Heavyweight(s) of Account-Ability

By Karthikeyan Elangeswaran, Sr. Sustainability Advisor, Sustainable Square

18 Mar 2016
Heavyweight(s) of Account-Ability

(Source :TCS mKrishi)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is work in progress to a few and a wonder in progress to many.  The idea of CSR originates, with the responsibility in the extraction and consumption of capitals across intellectual resources, environmental resources and human resources to deliver the business. When an organisation determines its exclusive CSR goals, it reflects the leadership commitment, values to achieve and the example its peers will follow.

"Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with." - Brodi Ashton

Transforming from Caterpillar to Butterfly

Companies operate with socio-environmental conscience could consume resources and still achieve fat profits. Rámon de Mendiola, CEO of Florida Ice & Farm Company has precisely stated, companies should not be the caterpillars, just eat resources and become fatter, should be the butterflies to spread out the wings of wealth, enchant the society, cross-pollinate to create institutions of social progress and soaring high with the business performance and social progress. The struggle is to identify how high impact initiatives can be developed or what competences and nourishments would transform to deliver high impact initiatives.                                                                                   susty sq 1


MIF is the brain-child of Marico Industries, an Indian consumer goods company. The foundation is helping organisations in inculcating innovation into their practices with the dual objective of achieving exponential growth and direct impact in the communities they serve.

One of their initiatives is Social Innovation Acceleration Program identifies in high-impact and innovative organisations with Plan- A approach of 100 Days and fast-track the progress. Plan-B is a long term approach with a continual improvement of capacity building, marketing and economic empowerment.

Source: Marico Foundation - SIAP Source: Marico Foundation - SIAP

Core competences to advance social innovation and accelerating progress are the following:

Leadership commitment -Accountability and Governance

  • Harish Mariwala, the Chairman of Marico Industries attempts to personally hear and advice to the social organisations
  • Governing Council, a purely advisory body, guides towards focusing on innovative ways of achieving direct impact in the business and social space
  • CXOs, entrepreneurs, industry leaders and experts help to scale-up worthy social organisations.
  • Enriched pool of multi-disciplinarians in Marico, are the core mentors too

Promoting learning and Awareness

  • Innovation for India Awards
  • Hackathon-Invested more than a decade on promoting social entrepreneurship
  • "Challenger Research" series – cutting edge research on Indian organisations that achieved quantum growth through radical innovation. It identified organisations that swam against conventional knowledge with success
  • Social Innovation Research – Constantly studying the innovative strategies among unconventional successful organisations in Literacy, Water management, Livelihood and Governance. Some of the organisations include Pratham, Surat Municipality, Kudumbasree and others

Why MARICO INNOVATION FOUNDATION assertively commits and declares their founder will be the first mentor to personally interact with the Social Impact Centric Organisation? 

MIF is focussed to address social challenges through high impact social programs and strategically invested in a few organisations that enhance societal ecosystem. Their founder Mr. Mariwala has launched a non- profit venture called Ascent-Accelerating Scaling up of Enterprises with a goal of launching 10,000 entrepreneurs. Though it sounds an ambitious goal, the Marico’s brain-child will act as a kick-start platform and with a holistic support from independent experts and collaborations would achieve the goal of 10K entrepreneurs.

Pursuit of Shared Value Opportunities

Organisations design products and services to resolve the social challenges by capitalising in-house competences and innovative collaborations. Such collaborations drive not only greater social progress in terms of scaling up but also in creating a shared value across the supply chain. According to Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, lucidly understanding the social challenge, effectively engaging and winning the trust of end beneficiary and embedding them in strategic planning and budgeting create Shared Value Opportunities.

Tata Consultancy Services Limited (TCS) is a multinational information technology services and consulting company and a subsidiary of the Tata Group. The last citizen of the country in rural India would trust the product or service from Tata group, considering the Himalayan reputation built over 140 years. It gives the natural advantage to design and deliver products and services that the citizens would welcome to achieve the intended social goals and create Shared Value across the supply chain.


mKrishi Weather Station provides mobile Weather updates for Farmers mKrishi Weather Station provides mobile Weather updates for Farmers

This is a mobile based personalized service to farmers by collating the soil, crop and micro climatic data of any land, offering vital inputs (such as soil conservation, fertilizer input, pesticide and crop health) on their mobile phone. The vision is to establish and empower micro enterprises through the mKrishi platform to reach a large number of farmers. The end goal is to increase agricultural productivity, stimulate local micro-enterprises, and, in the long term, support rural development in India.

Core competences to advance innovation and accelerating progress are the following:

Leadership commitment - Accountability and Governance

  • Creating products to resolve social challenges-lack of access to crucial information that helps to make better decisions
  • Constant technological support Mobile Agro Advisory System (mKRISHI) as the product is evolved from the efforts of the TCS Innovation Labs Mumbai
  • Peer to peer learning through social networking environment Rural-Net (R-Net). It helps rural masses interact with each other by posting and browsing voice microblogs in language of their choice
  • mKrishi has evolved from serving the needs of 100,000s of farmers to meet the needs of 100,000s of fishermen. It has transformed from the pilot phase to national e-governance initiative

Promoting learning and Awareness

  • TCS is partnering with the various national and international agencies for providing services like procurement, rural banking, crop insurance, agriculture quality certification, access to international markets etc.
  • Enhancing the farmers’ value chain through integration and peer to peer learning. Companies from various sectors would not want to work together, so a package that, for example, offers seeds integrated with insurance, represents another innovative approach.

How TCS capitalised its competences to develop mKrishi program for farmers and scale up its social innovation?

TCS designed the product in its innovation labs at Mumbai which in heart felt the need to address social challenges. It envisioned mKrishi through its own expertise and through strategic collaborations across numerous scientific and consulting organisations. The decision to invest in developing mKrishi and launch at such a scale reflects the values and leadership commitment made in the boardroom. In the end, it further integrates the value chain at the farmers’ ecosystem to create a Shared Value Opportunity for all the microenterprises to be empowered.

Key takeaways from MIF and TCS social innovations

1) Encourage conscious social innovation and investment decisions through robust scientific studies such as Social Return on Investment

2) Seek a strong business case upon Shared Value Opportunities. For example, invest in projects which has a Social Return on Investment of 1:5 rather than 1:2

3) Establish coherent governance structure to monitor, evaluate and report and encourage learning through independent academic and research institutions

In summary, the idea of Corporate Social Responsibility does not come with the compliance to regulation but truly comes with the heavy weight of accountability to the organisations on the shoulders and decisions made inside the boardrooms. As JRD Tata said, “…the most significant contribution organised industry can make is by identifying itself with the life and problems of the people of the community…”, with the significant power and wealth of corporates, naturally emanates the responsibility to create a butterfly organisation culture. Thereby seeking and developing a strong business sense upon investing in Shared Value Opportunities and resolving social challenges.

Sustainable Square logoSustainable Square India Private Limited is a think-tank and consultancy firm. We are a subsidiary of the parent UAE-based micro-multinational advisory firm, Sustainable Square, that delivers thought-leadership and strategies for CSR, SROI and sustainability practices across the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia. We bring together international best practices with deep local expertise.

Read The Next Article