An NGO and a CSR manager discuss social engagement
Dr. Kalyani Mandke is an audiologist who has had her own clinic in Pune, India, for 35 years. She is also the Chairwoman of “Suhrud Mandal”. The NGO runs four schools for hearing-impaired children and has taken a number of measures to improve their future opportunities.
Shirish Dabir has more than 30 years of experience in the industry. The business graduate and lawyer has worked for more than 11 years for ALTANA’s subsidiary ELANTAS Beck India in the fields of Legal and Compliance and is also responsible for the company’s social engagement.
Dr. Mandke, how important is corporate social engagement in India?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: In India, the gap between rich and poor is very, very wide. International nongovernmental organizations, NGOs for short, want to and can help to bridge this gap, for example, in the two central fields of education and health. But involvement at the level of ideas alone is not sufficient. Successful support work also requires knowhow and financial resources. By cooperating with companies, we can help things take a turn for the better. Let me add this: We often see that companies’ involvement starts to flag when the company is faced with major internal challenges. This has never been the case at ELANTAS Beck India!
Why is that, in your opinion?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: Each person works for his individual happiness, for her very personal goals. But it is equally important to give something back to society. Because society enabled us to reach our goals. The two things go hand in hand. Giving people some of your time makes a difference in life. That gives helping people a new perspective, indeed even meaning in their lives.
Mr. Dabir, what are the most important reasons for social engagement, in your view?
Shirish Dabir: Dr. Mandke rightly observed that social engagement is very important to us. We use society’s resources. So it is our responsibility and duty to give something back to society in return. We at ELANTAS Beck India have been involved in certain social-engagement activities for a decade; however, we have been very actively involved now for nearly three years.
What is the focal point of your support?
Shirish Dabir: Here in Indian society, there are strong needs, particularly about getting a decent school education. Many people are trapped in a vicious circle. Families with very little money cannot offer their children a good education. Later, being poorly educated, these people do not earn enough money to pay for a good education for their own kids. So, improving educational standards is our most important objective. This should also be seen in the context of the ALTANA’s general focus on funding education and science.
And how important is health as a social objective?
Shirish Dabir: Very important! India’s Prime Minister has initiated a countrywide “Clean India Mission” to improve people’s health and hygiene. It’s a good initiative for a noble cause, because many people live in slums below the poverty line. As a result, the standards of health and hygiene are dangerously low. Helping to improve these standards is another, equally important objective for us alongside education.
Dr. Mandke, has ELANTAS Beck India set the right priorities?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: Yes! And I’ll tell you why. Almost 20 percent of the Indian population lives below the poverty line. The illiteracy rate is around 66 percent. Having recognized this, ELANTAS Beck India is concentrating on improving education as well as health and hygiene. Focusing – that’s the right path. Because financial resources and the employees’ time and ability to help are limited.
How long should projects be accompanied in your experience?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: Three to five years is a good time span. The fact is that you can’t get any result in just one year. And over this period of time there’s no need to worry that the activities are just a drop in the ocean.
Since 2014, companies in India have been legally obliged to be socially committed. What role does this play in the activities of ELANTAS Beck India?
Shirish Dabir: We were socially committed even before this law came into force. For example, we supported Suhrud Mandal for the first time in 2012, when we gave them the paint for painting their school building. ELANTAS Beck India has always helped whenever there were any natural disasters afflicting the country. Our employees even donate money from their own pockets in such cases. So you can see that we have always lived up to our social responsibility. The only difference to the time before the law came into effect is that our activities are now more structured and better organized.
How are you proceeding exactly?
Shirish Dabir: We have framed a policy, identified the focus areas of our support, and formed a decision-making committee. The CSR team then obtains references and further information, also locally. New project suggestions are evaluated and presented to the decision-making committee, consisting of two independent directors and the managing director of ELANTAS Beck India, for the final decision.
Dr. Mandke, what in your opinion are the success factors for cooperation between companies and NGOs?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: The most important success factor is indeed financial support. In most cases, the companies give us the freedom to decide how to use the money. The disadvantage is that while many companies make resources available, they later lose interest in our work. But the companies and their employees could also benefit from closer cooperation. As I said, social commitment not only changes the world of the needy for the better, but also opens up new perspectives for those who provide assistance. More companies should become aware of this.
Shirish Dabir: I agree completely. Through this kind of even closer cooperation between companies and nongovernmental organizations we gain more insight into the tasks involved and can derive a lot of energy and motivation to work with more zeal on behalf of our company for such social causes.
More than 400 children attend schools of the NGO, which specializes in providing education to hearing-impaired students. School materials especially developed by Suhrud Mandal enable hard-of-hearing children to learn.
ELANTAS BECK INDIA
PROMOTING EDUCATION IN INDIA
ELANTAS Beck India and Suhrud Mandal have worked together since 2012. The ALTANA subsidiary supports the NGO financially with a total of almost 5.4 million Indian Rupees and with donations in kind such as computers.
400 CHILDREN HELPED