Mumbai: Rajeev Dubey, group president (human resources and corporate services) and CEO (after-market sector) at Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd is set to catapult the years-old CSR functions of the group to a higher level in line with the new Companies Act.

Dubey, a topper of Delhi University and an alumnus of Yale School of Management, says CSR is not the responsibility of just a few but one that is shared by all company employees. Edited excerpts from an interview:

What was the biggest learning in the first year of implementation of your CSR under the new rules?

While the Mahindra Group has been involved in CSR since inception in 1945, the Companies Act, 2013, has provided a wider opportunity to make a difference in the community.

The newly articulated CSR vision and the CSR policy of the company have ensured the promotion of a unified and strategic approach, identifying select constituencies and causes to work with and ensuring an increased commitment at all levels in the organisation, by encouraging employees to participate and give back to society through the employee volunteering programme called ESOPs (Employee Social Options).

Any challenge you faced in the first year?

Having CSR initiatives implemented pan-India and collating real-time data for these projects remain a huge challenge. The company will shortly be launching an IT (information technology)-enabled CSR dashboard which will help us overcome this challenge.

What parts of the CSR law do you think needs change or modification?

The law requires all CSR activities to be in “programme mode" as against one-off events; for example, marathon, awards, donation of vehicles, etc. Given the needs of the community, this may be a bit limiting and difficult to implement every single time.

Any activities that you think should be added to Schedule VII (the list of activities allowed under CSR)?

Schedule VII, which the ministry has explained must be “interpreted liberally", is fairly inclusive and lists a range of activities that can be undertaken. Further, Schedule VII has also been suitably modified to include contributions to the Swachh Bharat Kosh and Clean Ganga Fund as well as slum area development. We do, however, feel that the scope of Schedule VII should extend to activities which create shared value. CSR projects/programmes of a company must be allowed to also focus on integrating business models with social and environmental priorities and processes in order to create shared value.

How many projects have you have invested in?

Besides focusing on the expansion of flagship projects such as Project Nanhi Kali, for the education of the girl child; Project Hariyali for increasing the green cover and Lifeline Express, which takes quality public health care services to remote rural areas, the company has also invested in new initiatives such as supporting the government’s Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya project by construction of 4,340 toilets in 1,171 locations, specifically for girls. To ensure that there is focus and maximum impact, the company’s endeavour is to work on fewer projects over a longer period of time.

Did the company prefer picking government-led initiatives for its CSR?

We have always believed that the route to address social problems is through education and training and therefore the focus of CSR has been on appropriate education, vocational education and livelihood training for the economically disadvantaged, primary education for the girl child and higher education for those who merit it.

As a responsible corporate citizen, the company has also always been investing in public health and the environment.

Was it tough to find good implementation partners?

The CSR initiatives of the company are implemented either directly by the company through its employees implementing the CSR programmes or through implementing partners which include NGOs having an established track record of at least three years in carrying on a specific activity.

The main implementation partners are the company’s corporate foundations—the Mahindra Foundation, The KC Mahindra Education Trust, Tech Mahindra Foundation and Naandi Foundation.

Do you believe companies can bring lasting social change?

Certainly! For the Mahindra Group, CSR involves creating sustainable social and environmental value for our key stakeholders. Some of the CSR projects of the Mahindra Group are evidence that companies can bring about lasting social change.

For example, the Project Nanhi Kali has not only been educating over 114,000 underprivileged girls, but the project is bringing attitudinal and cultural changes in communities which now view girls’ education very positively.

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