPC Environment Policy and Environment Management System’. NTPC has also been conducting EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) studies and following them up with environmental audits. In fact, it’s among the first power companies in India to run an EIA. This climate-positive attitude is a testament to its commitment to corporate citizenship.
CSR runs through the company culture. Social welfare is largely directed towards the people residing near the power stations, but not restricted to them. It is institutionalised in a way that it can be monitored periodically.
Water, sanitation, health and education are the thrust areas for CSR activities of NTPC. Since the centres of NTPC span a large and wide geographical area, as many as 19 states, the government-owned company is in a position to effect change through CSR on a national scale.
Communities living in the vicinity of its plants form the major chunk of beneficiaries, with other projects reaching out to the poorest of the poor. Other CSR projects are implemented to supplement the central government’s programmes for inclusive growth like Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and PMSSY.
3. CSR Policy
Dilip Kumar Patel, Director (HR), NTPC, told The CSR Journal, “Our CSR-Community Development Policy covers multiple activities from the local unit level right up to the national level. Our CSR and Sustainability Committee oversees the CSR activities. NTPC Foundation has undertaken several initiatives such as providing IT education to physically visually challenged students. To ensure the long-lasting impact of these initiatives on the community, we conduct a third party social impact assessment every alternate year for all our major CSR activities.”
NTPC tries to go beyond mere CSR compliance of the mandatory expenditure. The CSR policy is in line with the Companies Act, 2013. A designated CSR and Sustainability Committee oversees the CSR activities. NTPC Foundation is engaged in supporting PwDs (persons with disabilities) and the marginalised lead a life of dignity. From IT education for the visually challenged to Rehabilitation Centres (DRC) and mobile ambulances, there’s a lot of ground to cover.
4. CSR spend of NTPC
As you can see in the graph below, the amount spent on CSR initiatives has been consistent over the years barring a spike in 2015-16 when it shelled out INR 491.8 crores for social initiatives. This happened right after India legally mandated corporate social responsibility spend in Section 135 of the Companies Act.
There was a spike in CSR spending by private and public sector companies in 2015-2016 as what financial experts called “negative reinforcement”. NTPC CSR spend was INR 285.46 crores in 2018-19, surpassing the prescribed amount of INR 237.01 crores.
5. Interventions for COVID-19
Although the power company is looking after multi-year CSR projects, relief measures to fight COVID-19 are top priority since it’s a matter of national importance. Dilip Kumar Patel said, “We are committed to aiding the government of India in the fight against Coronavirus. NTPC contributed Rs 257.50 crores to the PM CARES fund. Additionally, a budget of INR 21.74 Crores (approx.) is being spent by various NTPC units for relief measures.”
He further added, “As part of our initiatives to support the state governments to combat Coronavirus, three hospitals have been made ready for use by the state governments to tackle COVID cases, at Badarpur in Delhi and medical college hospitals of Sundergarh and Bhadrak, both in Odisha. Further, about 192 isolation beds, with oxygen supply, have been created across all hospitals/health units and additional beds can be made available on need basis. Since it is extremely critical to prevent the transmission of the contagion, we’ve despatched 1,200 PPE kits, 1,20,000 surgical masks, over 33,000 gloves, 5,000 aprons, 8,000 shoe covers and 535 litres of hand sanitisers to all NTPC centres.”
5.1 Extending local support
It is also extremely important to strengthen the local administration’s efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic. The company is thus taking on many activities to support the stakeholders and the site management is extending requisite support to the local administration.
NTPC has contributed funds to the district administration of NTECL Vallur for procuring 1,000 bedsheets for a hospital. Similarly, NTPC Koldam handed over 400 masks, 300 sanitizers and 125 kg bleaching powder to the district administration, Mandi. Apart from this, recently PVUNL, Patratu handed over essential food items like rice and pulses to district administration Latehar for their common kitchen and to be distributed to the poor and needy. Rural women have been employed to stitch protective cloth masks.
NTPC Ramagundam has contributed INR 99.12 lakhs to District Administration for procuring PPEs, masks, sanitisers for the medical staff working under COVID-19 programme in the district. Also, NTPC Ramagundam is distributing grocery items to 4,500 migrant workers at an approximate cost of INR 16 lakhs.
Continuing with the relief measures, NTPC Pakri Barwadih has committed 8 ventilators worth Rs 70 Lakhs along with procuring PPEs and other items worth Rs 46 Lakhs for the district in its fight against COVID-19. Also, NTPC Pakri Barwadih has built infrastructure to accommodate 250 persons, spending around Rs 12 lakhs, following the directives from the district administration and is continuously making arrangements for distribution of food material in all sites in ER-I Region for the families of Contractors workers. NTPC Simhadri has contributed 30 lakhs for ventilators and other support equipment to KGH Hospital in Visakhapatnam.
5.2 Caring for contract workers
The outbreak of COVID-19 followed by the lockdown has affected contract workers drastically. So, NTPC has taken several steps to ensure the well-being and financial security of these workers. In some cases, an advance has been given.
Moreover, quarters in other locations in NTPC’s townships are also being earmarked for isolation/ quarantine purposes and for making stay arrangements of the contract workers. Since prevention seems to be crucial at this juncture, several units of NTPC have taken up prevention and relief activities and an amount of INR 3.95 Crores has been spent/committed for this purpose till date.
The members of NTPC’s Ladies clubs and other voluntary employee groups actively extended their support through the distribution of masks, relief material along with contributions to the PM CARES fund and CM relief funds. The management has been encouraging and motivating engineers, on ground, to ensure that even during this period, every corner of India receives uninterrupted electricity.
No investment is as great as what is invested in learning. Educating tomorrow’s bright youngsters is a duty the CSR team deeply cares about. It spent INR 132.03 crores on education and skill development projects last year.
The annual NTPC Utkarsh scholarship is given out to 7,300 students every year from the secondary school to the engineering and medical college level. Mobile science labs ignite a passion for science in government school students. Personal computers with academic materials for standard VIII to X were given to poor students of standard VIII in selected schools in Mumbai last year.
The power giant’s hospitals spread across the country provide primary and secondary healthcare services to communities. It extends health-related infrastructure support to PHCs, CHCs and District Hospitals. NTPC organises medical camps, eye camps and does cancer detection for the underprivileged in villages and in urban slums.
The government-owned company constructed an eye hospital at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh and an operating room complex at the Eye Hospital in Bhubaneswar. Mobile health clinics at eight locations have catered to over 1 lakh patients. The health initiatives reached out to 2,40,000 individuals in 275 villages.
8. Biodiversity Conservation
The company doesn’t compromise with nature, literally! Climate change and biodiversity are given as much gravitas as the popular ‘health and education’ thrust areas for CSR. The NTPC Biodiversity Policy was outlined in 2018 and has a clear vision to conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity.
The company has set rules in place to ensure that none of the power stations’ operations have a negative impact on forests, wildlife sanctuaries or protected regions; you won’t see an NTPC thermal plant anywhere in the 10-kilometre radius. In case of a project being approved or set up before a location is declared a sanctuary, the team commissions a special environmental study to a neutral-party scientific institute to gauge the impact, if any.
Environmental CSR initiatives include conservation of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. One such project involves deploying artificial reefs in Simhadri (Andhra Pradesh) where the company has a station. It has partnered with the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) for this purpose.
Artificial reefs deployed along the coast simulate coral beds, which serve as an ideal habitat for fish and marine animals. The first deployment was successfully carried out last year off the Muthalampalem coast.
The coast of Andhra Pradesh is also the base for its flagship CSR programme in biodiversity that revolves around protecting Olive Ridley Turtles. This species of turtles falls under the Vulnerable Category. The state forest department has been working hard to reduce the damage humans cause to this delicate species.
NTPC has been partnering with the Andhra Pradesh forest department on this as part of a 5-year agreement that includes conservation measures in 9 coastal districts of the state. NTPC has committed INR 4.6 Crores in total. The good news, there were more hatchlings released into the sea this quarter.
9. Rural Infrastructure
The company adheres to Mahatma Gandhi’s view of a village as a self-sufficient republic. India can’t progress unless the rural communities prosper. That’s why NTPC spent INR 34.81 crores on rural development last year alone. NTPC CSR in rural infrastructure includes building community halls and centres, road repair, distributing solar lights, dam repair and village infrastructure.
Six mini solar power plants and over a thousand solar street lights were installed in 2019. NTPC has started the construction of community halls in Vivekanand College (Dhanbad); Brahmani village in Maharashtra. A total of 27 community centres were constructed and 40 km of roads were repaired last year.
10. Swachh Bharat and Sanitation
A unique ‘education meets sanitation and menstrual hygiene’ initiative by this PSU is the Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan. It has built toilets in hundreds of government-run schools which led to increased school attendance, a notable decrease in Open Defecation (ODF), and a lower school dropout rate in girls who wouldn’t attend because they didn’t have a safe space for menstrual hygiene. It has constructed individual and community toilets in villages that also target ODF and enable clean and safe surroundings.
11. Menstrual hygiene
NTPC has taken up several Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) initiatives in rural areas. Some of the key actions include targetted awareness programmes, installing vending machines doling out sanitary napkins to women and girls and setting up sanitary pad manufacturing units.
12. Art & Culture
Apart from supporting Purvasha Folk and Tribal Art Museum in Odisha, NTPC made its contribution to the Modi government’s Swachh Iconic Places by beautifying the majestic Charminar in Hyderabad.
Since 2001, NTPC has been a member of the prestigious UN Global Compact, which comprises businesses that adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. The company has been practising corporate social responsibility towards Nation Building decades before CSR spending became mandatory by law.
Despite its large workforce and reach, CSR is ingrained into the fabric of this PSU’s culture on an intimate level. It has made sensible use of its reach and resources for the larger good of social welfare while growing its business simultaneously.