Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is deeply ingrained in SAIL’s business philosophy right from its inception in 1973, much before `Corporate Social Responsibility’ became a buzzword. The chairman and managing director of the company, C.S.Verma discusses with Rakesh Sood of OneWorld South Asia (OWSA) the difference he finds in the era of CSR guidelines issued by Department of Public Enterprises (DPEs) in 2010 and the revised norms in 2013 and how they are connected with the business processes of the company.
OneWorld South Asia: In your opinion, how are the revised CSR guidelines announced in 2013 different from the regime of CSR-led norms issued by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPEs) Government of India in 2010?
C.S Verma: SAIL has been a pioneer in the areas of Corporate Social Responsibility since its inception. We work by putting in place systems of socio-economic development of the communities around where we work. Most of the areas covered under the fresh guidelines or under the earlier norms announced by DPEs are already being taken care of by SAIL CSR initiatives. The renewed focus is on internalising the CSR and sustainable development activities.
A cursory look at the thrust areas under the new norms such as capacity building, empowerment of communities, inclusive socio-economic growth, environment protection, development of green and energy efficient technologies, development of backward regions and upliftment of the marginalized, to name a few, points to the fact that SAIL was moving in the right direction with right spirit since its very beginning.
OWSA: Under the new regime, the larger emphasis is laid on linking activities to the business process of the public sector undertakings. What are the major areas of CSR activities being undertaken by the company and how they are connected to the business processes of SAIL?
Verma: SAIL’s products are being used by both big projects as well as retail consumers. The company’s CSR policy is based on brand recall and brand recognition theory which keeps in the mind potential consumers. This is in line with business objectives of the company.
In today’s business world, transparency and ethics are assuming greater significance. Such values reflect in terms of business volumes as consumers prefer and choose to go for products which reflect this. In this regard, SAIL has always been straightforward and transparent in terms of its CSR and other welfare initiatives, which leads to better financial results. The company’s initiatives have a holistic triple bottom line approach benefitting the company and the society at large, with particular emphasis on working on the immediate surroundings of our projects. It envisages the socio-economic advancement of the community and also adheres to environment-friendly operations as well as socially relevant interventions including areas of medi-care, education, skill training, infrastructure, drinking water, etc.
OWSA: Do you see any possibility of more innovative CSR initiatives that can be thought of under the new revised philosophy of share value approach, which can benefit both the society and SAIL in a better manner?
Verma: The area of CSR provides a large scope of possibilities of innovation which can benefit both society and the company in a better manner. Vocational training centers for teaching skills to masons and fabricators will go a long way in a creating sustainable livelihoods as well as furthering the brand SAIL. Similarly, tie-ups with reputed builders to construct community centers in various towns can also be undertaken, under CSR programmes. Also, scholarships for bright students who opt for specialisation in steel-making technologies can also be given, further benefitting us.
There can be several other innovative ways and we are already working on them, which include creation of sound and eco-friendly environment for sustainable development at all production projects and plan new projects with environment – friendly considerations, coupled with mitigative measures to protect environment.
OWSA: The fresh CSR norms demand passionate personal involvement of the CMD in the CSR activities of a company. What is your level of involvement in these initiatives of SAIL?
Verma: I personally take interest in carrying forward the agenda of CSR and sustainability of the company. As per the revised guidelines, a sub-committee on these subjects has already been constituted at SAIL which is headed by an independent director and is supported by a group of officials headed by an executive director.
OWSA: You hold multiple posts like being the CMD at SAIL; Chairman at SCOPE and CMD at National Mineral Development Corporation (NDMC). How do you cope up with pressures of multiple roles?
Verma: Though it is a quite a daunting task to manage a Maharatna and a Navratna company and to steer Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE), it is my personal commitment to make a difference wherever I can that helps me by.