The past 10 years of my work life spanning the social development sector, there have been varied reactions from family, friends and other ‘corporate pals’ on the work that I’ve done in the social development space. And more importantly, as to why I was drawn to a job that took me to the rural heartland and developing countries and not the U.S. or the UK. I still remember, when I told my grandmother that my maiden trip abroad was to Kenya, she asked me whether it was in the U.S. I also remember nodding my head, instead of having to explain that I was visiting another developing country in order to map the renewable energy business models in its remote villages.
From where I started to this day, people are more aware of the social development sector and recognize the importance and impact of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) sponsorship. The awareness that this organizational policy is not just impacting the lives & livelihoods but also the community and environment at large is positively unfolding across different strata of communities. Increasingly, we find that many professionals, including millennials pursuing CSR as a serious career path. A great leap forward indeed.
At Societe Generale Global Solution Centre (SG GSC), we view CSR more broadly considering the long term strategic challenges that communities at large face. With ‘Spark Social Change’ as our CSR theme, we evaluate, undertake and sponsor programs that leverage innovative technologies to provide sustainable solutions to address some of the most pressing social problems. For instance, access to clean drinking water is huge problem in India with majority of them relying on unsafe water sources – especially low-income and rural communities. Many children and adults in these communities end up with chronic health issues, leading to loss of productivity and income and creating a vicious cycle.
Most water purification technologies waste a lot of water (50-60%) during the purification process and such technologies may not be suitable in these communities, where water is a scarce resource. We wanted to solve this problem using a combination of Clean Energy, Technology and Innovation. We partnered with SELCO Foundation to sponsor an innovative water purification technology program that wastes less water (10-15%) during the purification process and runs on solar power technology.
The Result: We succeeded in providing access to clean drinking water to over 15,000 individuals in the low income communities and in less than 15 months. And this is just the beginning.
Moving beyond Sponsorship
Economic and social problems are massive, complex and are often inter-connected. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that sponsorship alone cannot solve all the problems in the world today; hence making changes in the way we conduct business every day is important.
At SG GSC, we constantly strive to embrace CSR, more broadly, Sustainability, within the values and culture of our organisation. We believe, that when implemented properly, in addition to creating social change, CSR can positively impact the way we do business; thereby contributing to the society and the well-being of our employees. While small actions such as using less water, paper tissues, switching off the lights before leaving a meeting room can make a difference, we want to explore ways to infuse sustainability within the business model and projects.
We have started to move in this direction to incorporate sustainability principles, in line with the Societe Generale vision, in the way we operate and do business every day here. We are evaluating how the ‘sustainability impact’ business decisions we make today can influence the results positively in one year or five years or 10 years from now. We want to apply our skills and knowledge to innovate and incorporate ‘sustainability levers’ to create impactful products and services for our clients.
By involving various stakeholders and working together, we believe that we can make a positive difference in the world. We have seen a strong commitment from our leadership and an active engagement of our employees that will help us move forward in this direction. As David Verdier, SG GSC CSR Sponsor rightly asserts:
We have great hope in what SG GSC has to say about Environment Sustainability. We also see the heartfelt commitment of all SG GSC employees and leadership to preserve the environment.’
Sowmya Suryanarayanan, Head, Corporate Social Responsibility, Societe Generale GSC