Suzlon Energy Ltd. started its pioneering journey in wind energy in India in 1995. A force to be reckoned with in clean energy, Suzlon has a presence in 19 countries across six continents powering companies, industries and a greener tomorrow by enabling sustainable social, economic and ecological development. The company goes beyond the expected to maintain a competitive edge which is, in turn, extended to its customers and stakeholders, as well as meet the vision of a greener future.
In conversation with Dr. Jasmine Sofia Gogia, General Manager, Suzlon Foundation, Atula Imchen finds out about the various CSR initiatives the company is undertaking and the framework upon which they are built upon.
What does CSR mean to Suzlon? How do you categorise your CSR programmes? Share with us in detail the company’s stand on sustainable development. What steps do you follow to hold on to these values of your business having minimal impact on the environment?
Sustainable development must ensure a balanced growth of the people, planet and profit. We have an advantage as Suzlon Group is one of the leading renewable energy solutions providers in the world. Our journey of powering a greener tomorrow began in 1995. Apart from being a technology leader, Suzlon prides itself in championing the cause of sustainable energy thus creating a lasting and harmonious environment. Suzlon’s philosophy is to pursue social, economic and ecological sustainable development of the planet. It believes that the only way to predict the future is to help shape it.
‘Suzlon Foundation believes that business should be seen by local people as an opportunity and not a threat to their livelihood. The atmosphere of mutual trust among business and the community reduces the occurrence of altercations’
Being a renewable energy, asset plays an important role in providing energy services in a sustainable manner and in mitigating the risk of climate change. With its vision of “Powering a Greener Tomorrow” the Group founded Suzlon Foundation (SF), a Section 8 non-profit company to ensure integration of sustainability across all its business operations.
Sustainable Development is at the core of Suzlon’s CSR outreach. The Group’s CSR programmes are categorised under Transformative (transforming internal practices), Responsive (offsetting impact of business and responding to stakeholder needs) and Proactive (going beyond business boundaries to contribute to the overall sustainability of the planet).
CSR is based on the premise that business and its environment are inter-dependent, and the organic link between them should be strengthened. Suzlon’s CSR strategy is to create a win-win situation for the communities, environment and other stakeholders and at the same time contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals. Therefore the CSR goals are also carved keeping sustainable development in mind:
- Having minimal impact on the natural environment
- Enabling local communities to develop their potential
- Empowering employees to be responsible civil society members
- Committing ourselves to ethical business practices that are fair to all stakeholders
Transformative CSR: All programmes designed towards promoting responsible citizenship at the corporate and individual level are transformative CSR programmes. Integrating CSR perspective in business functions, cultivating responsible behaviour among employees are important aspects of transformative CSR. At the corporate level, conjunctive land use is a most important example. Patches of land around wind turbines are identified and given to community groups to cultivate either crops or fodder.This avoids the land becoming barren and helps communities in earning a livelihood. Helping the business to cultivate amicable relationship with the villagers by involving the employees in village development programmes is another such attempt. Suzlon Foundation believes that business should be seen by local people as an opportunity and not a threat to their livelihood. The atmosphere of mutual trust among business and the community reduces the occurrence of altercations. At the employee level, activities to enhance environmental and social awareness are organised. Employee giving (cash contributions) and employee volunteering (time contribution) are part of these activities.
Responsive CSR: We believe that we have the responsibility to enhance financial, natural, social, human and physical resources around our operating area. All programmes which respond to the neighbourhood’s needs and offset the social/environmental impact of the business, if any, fall under this category.
Proactive CSR: All programmes that have outcomes beyond our business boundaries and contribute to the sustainability of the planet are part of this division. They include initiatives such as disaster response, international cooperation for internships, etc.
What is your CSR framework built upon?
Our CSR framework is built around five capitals of sustainable development – Financial, Natural, Social, Human and Physical. We believe that these resources, called capitals, affect the business and are in turn affected by it. Hence, for overall sustainability, balanced growth of these five capitals is essential. All our programmes are designed to enhance these capitals.
Natural Capital (Environment): We undertake various programmes to conserve soil, water and air. The objective is to rejuvenate and conserve natural resources. The initiatives have resulted in 65,749 CuM water conserved, 1.21 million trees planted during 2008-2010, 83,803 kg solid waste recycled, 170 tonnes grass grown.
Financial Capital (Livelihood): Initiatives are focused on enhancing livelihoods of disadvantaged communities through projects for encouraging self-help, capacity building, livestock development services and micro credit support. Through this, Suzlon has extended technical guidance, material inputs, and credit facilities to farmers, cattle breeders and entrepreneurs. Till date, preventive healthcare has been given to 1,46,000 animals. In microfinance, 179 micro enterprises have been developed, savings of the villagers has reached Rs, 2 0 million and credit over Rs. 30 million.
Social Capital (Empowerment): The programmes under this framework have been successful in bringing communities together. Over 3,074 community-based organisations have been strengthened.
Human Capital (Education & Health): The Foundation’s initiatives under this capital focus on providing quality education, developing skills and improving the health of local communities. E-learning education software has been installed in 54 rural schools. Free cataract surgeries of 134 patients amounted to savings of Rs. 16.57 lakhs for the villagers. We have reached out to 1,381 schools and 135,192 students to facilitate better learning opportunities.
Physical Capital (Civic Amenities): Initiatives are designed to improve availability and access to amenities and services essential for any community to realise its potential; e.g. sanitation, electricity, housing, transportation, insurance and public distribution systems. So far, over 115,000 families enjoy better civic amenities through our programmes.
Suzlon Foundation’s CSR is about going beyond legal compliance and holding ourselves accountable to higher ethical standards aligned with our values. It is about sustaining the planet, people and profit.
This is an exceptional way of compartmentalising them. What are the different projects that are being implemented under Natural Capital (Environment Initiatives)? How have they enhanced and impacted the environment?
Suzlon Foundation undertakes various programmes to conserve soil, water and air. The objective is to rejuvenate and conserve the natural resources. The initiatives have resulted in:
- 65749 cum water conserved due to water conservation methods
- 170 tonnes of grass produced through conjunctive land use
- 300 wells recharged
- 74 percent average survival of trees planted
- Approximately 400 tonnes CO2 absorbed by plantation of trees
- 83,803 kg waste treated/recycled improving the environment
- 71 CBOs combating climate change
- 33.5 hectare land around turbines has brought under conjunctive land use, benefiting 18 families
- 1394 farmers have adopted organic farming
- Biogas units have been fitted in our remote canteens to prevent pollution and encourage the use of renewable sources
How has Physical Capital (Civic Amenities Initiatives) brought about a marked difference in the different communities across the nation?
Our physical capital programmes are designed to improve availability and access to amenities and services essential for any community which has resulted in the following:
- Drinking water sources revitalised/ established giving better access to communities; making 15 villages tanker-free and saving 38,700 hours of fetching water in Gujarat
- 2950 families get better access to drinking water in our neighbourhood villages of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh
- 8 1 4 hectare brought under cultivation due to revival of 26 khadins in Rajasthan
- 98 Nadis, 1 Kheli, 2 berries revived and 94 tanks established in Rajasthan
- 1045 solar lanterns, 15 street lamps and 450 solar home systems installed making 98,892 days of light available in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
- Computers, projectors with education software have been installed in Standard I to X in 54 government schools in Maharashtra
- 9500 livestock provided water in Gujarat
- 20 villages experiencing better living conditions as a result of waste recycling in Tamil Nadu
- 100 special tricycles provided to differently-abled in Gujarat
- 407 CBOs taking decisions on their development issues
- 21 families have extra water storage in form of 500 litre tanks
- 21 Overhead Tanks of 5 Lakh litres capacity were cleaned by scientific method with community contribution
- 55 drinking water sources rejuvenated benefitting 138 families
Education, health and women are given due importance in your CSR initiatives. Can you elaborate on each project and the multiplier impact due to the initiatives?
We have supported more than 2000 community-based organisations over the years. Most of them have been women’s self-help groups – particularly in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka. The women SHGs have received various empowering trainings and have been able to access productive loans to enhance existing incomes or to start a micro enterprise.
We have, however, shifted our development model to work through village development committees for greater village level impact.
E-learning systems have impacted the lives of the students substantially. Our E-Learning initiative received a very good response especially in Maharashtra. Let me take you through the initiative.
E-Learning initiative in Maharashtra
Education, which falls under human capital, is the cornerstone for the success of a generation to build a comfortable living. To overcome issues like lack of opportunities for the youth and poor employability among locals, it was important to develop human capital. This could only be done by educating the youth in the villages.
The state of quality of education and scholastic infrastructure in rural schools has always been a hindrance to the progress of our future generations. Improving quality of education has been the focus area of Suzlon Foundation’s CSR work. We have collaborated with Sum Concept to enhance the education quality of 70 schools in different parts of rural Maharashtra through the E-learning system. The programme has been implemented across the districts of Satara, Tasgaon, Dhule, Nashik, Kavathe Mahankal amongst few others in Maharashtra.
Sum Concept developed a multimedia teaching aid for Standard I to X in Marathi and English languages. The software follows State syllabus and is very interactive, therefore making it interesting for the students. A set of computers, software, projectors and UPS has been given to each of the 70 schools.
‘The state of quality of education and scholastic infrastructure in rural schools has always been a hindrance to the progress of our future generations. Improving quality of education has been the focus area of Suzlon Foundation’s CSR work’
A teachers’ training workshop is also conducted on how to use the software as teaching aid. Over 150 teachers have attended these workshops. This initiative has been successful and appreciated by teachers, school administration, students, and parents alike.
• To make resources available to the needy
• To increase accessibility of modern technology
•To work on the education system and make it a 360° programme
We believe that by doing so, the confidence level of the school teachers, students and villagers would increase. It would also have a positive effect on their personality and talent. Creating awareness and understanding about modern technology would build the confidence of the young generation. This would also increase employment opportunities and pave the way for better living.
Impact: 70 rural schools across Maharashtra and Rajasthan have availed e-learning – an interactive multimedia teaching aid – giving better quality education to over 60,000 students resulting in 50 percent reduction in school drop out.
A survey conducted to assess the programme in 40 schools reflected good results. The main observations drawn from the survey were:
- Increase in the student’s attendance in schools
- Increased interest in students to learn various subjects like English, Maths, Science
- Improved level of students in grasping lessons due to the audio visual effect
- Increase in the concentration level of students
- Complicated concepts became easy to understand
- Students became familiar with the use of computers for various purposes
- Enhanced English vocabulary
- Students have lost fear of exam and have developed interest in solving questions and answers due to the educational games
Teachers at schools found it easier to explain concepts through e-learning. The fear of learning and studying English has been gotten rid of. Computer literacy has also improved significantly. Parents were encouraged to learn new concepts due to their children’s enthusiasm. We also took the initiative to conduct training sessions and workshops for teachers in Mahankal and Tasgaon. Over 150 teachers were educated about the concept of e-learning and role of teachers in education.
Witnessing communities leading better and improved lives is indeed gratifying. What is your way forward in reaching out to more communities across India?
Our programmes are focused on sustainability and that is the reason we have not adopted charity approach but have always maintained that it is a partnership in development. It is our dream to see the village development committees we have formed and empowered become independent institutions that are able to address the needs of their villages on their own – financially and operationally. We will strive to achieve this ultimate goal of our development projects.