Chennai, also known as Madras, is one of the major cities of India in the state of Tamil Nadu. The city is nicknamed the ‘Detroit of India’ as it houses more than one-third of India’s automobile industry. The city is also home to the Tamil film industry, making it a major film production centre. The presence of such economic centres has also made Chennai a favourable destination for CSR initiatives.
In FY2020-21, Chennai was the top recipient of CSR funds in Tamil Nadu. The district received a total of Rs. 324.49 Cr. from 759 companies in the last fiscal year. The top three sectors of focus for CSR initiatives in the district were Education, Health and Environment, which received Rs. 169.99 Cr., Rs. 95.26 Cr., and Rs. 28.67 Cr. respectively. The top three spenders in the district were Shriram Transport Finance Company Limited (Rs. 29 Cr.), Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company Limited (Rs. 26.28 Cr.), and Shriram City Union Finance Limited (Rs. 19.15 Cr.).
Top CSR initiatives in Chennai
Grundfos India partnered with the Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) to restore a mid-sized waterbody, the Annaikeni Pond in Sholinganallur, as a CSR project in Chennai. While this pond was built to be one of the sources of water for people residing in the area and contributed to maintaining the water table, over the years it was neglected and eventually became a breeding ground for mosquitos and even turned into a garbage dump yard.
The restoration work included the excavation of the water holding area to increase the capacity by 18 – 20%, the strengthening of the circumference embankment, fencing and the planting of native plant species around the pond. As part of the restoration efforts, the entire lake was cleared of garbage and more than four tonnes of water hyacinth and Prosopis Juliflora shrubs (weeds).
The pond, which is under the jurisdiction of the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) is estimated to cater to the needs of around 8,000 to 10,000 individuals directly and indirectly within the vicinity of a one-kilometre radius. This cleaned water pond will now be able to reduce and prevent any waterborne diseases and ensure the rejuvenation of the groundwater levels in the area.
The company has also partnered with Cognizant to commit CSR funding of 4.4 crores for the restoration of Sembakkam Lake in Chennai. Expected to be completed in 2021, the work will involve cleaning the inlets and outlets, improving the lake’s connectivity with upstream and downstream water bodies, building an eco-friendly wastewater treatment system, and constructing walkways and green buffer zones along the lake.
The CSR lake restoration project will help clear the lake of solid wastes, silt and invasive plant species, improve the lake’s storage capacity by 50%, enhance groundwater recharge and improve water quality. It will benefit over 10,000 households living around the lake and conserve the local biodiversity consisting of around 180 plant species (including 11 aquatic species) and more than 65 bird species. One of the goals of the project is to provide a natural recreational space to the local community and involve them in the maintenance of the water body.
HCL Foundation (HCLF), the CSR arm of HCL Technologies, has collaborated with the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) and Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) to launch the ‘Revive Chennai’s Coasts’ initiative. The campaign aims to sensitise the resident population along the coast about the hazardous impact of ocean pollution and initiate localised community-based solutions through a participatory model for behavioural change.
The year-long campaign that started on World Oceans Day 2020 consists of coastal clean-up and bringing about awareness in Chennai, which is home to the world’s second-longest beach. In the first phase of the campaign, HCLF, GCC, and EFI will kick start clean-up and sensitisation activities in and around the 5-km beach stretch between Ashtalakshmi Temple in Besant Nagar and Kottivakkam in Chennai, India.
Further, as part of its commitment to help improve the coastal ecosystem in 25% of Chennai’s coastline by 2025, HCL Foundation will create ‘Young Community Leaders’ in the form of ‘Ocean Fellows’ as an innovative and sustainable solution to ensure the prevention of waste accumulation. The role of Ocean Fellows’ is to become a role model among the local communities to ensure the prevention of waste accumulation and to improve the coastal & marine ecosystem. The ‘Ocean Fellows’ will undergo rigorous training by EFI in the areas of Leadership, Management and Social Innovation. Post-training, the fellows will join in various activities like community volunteering efforts such as adoption and maintenance of a beach stretch, sensitizing visitors on the use of plastic, introducing ocean-friendly fishing practices, enhanced management of harbours and fish landing sites, eco-sensitization amongst fishing villages etc.
American Express has launched a Data Analytics, Risk and Technology (DART) Laboratory at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras under its CSR initiatives. The Lab will establish itself as a world-class hub of research in risk analytics and behavioural sciences by leveraging Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence (ML/AI) and related technologies.
The field of Data Analytics and Data Science is growing at a very fast pace creating a huge number of job opportunities in this field. Learning with Data Science Courses online can help professionals and new-age learners build their careers as Data Scientists. The lab would focus on risks that originate from human behaviour and decisions. The overarching goal of the lab is to engineer technologies to best manage risk by developing a science-based understanding of humans’ strengths and weaknesses. It will also build talent for the industry by partnering with academia.
The establishment of the lab has been undertaken through a grant by American Express to promote talent and diversity in Technology. American Express has also instituted annual scholarships for economically disadvantaged and meritorious students, including the ‘Ambition Awards’ for deserving women students at IIT Madras.
The Lab at IIT Madras will explore a range of verticals with a key emphasis on manufacturing, finance, healthcare, operations management and smart cities. The DART lab seeks to become a leader in the risk and behavioural sciences eco-system. Most real-world systems ranging from aviation, finance, manufacturing, public health, and smart cities, rely on sophisticated automation; but people play a critical role in operating, monitoring, and managing them.
The research at the DART lab will focus on the human dimension – developing a science-based understanding of humans’ strengths and weaknesses in various contexts. The research at DART will develop technologies to measure the cognition and attention of the decision-makers and prevent potential accidents in high-risk industries.