Role of NGO in Corporate Social Responsibility Activities

Thursday 26 May 2016
Along with social enterprises, microfinance institutions and donors, corporations play a large role in raising money and resources for NGOs. Many international corporations can today rival entire nations when it comes to raising resources and influence in both India and international territories.
In the last four years, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India has acquired new impetus with the Companies Act 2013. The Act defines that companies with a net worth of Rupees 500 crores or more, or a turnover of Rupees 1,000 crores or more, or earning a net profit of Rupees 5 crores or more must spend a minimum amount on corporate social responsibility.
CSR: support charities to fulfil legal obligation while generating goodwill
For many of India's most loved brands, 'giving back' is not about fulfilling this legal obligation of having to donate to charity, but generating goodwill in their respective communities. These are times when CSR and NGOs go hand-in-hand. Companies, therefore, must spend in areas like literacy, women empowerment, environment, water, sanitation, child rights etc. Most companies around the world allocate 100% of their resources before they consider the need of CSR. The same holds true for India, and even after allocating CSR funding, and engaging employees with a mission of social good, companies struggle with their project's sustainability.
NGO intervention in corporate social responsibility
Many companies simply do not have the bandwidth (employees, consultants and supervision) to undertake consistent CSR implementation. These companies not only  need to spend on CSR, but also on CSR training for their employees, or adding manpower dedicated to CSR capability. NGO’s in India pitch a streamlined, customised solution to these corporations. For NGOs, corporates are not only a source of consistent funding but also access to strategic resources. An IT giant, for example, can provide technology, processes, and support for educational initiatives.
A look at India's NGO sector
India possibly is home to the world's largest number of active not-for-profit NGOs. At last count, India had 31 lakh NGO - one NGO for about 400 Indians. With the boom in CSR funding, this number can cross 40 lakh - considering that there are thousands of public and private sector companies worth Rs.15,000 to 18,000 crores annually. This number doesn't even include India's actual number of NGOs, as many aren't formally registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860, or any other Acts pertaining to non-profit organisations.
How does a company identify the right NGO for CSR intervention?
With this veritable ocean of NGOs, it isn't easy to pick the right one for a company to engage in CSR intervention. Companies not only must allocate funds, but also work with the NGO on CSR interventions. This requires the need for effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in place. Many large corporates, like Godrej, Reliance, Wipro, Infosys, Tata, and the Birlas have their established their own Foundations and Trusts to achieve this.
It is critical for a company to rate an NGO on parameters while shortlisting one for CSR implementation.
i. Years in operation
It is important for a corporate to work with an NGO that has demonstrated years of experience and reliability. During this time, it must have mobilised resources, infrastructure and people for a social cause.
ii. Geography
Companies should preferably look for an NGO near the project area. This not only ensures easier logistics, but also an intimate understanding of the local needs, geography, language, culture etc. The NGO preferably must situate offices or centres with connectivity and other resources in these locations, to efficiently execute projects.
iii. Reputation
Transparency, accountability and measurable change in a social welfare context are how an NGO's reputation can be measured. This gives an NGO credibility, making it trustworthy of using corporate assets and funding for CSR goals.
iv. Certification (e.g. filing for donation tax return)
Certification allows corporates to assess if an NGO complies with legal norms, as legal issues can compromise CSR implementation. Certification includes Income Tax exemption, FCRA, service tax, and also proper internal documentation in case an audit is requested.
v. Relevant experience
An NGO must have shown work in projects relevant to the corporate's CSR goals. Coca-Cola India, for example, devotes a substantial amount of CSR efforts to water sustainability, conservation, and sanitation. These projects must be corroborated with completion certificates from clients.
vi. Leadership
The NGO's leadership must be well-known promoters, with no legal proceedings or controversies to their name.
vii. Credentials
An NGOs credentials can also be ascertained via certificates, awards, news coverage, and membership of NGO and corporate bodies like CII, Chamber of Commerce etc.
Save the Children: a recognised NGO for CSR initiatives
With reference to child rights NGO, Save the Children enjoys a well-earned reputation, as it is a global pioneer in the field ever since its founder, Eglantyne Jebb's wrote what would become the blueprint of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The NGO has been preventing child labour through lobbying for policy reform and stronger legislation while undertaking grassroots missions to free children from bonded labour. Instead, it empowers these children with education, job skills, giving India's marginalised children, a new lease of life. Apart from this Save the Children works to provide healthcare, education and life-saving aid during emergencies to children.
Today, Save the Children India is a favoured partner for India's biggest corporates. Not only does the NGO have decades of experience in working with children, but it is also known for transparency and accountability in managing corporate resources allocated for children's rights.
Case studies of Save the Children’s CSR work with leading multinational corporations
Here are some case studies from two of the world’s most well-known brands in telecom (Nokia) and a furniture and home accessories group of companies (IKEA), which show how a company’s strengths can be leveraged for social change by Save the Children.
1. Nokia
Disaster Risk Reduction: Working with Nokia, Save the Children established a new Information Technology-based Disaster Risk Reduction project. This initiative is working on building resilience of children and communities in emergencies:
i. Delhi: a Making Schools Safer programme was initiated across 31 slum pockets, covering 50 schools and reaching over 2 lakh people. It is today preparing children and communities to identify daily risks faced by children, and respond to them using IT. Detailed Risk Assessment has been carried out, and the NGO is establishing Resource Centres across schools
ii. Disaster-struck and disaster prone regions: Nokia is working to provide advanced communication connectivity via its telecom technologies in these regions. This includes access to safety maps and plans, alternate routes and safe zones, real-time coordination with community members, and mobile-based training and education. The project was deployed in six pilot villages in early 2016, followed by projects across 350 villages and urban settlements across Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
iii. Empowering Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs)
Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) or community health workers were armed with mobile phones that can store medical information, which is hosted on a cloud server using GPRS. They met pregnant women and new mothers, to advise on maternity health and infant health, via the phones which also feature text and audio messages on breastfeeding and importance of institutional delivery. The activists also used the phone to schedule appointments and access patient records. With the NGO's input, pregnancy and newborn care mobile health applications (called ‘Comm Care’) were developed.
i. Freeing children from cotton farming labour
The IKEA Foundation and Save the Children came together for a €7 million programme to protect 8 lakh children living in cotton communities in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, after a successful debut across 1,866 villages of Gujarat and Maharashtra where over 65,000 children were moved to classrooms from the bondages of child labour. Thousands of farmers also pledged to make their farms child-labour free.
ii. Disaster relief: 2012 Assam floods
Save the Children with support from IKEA Foundation provided malnutrition screening, followed by access to Save the Children’s Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre(NRC) facilities, where they are monitored and provided nutritional care and support. Pregnant and lactating mothers in flood-hit Assam were taught healthy recipes and low cost, dry food for children to improve children's nutritional status.To fight contamination caused by Assam floods, children and families were engaged in awareness drives on health and hygiene to encourage safe hygiene practices.
iii. Solar lamps
For every SUNNAN solar power lamp bought by IKEA customers, the IKEA Foundation donates one to UNICEF and Save the Children to help children play, read, write and study after dusk.
The role of NGOs in CSR today cannot be gainsaid. Many corporate donors, convinced of Save the Children's demonstrated commitment to the cause of child rights also assist the NGO in further fundraising. Today, Save the Children is supported by 1,15,000+ individual supporters, 35 corporate and 38 institutional (National and International) supporters. With this new model of CSR, corporations no longer act as entities which are detached from society but established mutual support relationships so that both corporations and communities benefit from each other.