With over 70 per cent of the workforce at SAP voluntarily engaging in social responsibility activities, SAP India seems to have a work environment that many business houses can learn from. ‘Spending on CSR became compulsory just a few months ago; at SAP we have been doing it for years now. For us it is more than being compliant. We understand how it helps not just in the growth of the communities, but also in creating an atmosphere wherein each employee develops a bond with the company and trusts it for its social commitment. All of our CSR programmes are employee-driven and each time we need a helping hand, we have an army of volunteers who are always prepared,’ said Gunjan Patel, head – CSR at SAP India, while conversing with CauseBecause. Here’s an abstract from the talk.

With the new Companies Act in the backdrop, a lot of corporate groups are revisiting their CSR policy. Is it happening at SAP India too?

Interestingly, all our social responsibility programmes are such that they fall within the ambit of Schedule VII. We do not really have to tweak them or plan anything new. The mandatory guidelines under the new law are quite broad-based and there is ample scope to plan development-focused projects across many verticals.

Has the company formed a CSR governing body/committee as per the law?

At SAP, CSR has always been embedded in our way of doing business and it engages every individual in the hierarchy, including the top executives. CSR decisions are taken by a committee that includes the board members, and this committee has been there long before the law mandated it. As far as compliance with current law is concerned, SAP India is in sync with every aspect of it.

You mean the company is already spending two per cent of its net profits towards CSR? Can you share the exact figure?

Yes, we have computed and allocated the required fund and have proper implementation plans. The exact amount reserved for CSR will be made public through our sustainability report.

SAP’s social investments are primarily community-centric and socially responsible to create sustainable impacts. The India CSR spend is a part of overall Asia-Pacific and Japan’s CSR budget; we are not segmenting country-wise CSR spend as of now.

However, I can share that the company is committed to contribute Rs 2.65 crore for three years to National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) to strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem and create a sustainable and inclusive economic environment.

 Is this your flagship CSR programme? Please share some details of the same.

This is our flagship programme and it is focused on encouraging entrepreneurship. We have partnered with National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) and launched the NEN–SAP Emerging Entrepreneur Mentoring Program. The initiative supports innovative businesses that are addressing the most pressing societal challenges. The programme offers high-potential social ventures access to business mentorship, education and technology. These ventures are ideally ready to scale, in need of technology to grow, and driving social impact in their local markets.

Will SAP provide funding or scaling-up capital too to these ventures?
Yes, if we see the need, we are open to grant funding as well as impact funding through SAP’s network of impact investors.

What are these businesses and who all are eligible to participate in this programme?

The important factor here is that the business should be addressing a social-delivery gap, a social good, or an unmet need; it should thus have a development purpose as the prime purpose. The business should be registered in India with a proven business model, earning strong revenues and making profits, and seeking significant/global growth via innovations in business process, application of technology, alliances, etc.

You think investing in entrepreneurs can really help in resolving fundamental development problems of the country?

We believe that India has a critical need for a large number of high-quality jobs if it has to benefit from its demographic dividend. High-potential entrepreneurs are the most likely to create such jobs. But in India, entrepreneurs who grow companies are still at an early stage of evolution and in many cases need mentoring, even more than capital. Investing in developing mentors and the entrepreneurial ecosystem is the highest leverage activity to create the jobs that India needs.

Many corporates have cited that finding the right implementation partner is a challenge. Did you face that difficulty?

We have a few credible NGO partners who have been chosen through due diligence. We believe in strengthening them by continuing to support their initiatives instead of finding new partners. We will rather invest in one organization and stand by it to help it in scaling up its projects and capacity to undertake larger programmes in future.

CauseBecause has been trying to propagate inclusive growth wherein we encourage corporate groups to join hands and focus on larger impactful programmes instead of working in seclusion. Do you think SAP India will be open to support any such initiative wherein other corporate groups are also involved?

Why not? If two or three companies can help in addressing one particular problem, they must join hands and work together. We are already running a joint programme with L&T Public Charitable Trust (LTPCT), which is the CSR arm of the Larsen & Toubro group. The programme is focused on spreading computer literacy amongst youth and children belonging to the economically weaker sections of the society. We are together training underprivileged budding talent through SAP Learning Hub programs and SAP certified courses and thereby generating employment opportunities for skilled professionals. The partnership helped us in reaching the right beneficiaries since they were there with LTPCT.

Are there other social programmes that you want to talk about?

Apart from these focused approaches, SAP donates towards other relevant causes. Last year we donated one crore rupees toHOPE Foundation to enable them to provide secondary science education and computer literacy programme to the flood-affected youth, women and children in Uttarakhand.

Another important aspect at SAP’s CSR is that it is primarily employee-driven. Employees regularly contribute to a plethora of CSR projects. Besides the regular weekend activities through the year, we also have the ‘Month of Service’ (MoS) initiative held through October each year, to promote community transformation, team building and leadership development. The initiative allows for employee volunteering in more than 40 different kinds of projects like planting trees, visiting old-age homes, blood donation, spending time with children at government schools and hospices, and working with differently-abled children.

Last year, around 4,200 employees contributed a total of 17,500 employee hours. In total, around 22,000 employee hours (skilled and traditional volunteering) were spent on CSR initiatives in 2013.