Touching lives: The Economic Times CSR compendium

01 October, 2015 | The Economic Times

The Aditya Birla Group transcends conventional barriers of business because it believes it is its duty to facilitate inclusive growth

Globally, the Aditya Birla Group is a metals powerhouse, among the world''s most cost-efficient aluminium and copper producers. It is a world leader in viscose staple fibre and carbon black. The Company enjoys leadership position in the chemicals, insulators, acrylic fibre and cement sectors. The Group is the largest Indian MNC with manufacturing operations in the USA, wherein 95 per cent of the workforce comprises Americans.

In India, the Aditya Birla Group is an admired and trusted brand. Besides the global sectors, in India the Group occupies the pole position in every field it operates. The Group is the largest in the chlor-alkali sector and is the second-largest player in viscose filament yarn in India. In the services sector, it is the fastest growing telecom company, and ranks among the top three in the country. Likewise, Aditya Birla Financial Services is a veritable financial powerhouse, a top-ranking non-bank financial services company and amongst the five largest fund managers, and into life insurance as well. The Group has a significant presence in the retail business and is the No. 1 branded apparel and lifestyle player.

CSR initiatives

Before Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) found a place in corporate lexicon, it was already textured into the Aditya Birla Group's value systems. As early as the 1940s, the Group's founding father GD Birla espoused the trusteeship concept of management, which meant investing part of their profits beyond business for the larger good of the society.

While carrying forward this philosophy, the legendary leader, Aditya Birla, weaved in the concept of ''sustainable livelihood'', which transcended cheque-book philanthropy. Taking these practices forward, Kumar Mangalam Birla, the current chairman, institutionalized the concept of triple bottom line accountability represented by economic success.

The Group reaches out annually to seven million people in 3,000 villages in India through the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development spearheaded by Rajashree Birla. It focuses on healthcare, education, sustainable livelihood, infrastructure and espouses social reform; runs 42 schools that provide quality education to 45,000 children, and of these, 18,000 students belong to the underprivileged segment; merit scholarships are given to an additional 12,000 children from the interiors; and its 18 hospitals tend to more than a million villagers. Besides, its ongoing education, healthcare and sustainable livelihood projects in The Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, Korea and Brazil lift thousands of people out of poverty. The Group set up the Aditya Birla India Centre at the London Business School. The Group transcends conventional barriers of business because it believes it is its duty to facilitate inclusive growth.

VISION STATEMENT
“We, at Aditya Birla Group, are committed to building a better, sustainable way of life for the weaker sections of society, and raise the country''s Human Development Index. To make this happen, we have been – and will continue to – actively contribute to the social and economic development of the communities in which we operate. We envision: An India free from poverty. An India of inclusive growth. An India where every person realizes his or her optimal potential. An India where every human being lives a life of dignity. An India that can hold her head high, in the hegemony of nations.”

— Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group

Sustainable livelihoods

A sustainable livelihood project has been funded by the European Union and the Aditya Birla Group with the British Council &; City &; Guilds, UK, as the delivery partners. The objective of the project is to replicate livelihood models leading to employment of 11,000 marginalized youth in Sirsa in Haryana and Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh. These are backward areas where employment opportunities barely exist.

Training in skill development in auto service and maintenance, agriculture, trade, hospitality and tourism sectors were offered to the needy with CII as the lead partner. The project also involved development of a delivery mechanism for soft skills, including English, and capacity building of sixty teachers, at both these locations for soft-skills training. The course content is designed in line with industry requirements, and extensive practical training is given to students to make them job ready. So far 3,016 students have been successfully trained and placed. The Group accords training in sustainable livelihood projects to nearly 70,000 youngsters at the Aditya Birla Rural Technology Park, the Birla Shaktiman Vocational Training Centre, at the Birla White, Vikas Training Centre for Applicators, the Rajashree Birla Talent Development Centre and over twenty other vocational training centres across geographies.

Model villages

One of the unique initiatives taken by the Birla Group is to develop model villages. Each of their major companies is working towards the total transformation of a number of villages in proximity to the plants. Making of a model village entails ensuring self-reliance in all aspects, viz., education, healthcare 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 the Company's teams become dispensable.

Till now, the Group has been able to transform 99 villages into model ones across India in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. In these villages, 70 per cent of the population now live above the poverty line, as compared to 90 per cent below the poverty line, before the project commenced.

It is a tremendous experience seeing the changing face of villages, from abject poverty to meeting the necessities of life, from dependency to freedom, from backwardness to progress in more ways than one. Tens of thousands of villagers now seem self-assured, confident and happy earning a sustainable livelihood.

The girl child

The Aditya Birla Group is at the forefront of the education of the girl child. Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan''s Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV), the Group was able to enlist thousands of rural schoolgirl d;ropouts in collaboration with the district rural teams. Motivating girls and intensive parent counselling on how education can be a leveller and give their children a future so different from their own has indeed worked wonders.

Importantly, at the KGBVs, the Group conducts awareness sessions on health and hygiene with NGOs and hospital staff, provides merit scholarships and helps out with additional uniforms, library books and water purifiers.

The Group launched a unique social project with a business component in the interiors of Karnataka a couple of years ago. For their marquee-branded apparel manufacturing company Madura Fashion & Lifestyle, several teams went into the interiors of the villages and enthused the totally unlettered underprivileged women to master tailoring and work in the Company. Investing in their training was a challenge they took on. Today, over 7,000 women work at Madura Fashion & Lifestyle in Karnataka. Of these 90 per cent are from the villages.

They have also inked collaborative projects with Jan Shiksha Samsthan and the National Jute Board for training hundred rural women at Patalganga in Maharashtra and Rishra in Kolkata in jute craft-cum-fabrics.

Polio eradication

Between the 1990s and now, there has been a team of committed, passionate and selfless men and women who offer their time and expertise to battle easily preventable diseases like polio. They have been working tirelessly in over fifty plants of the Aditya Birla Group to ensure that kids below the age of 5 years are vaccinated in a timely manner and those already having fallen under the clench of the disease are returned the freedom they had lost. Over the last five years alone, nearly 22 million children were vaccinated in around 73,693 booths. The stirring cause of complete freedom from polio was taken up by the Government of India. Alongside, Rotary International and the Aditya Birla Group, WHO, UNICEF, CDC and the Bill &; Melinda Gates Foundation provided the necessary support.

BAIF: The cows come home

The Aditya Birla Group has evolved an Integrated Livestock Development Project at Veraval in Gujarat in association with BAIF Development Research Foundation for cattle development and farmer prosperity. The intent is to help produce better cattle breed, through artificial insemination and cattle care. Being implemented in 12 villages in its first phase, they have organized 15 veterinary camps where 4,281 cattle were treated, benefitting 1,081 farmers. Encouraged by the good work, they have extended to Renukoot in Uttar Pradesh and more recently at Nagda in Madhya Pradesh. They have set up two centres that cater to a 5,000-cattle population over a five-year timeline.

ANYA: Women empowerment

ANYA is an interesting project embarked by the Aditya Birla Group in collaboration with NABARD. In this project, over 150 women from seven villages in Gummidipoondi in Chennai have converged to become economically empowered. The project aims at creating income-generation opportunities on a sustainable basis through training and skill development, spanning tailoring, garments stitching, embroidery, floriculture, phenol and detergent-making. Five production centres are already working into it. The project is being implemented in phases. The first phase, involving the training aspect, has been completed. Currently, the Group has helped set up 4,500 self-help groups with a membership of 45,000 women.

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