In less than six months, the policy was revised, the impact areas were identified, and four flagship programmes with multiple projects under their umbrella were launched. The world’s largest two-wheeler maker, known for revolutionising mobility at the hinterlands through affordable motorcycles, has committed to add more value at the grassroots through its CSR investments. While major activities are underway, many more initiatives are waiting in the wings. The company, just like it did with its business, is scaling up its CSR activities faster than any of its counterparts and is set to report the ‘change’ it hopes to bring about by the end of this financial year.  

It is a sign of how integral CSR has become to every company, large and small, that the world’s largest manufacturer of two-wheelers Hero MotoCorp’s tag line Manufacturing Happiness is explained as ‘how we are furthering the responsibility paradigm in manufacturing to minimise our environmental impact’, ‘developing an ecologically sound ecosystem’, and ‘giving back to society’.  

Hero’s CSR vision is To Have a Greener, Safer and Equitable World, and to this end, its policy focuses on value creation that has significant impact on society and aims to cover one or more of the following: Enhance environmental capital, support rural development and education, facilitate heathcare, create sustainable livelihoods, promote sports and road safety awareness ·
  • Develop grassroots capability for beneficiaries
  • Engage in affirmative actions
  • Programmes within the company’s economic orbit and in relevant local areas
  • Participate in disaster relief work, monetarily or otherwise ·Fund new technology
  • Partner with industry groups

Besides seeking to improve the conditions of the economically backward sections of society, Hero also works towards eco-friendly projects and technology for its consumers. Hero considers ethics and human rights, work environment and information disclosure, and stakeholder engagement to be within the ambit of its overall CSR policy.

CSR investments

Hero has categorised its ongoing CSR activities into four distinct pillars.

Ride Safe India: Supported by the government’s ministry of road transport & highways, this is a 360-degree initiative that includes road safety-awareness programmes, traffic-training parks, and media campaigns. This fits neatly into what Hero actually does and is quite pertinent due to the large number of road accidents that occur in India every year (over 1.3 lakh in 2013). Ride Safe India is leveraging social media to spread its message, including a recent hour-long chat with users on Twitter which also featured PowerDrift Official, a YouTube channel for auto enthusiasts, to educate people on road-safety tips and practices.

Hero has associated with the police in Gurgaon, Haryana, for its Student Police Cadet Project. The project, apart from creating road-safety awareness, will engage children for sessions on community development skills, leadership skills, disaster management, and waste management.

Hamari Pari: Focussing on empowering the women of tomorrow, this programme is all about the holistic development of young girls (six years and plus) from underprivileged sections and to help them realise their true potential. To be achieved in conjunction with partner NGOs, this involves access to education, fixed-deposit certificates, and regular sessions and guidance camps for the participating girls and women. Under this initiative, Hero has pledged to adopt 15,000 girls to provide them education and suitable opportunities.

Happy Earth: As the name suggests, this is all about the environment. One of the programmes under this is the Green Drive in Delhi which has so far mobilised nearly 40,000 people and resulted in 120,000 sapling plantations. The company is also in the process of planting and nurturing trees at 31 locations (parks, orphanages, old-age homes, schools and public places) to improve their green cover. It is actively participating in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and is building numerous toilets at various locations across India – rural schools near the company’s plants and offices are the primary focus.

E2 – Educate to Empower: Projects include regular drives to collect necessary education materials and resources, setting up libraries as well as providing scholarships to promising girl students.

Some of Hero’s initiatives in 2014–15 revolved around financial support to female students, relief work in J&K and Nepal, and training programmes for road safety. Plans for 2015–16 were put in place well in advance and resulted in the launch of several flagship programmes including Hamari Pari. Under this, a Step Up Centre and Samarth Girls Empowerment Programme were set up at Valmiki Colony in Dharuhera, Haryana, this year and it is already showing impressive results. Take for example the case of Babli, who is 10 years old and resides in this colony. Part of a family of six in the lower socio-economic strata, her father is a shopkeeper who is barely able to make their daily ends meet. Enrolled in a government school, she goes to this centre after school every day to get help with her studies. She wants to pursue higher education and become a police officer, which in her present situation may prove to be extremely difficult. Here, Samarth is helping her to pursue her dream and providing her educational support.

Hero is also supporting Agastya Foundation’s Mobile Science Lab education programme wherein the foundation takes science laboratories on wheels (customised on bus chassis) to schools that do not have access to a proper laboratory. Hero has shouldered the responsibility of giving laboratory access to about 16,000 girls at 17 schools in Delhi.

Other noteworthy schemes undertaken by Hero are animal health camps, a reverse osmosis (RO) plant set up in a village in Haryana to ensure hundred per cent potable water, eye-correction camps, community engagement in rural areas, and the Respond Now project wherein students in villages are trained to provide basic aid in medical emergencies.

Green is not just a colour

Being a manufacturing giant, Hero has invested heavily in advanced technology with the objective of making their systems and processes efficient and eco-friendly. Hero’s fourth production factory in Neemrana, Rajasthan, which started operating in October 2014, has been billed as the country’s first LEED Platinum facility certified by Indian Green Building Foundation. It boasts of such environment-friendly facilities as solar panels providing 30 per cent of all energy requirements, greenhouse food production, and a green oxygen wall pumping out fresh, clean air for workers. On its supply–chain side, Hero’s Green Vendor Development Programme with 148 key suppliers is aimed at reducing water and electricity consumption, waste minimisation, pollution prevention, substitution of hazardous chemicals, and environmental-compliance management. Efforts are being made to map out relevant processes and do a gap analysis on the same to identify and improve on the current state.

Hero’s other green manufacturing projects include investing in sewage-treatment plants, multiple initiatives on energy and water conservation, and recycling of waste paint sludge into primer. Green IT, which is basically technology with minimal environmental impact, is another focus area and includes cutting down on paper usage in every form and energy-efficient equipment and technology usage.

CauseBecause observations

The last few months have unfolded at a frenetic pace for the CSR team at Hero. A handful of dedicated professionals led by Vijay Sethi, CIO and head of CSR, have been busy on multiple fronts to ensure that their CSR investments are well spent – implementation partners are chosen on set parameters after thorough due diligence, programmes are strategically designed, and independent auditors are on-board to analyse the impact that the company’s interventions are likely to make. 

Although it is as yet too early to talk about any change that Hero’s CSR is helping to bring about, based on the hypothetical impact that the team has defined, backed by credible alliances, data and on-track activities as well as the intent and commitment of the organisation, the CSR programmes can be rated as ‘promising’.

Last year, Hero had invested Rs 2.3 crore (0.1 per cent of its net profit – admittedly short of the mandated two per cent) towards its CSR activities. For this year, Hero has stated its commitment to spend not only the required amount in the current financial year, but also the residual amount from the last financial year. Now that the company has its CSR policy formally in place, and the experience on earlier projects has led to solid groundwork for this year’s CSR activities, it will be worthwhile to assess the impact of its CSR at the end of this financial year.

Sethi believes that ‘business organisations are organic entities – they cannot grow and sustain unless their relationship with communities deepen.’ For companies to ensure that their CSR programmes are relevant, it is important to keep innovating and adapting the focus to reflect current and future trends. Human rights, women empowerment and climate change are some of the urgent pressing issues that many companies around the world are trying to address. Shell Foundation’s Envirofit cook stove, which is environment-friendly and does away with kerosene, and United Technologies’ Pehal targeting migrant labourers are interesting examples that come to mind. The risk may be higher than traditional CSR avenues but the payoff to the community (and the company) can potentially be even bigger.

Ultimately, the intention has to be right and the approach carefully thought out (even if the focus is on a few key objectives and projects) for CSR to go beyond mere responsibility to fulfil a stated mission and policy. After all, there is always someone who needs a helping hand. Hero is off to an interesting start and the company’s first comprehensive report on its CSR, likely to be audited for impact by an independent party, will be out by the end of this financial year. For the sake of its CSR beneficiaries and the future of CSR itself, one hopes the results are positive. In the meantime, the stories of lives waiting to be changed will unfold, one day at a time.