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Mr Balaji Ganapathy from TCS Talks about Impact of Employee Volunteering on CSR

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Employee volunteering fosters a strong sense of community and social responsibility within an organization, as employees contribute their time and skills to support charitable causes and community initiatives. In line with TCS’ core values of supporting social causes, commitment to building a sustainable future, and giving back to society, TCS employees volunteered 2.8 million hours in FY23 under the company’s volunteering program HOPE (Hours of Purpose by Employees).
In an exclusive interaction with The CSR Journal, Mr Balaji Ganapathy, Global Head of CSR and Chief Social Responsibility Officer, TCS talks about the impact of employee volunteering on the CSR of TCS.

1. What inspired TCS to launch the HOPE program, and what are the company’s core values that support this initiative?

Our vision at TCS is to empower people and communities, building self-reliance through purpose and technology while ensuring the values of fairness, equity, and respect for human rights. We continue to remain steadfast in our mission to connect people to opportunities in the digital economy while building equitable, inclusive pathways for all – especially women, youth, and marginalized groups. We recognize that change begins with passionate and skilled individuals who want to make a difference. HOPE is a movement for the people, by the people. Through our HOPE initiative, we combine the needs of society, the skills of our employees, and active civic engagement to create meaningful projects that address the specific needs of the people and communities where we live and work. We encourage our peers by sharing the importance of our initiatives and how it can make a difference in our daily life. By applying its resources towards communities that need it the most, TCS ensures equitable access. HOPE motivated employees to express their support for local societal needs within their communities, as well as taking individual and team actions to create long-term impact.  They showed great interest in protecting the environment by planting trees and cleaning up beaches and neighbourhoods. They also donated blood, raised awareness about mental health, and contributed by donating clothes, food, books, and toys to those in need. Additionally, our employees leveraged their expertise to contribute towards programs such as Literacy as a Service and Youth employment program by mentoring and training adults & youths to improve their employment prospects and create a better livelihood.

2. Can you share some specific examples of volunteering activities that TCS employees have undertaken through HOPE, and the impact they have had on the community?

Here are some examples of purpose projects that TCSers have contributed to:
Climate action: tree plantation, energy conservation, protecting biodiversity, organizing and facilitating cleanup drives.
Promoting health: creating awareness on mental health, blood donation, and awareness on road safety.
Poverty alleviation: donation of basic necessities such as food, clothes, books, stationary, toys, and paper bags.
Skill-based volunteering: adult literacy, skilling, and mentoring for youth employment.
Most of these activities are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of climate action, good health and wellbeing, quality education, reduced inequalities, building sustainable cities and communities, and addressing zero hunger.
TCS’ volunteer base is diverse, consisting of people from different business units and demographic segments. They have collectively contributed a total of 2.8 million volunteer hours. Here are some shining examples of our outstanding volunteers who have had a role to play in HOPE’s success.
Harini Rayasam, an analyst at BTG-Bangalore, is passionate about planting trees to fight climate change. Together with her team she has planted around 10,000 saplings in and around Bellary in Karnataka. This area is known to suffer from severe water shortages and droughts, with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius due to the presence of many industries in and around the area. These problems are made worse by the lack of a green cover. To restore ecological balance, Harini and her team have conducted over 150 plantation drives. “A person who plants trees, plants hope,” she says. “This is our small contribution towards tackling climate change. The joy of giving back to the nature has brought a sense of satisfaction to everyone involved.”
Volunteering has always been a significant part of Saiket Saha’s career journey. He’s a solution architect who has actively contributed to TCS’s literacy initiative for adult learners. For the HOPE campaign, he led the drive to donate items for the education of underprivileged children. His team gathered books, writing and drawing kits, sports equipment, food, and clothing to distribute among children. They also made paper bags, reusing old newspapers and ropes for packaging the items. “The best part of the entire experience was spending quality time with the children at the NGO and delivering the goodies to them. We hope that this contribution helps these children with their education.” says Saiket.
Ravi Varma, an associate systems engineer trainee with EGG-Lucknow, is a first-time volunteer with the HOPE campaign. He says, contributing to the initiative was a life-changing experience that made him want to volunteer more. “I volunteered to educate a group of young girls about phishing and cyber-attacks. When I reached the classroom and saw their thirst to learn, I realized the real purpose and value of this mission. The next 90 minutes was a life changing experience for me, and I gave it my 100 percent. I was truly touched by the end of the day.”

3. How has TCS been able to motivate its employees to participate in the volunteering program, and what benefits have they gained from the experience?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were eager to help those in need. In response, TCS launched HOPE to serve as a platform for service. HOPE’s #millionhoursofpurpose initiative aimed to contribute 1 million volunteering hours by March 31, 2023. TCSers more than doubled that number by contributing over 2.3 million hours in Q4 alone. These efforts have impacted over 1.25 million people, and every one in four TCSer is now a purpose ambassador. This initiative has also helped foster a spirit of volunteerism, particularly among newer employees, with about 60% of volunteers having joined TCS in the last three years.
TCS employees have shown tremendous passion for purpose-driven projects, particularly those related to climate action, including planting trees, conserving energy, protecting biodiversity, and organizing cleanup events. Additionally, we promote health and well-being through initiatives such as mental health awareness, blood donation drives, and promoting road safety. We have also donated basic necessities like food, clothes, books, stationary, toys, and paper bags to those in need. Additionally, our associates are engaged in skill-based volunteering, such as adult literacy, mentoring, and upskilling programs to improve youth employment prospects. As part of our HOPE initiative, 150,000+TCS employees have volunteered by participating in at least one purpose project.

4. Can you discuss TCS’ commitment to building a sustainable future and some of the specific environmental initiatives the company has undertaken?

As part of HOPE, TCSers have actively participated in various activities relating to environment protection, including planting over 200,000 trees. In addition to this, they have volunteered for cleanup drives too. As a result of these efforts, we estimate that TCSers have been able to save a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions and have also saved a significant amount of energy, equivalent to charging 50 million smartphones. These efforts by our volunteers are a testament to their dedication and commitment towards making a positive impact on the world.

5. As the Chief Social Responsibility Officer, what is your vision for TCS’ broader CSR strategy and the role it can play in creating positive social change?

Our social purpose is to connect people to opportunities in the digital economy by building equitable, inclusive pathways for all especially women, youth, and marginalized groups. To create social outcomes of generational improvement, we are empowering people to move from poverty to prosperity.
We understand the significance of collaborating with different sectors to create a long-lasting impact. This means contributing to policies at the national and local levels, participating in forums for thought leadership, and partnering with organizations and stakeholders that share our vision.
We firmly believe that building a robust ecosystem with a shared purpose is essential to bring about sustainable change and a positive impact on society. Our employees and business leaders are instrumental in driving this change by engaging with local communities and finding solutions to their problems. We also make sure our programs are accessible and relevant to our customers, so they can partake in making a difference.

6. How does TCS engage with local communities and stakeholders to ensure that its CSR initiatives are aligned with their needs and priorities?

We collaborated with hospitals, blood banks, and NGO partners to organize blood donation camps, knowing that each contribution can save at least three lives. Through this initiative, we were able to donate enough blood to save more than 80,000 lives.
TCS has also undertaken programs to support education and equip students with critical 21st-century skills. The goIT program has benefitted more than 41,000 students & educators, enabling them to become digital social innovators. Meanwhile, Ignite my Future has provided computational thinking skills to over 293,000 students and educators, an important skill for the upcoming digital shift. Both programs aim to demystify STEM education and foster critical thinking in the next generation. goIT has supported students in over 77 rural districts across 13 Indian states, while Ignite my Future has successfully reached students and teachers in about 125 rural districts across 17 states.