The Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce & Industry organized its first ever Conclave on Corporate Social Responsibility today at Kolkata.
The Inaugural Session was addressed by Smt. Sanghamitra Ghosh, Principal Secretary, Shri Sourav Roy, Chief of CSR, Tata Steel, Mr. Md Mohiuddin, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF and Shri Debanjan Chakrabarti, Director East and Northeast India.
Shri Rishabh C. Kothari, President, MCCI delivered the Welcome Address. In his address, he said that MCCI had long felt the need for a large-scale deliberation on CSR with the stakeholders in one place, which we hope to address with our maiden CSR event today. Our objective is to bring all the stakeholders together in one event to discuss and reflect on the possibilities of partnerships that exist in CSR with a special focus on benefitting the people whom we serve as businesses.
Guest of Honour Smt. Sanghamitra Ghosh, IAS, Principal Secretary, Dept. of Women & Child Development & Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal in her address mentioned that the welfare flagship programme initiated by the Government of West Bengal needs continuous support from private agencies. The Chamber is the only institution that can bring together the necessary stakeholders to provide continued, committed financial support for programmes that benefit the most vulnerable.
Stressing on the forms of assistance, she said the Chamber or businesses could sponsor supplementary nutrition at the Anganwadi center or help build facilities at an existing Anganwadi or help build a new Anganwadi building. For the Government’s Child Protection Services, CSR could involve building more centers, or adopting NGOs that work with the Government in such centers. NGO partners could explore working with the Government of West Bengal in these key focus areas.
Secretary Smt. Ghosh further mentioned that 80 lakh girls have benefitted from the Kanyashree programme and 2 crore women have benefitted from the Lakshmi Bhandar initiative. In West Bengal, there are Anganwadi Centres, and more than 2.5 lakh women have been associated with this service.
Shri Sourav Roy, Chief, Corporate Social Responsibility, Tata Steel, in his address, mentioned that the Tata Steel Foundation touches a little more than 3 million lives.
He spoke about two gaps in the CSR space: the first being the gap between the need and the funding in the Eastern region of India, and the second being the gap between creating a solution and solving a problem.
Shri Roy then suggested 5 basic questions that any organization needs to ask itself while deciding upon its CSR Strategy:
- How deeply should one understand the communities to work with? Empathy and understanding help in effective strategy;
- Which new or underserved challenges can we address? First, identify who the marginalized communities are and then identify their need to solve it;
- How do you decide on the principles of collaboration for effectiveness?
- What kind of influence will CSR have on the team? To understand better, volunteering should journey towards immersive social programmes for corporates to build understanding and effectiveness;
- Who is the CSR team and what talent is being put in place? From the Board onwards, this coaching helps recognize and build a better, more committed CSR talent.
Janab Md. Mohiuddin, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF, Kolkata in his address mentioned that although the world is on a path of progress on many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, however, in critical areas like poverty, inequality in income, and gender, providing basic needs, education and right to livelihood, the last two years of Covid and war have pushed us back.
West Bengal fares better than the Indian average on child mortality rates but worryingly, teenage pregnancies and maternal mortality rates were on the rise. He, therefore, outlined UNICEF programmes aligned with SDGs of Education, Child Protection, and Employability that corporate and NGOs could collaborate on with his field office. With respect to Kolkata, UNICEF runs slum clinics along with the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum on Wards 66 and 68–which could be scaled to slums across Kolkata as CSR.
Dr. Debanjan Chakrabarti, Director East & North East India, British Council in his address mentioned that in the partnership with Times of India, British Council had initiated the Teach India initiative in rural India to educate the weaker section of children in English language and digital literacy since 2010 to 2015.
Shri Lalit Beriwala, Senior Vice President, MCCI, commented that given that India was the first country to make CSR mandatory by law, it was only fitting that we at MCCI host a Thought Leadership oriented event on this topic.
The Inaugural Session was followed by two Plenary Sessions.
The First Plenary: Changing Dynamics & Partnership for Greater Synergies was addressed by Shri Pankaj Vinayak Sharma, CEO, Transform Schools, People for Action, Shri Asis Mitra, Company Secretary and Chief of CSR, TATA Steel Downstream Products Limited., Smt. Snigdha Shah, CEO, Social Venture Partners India (Kolkata) and Smt. Sujata Sen, CEO Future Hope.The First Plenary Session was moderated by Shri Suresh Agarwal, Chairman, Council on Agriculture and Food Processing, MCCI.
The Second Plenary Session: Sharing of Best Practice was addressed by Shri Jaydeep Chakrabarty, CEO, Calcutta Rescue, Smt. Sreela Dasgupta, Global Lead SME for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Tata Consultancy Services, Smt. Modhurima Sinha, Director of Public Relations, ER Taj Group, and Shri Sourav Mukherjee, Director, Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage. The Second Plenary Session was moderated by Shri Smarajit Mitra, Chairman, Council on Start Up & Skill Development, MCCI.