Before Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) found a place in corporate lexicon, it was already textured into our Group's value systems. As early as the 1940s, our founding father Shri G. D. Birla espoused the trusteeship concept of management. Simply stated, this entails that the wealth that one generates and holds, is to be held as in a trust for our multiple stakeholders. With regard to CSR, this means investing part of our profits beyond business, for the larger good of society.
While carrying forward this philosophy, our legendary leader, Mr. Aditya Birla, weaved in the concept of 'sustainable livelihood', which transcended cheque book philanthropy. In his view, it was unwise to keep on giving endlessly. Instead, he felt that channelising resources to ensure that people have the wherewithal to make both ends meet would be more productive.
He would say, "Give a hungry man fish for a day, he will eat it and the next day, he would be hungry again. Instead, if you taught him how to fish, he would be able to feed himself and his family for a lifetime."
Taking these practices forward, our chairman Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla, institutionalised the concept of triple bottom line accountability represented by economic success.Our community work is a way of telling the people among whom we operate that We Care.
Our projects are carried out under the aegis of the "Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development", led by Mrs. Rajashree Birla. The Centre provides the strategic direction, and the thrust areas for our work ensuring performance management as well.
Our focus is on the all-round development of the communities around our plants located mostly in distant rural areas and tribal belts. All our Group companies — Grasim, Hindalco and UltraTech have Rural Development Cells, which are the implementation bodies.
Our partners in development are government bodies, district authorities, village panchayats and the end beneficiaries — the villagers. The Government has, in their 5-year plans, special funds earmarked for human development and we recourse to many of these.
At the same time, we network and collaborate with like-minded bilateral and unilateral agencies to share ideas, draw from each other's experiences, and ensure that efforts are not duplicated. At another level, this provides a platform for advocacy.
All projects are planned in a participatory manner, in consultation with the community, literally sitting with them, and gauging their basic needs. We take recourse to "participatory rural appraisal", which is a mapping process. Subsequently, based on a consensus and in discussion with the village panchayats, we prioritise requirements. And thus, a project is born. Implementation is the responsibility of the community and our team, as is the monitoring of milestones and the other aspects. Monitoring entails physical verification of the progress and the actual output of the project.
Village meetings are held periodically to elicit feedback on the benefits of our community programmes and the areas where these need to be beefed up. We try and ensure that while in the short term we have to do enormous hand-holding, the projects become sustainable by the beneficiaries over the long haul. Once this stage is reached, we withdraw. In this way we do not build a culture of dependence, instead we make the villagers self-reliant.
One of our unique initiatives is to develop model villages, so each of our major companies is working towards the total transformation of a number of villages in proximity to our plants. Making of a model village entails ensuring self-reliance in all aspects viz., education, health care and family welfare, infrastructure, agriculture and watershed management, and working towards sustainable livelihood patterns. Fundamentally, ensuring that their development reaches a stage wherein village committees take over the complete responsibility and our teams become dispensable.
The geographic reach, annual spends
The footprint of our community work straddles 5,000 villages globally. We reach out to 7.5 million people annually. Over 60 per cent of these live below the poverty line and belong to scheduled castes and tribes.
The Group spends in excess of Rs.250 crore annually, inclusive of the running of 20 hospitals and 56 schools. The Group transcends the conventional barriers of business and reaches out to the marginalised as a matter of duty and to bring in a more equitable society.
Our focus areas
Our rural development activities span five key areas and our single-minded goal here is to help build model villages that can stand on their own feet. Our focus areas are healthcare, education, sustainable livelihood, infrastructure and espousing social causes.
WHO, Australia India Council, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, CII, European Union (EU), British Council, City& Guilds (UK), Global Compact Network, International Rotary Club, NSDC, FICCI, NABARD, NACO, CARE, IGNOU, Aide et Action, SEWA, BAIF, MYRADA, Basix, CARD, Art of Living Foundation, Smile Foundation, Maya Foundation, Childline India Foundation, local NGOs, District Development Offices, Central and State governments.
The Aditya Birla Group: Transcending business (download pdf 1.03 mb)