In conversation with Samhita Social Ventures, Archana Sahay, Asia Pacific Japan China, Community Relation lead at Cisco, talks about the potential that the Companies Act 2013 holds for the social sector, focus areas of Cisco’s CSR activities, and how employee engagement can be leveraged. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
What are your views on the Companies Act 2013 and what does it mean to Cisco in particular?
The law has assisted in bringing in a more formalized, focus-based approach for companies but I believe companies usually end up spending more than the 2% mandate. Since all our activities are funded by Cisco Foundation based in USA, the emergence of the Companies Act will compel us to spend 2% of our average profits being borne by Cisco, legal identity of India. This will help us build strategy for the Indian entity that will be more aligned towards the local community and their needs.
What have been the main focus areas of the CSR activities of Cisco Foundation?
Cisco’s main focus areas are primarily education, critical human needs and disaster relief. Cisco employees give generously when disaster strikes and that donation is matched by the Cisco Foundation. In the area of education, we collaborated with NSDC (National Skills Development Corporation) wherein we will be training more than 3,000 youth pan India with our focus on people with disabilities in rural sectors. Our main beneficiaries are women, centered on the concept that when you educate a woman, you educate a community.
How is the partnership with NSDC in the education sector devised?
Cisco forms a tripartite partnership with NSDC thus getting access to the partners affiliated with NSDC. This partnership makes the model sustainable and scalable. Scalable in terms of easy adaptability in any part of the country where NSDC has existing partnerships. Sustainable because every initiative should come with an exit strategy. When we decide to move on to other causes, none of the beneficiaries will be at loss as they have already been trained and employed.
Can you shed some light on the area of critical human needs as part of Cisco’s CSR?
We provide shelter and food to the underprivileged while addressing critical human needs. To ensure this, we tied up with Habitat for Humanity where we provide funds and volunteering hours. We also have an internal campaign known as the Global Hunger Relief Campaign that supports our sole NGO partner Akshaya Patra where we leverage the government scheme of midday meals by providing food to 55,000 children annually on a daily basis.
How does the concept of volunteering hours work in Cisco?
We encourage Cisco employees to be part of the concept by contributing their time to working with NGOs. Besides providing skill and expertise, volunteering hours also provide an added advantage of monetary benefits to NGOs. The Cisco Foundation matches employee volunteer time to qualifying non-profit organizations with a $10/hour cash contribution. We have empanelled 33 NGOs with us that have been shortlisted by a thorough due diligence process through an external partner Charities Aid Foundation. In the year 2013, employees contributed more than 10,000 volunteering hours. We aim to reach 15,000 volunteering hours which shall translate into $15,000 for the NGOs.
How do you design the volunteering hours?
The volunteering hours are designed in two ways at Cisco. One is the traditional format wherein the employees devote definite number of hours to particular NGO/NGOs. Every now and then, the NGO voices their requirements and needs like when they require employee volunteers for painting walls, making paper bags, setting up a computer lab, etc. 9% of employees are volunteering in the traditional format contributing to around 9,000 volunteering hours. The other is the STEM format i.e. science, technology, engineering and maths, which is skill-based. In this format,we focus on leveraging the expertise, time and technology competence of our employees.
What are your views on the payroll program?
Cisco implements the payroll program only once a year as part of the single flagship donation program – Global Hunger Relief campaign. We believe that doing it once gives the right amount of push and motivation to the employees.
For more information on the CSR activities of Cisco please visit their website: http://csr.cisco.com/