HomeAbout HUFNAC Members

NAC Members

Late Mr Ramaswamy R Iyer
Former Secretary Water Resources (GOI),
Former NAC Member

Dr Mihir Shah
Renowned Economist, Social Worker,
Member Planning Commission (former)

Ms Ireena Vittal
Former Partner Mckinsey & Co

Water for Life, Livelihoods, Agriculture

Ramaswamy R. Iyer was formerly Secretary Water Resources in the Government of India, initiator and principal draftsman of India's first National Water Policy in 1987.

Before we get into the subject, a few introductory remarks about water may be in order. Water is many things in one: a basic life-need and right; an amenity; a cleaning agent; a social good (e.g., for firefighting, hospital use, use in schools and public institutions, etc); a requirement for economic activity (agriculture, industry, commerce); a means of transportation; a part of our social, political and cultural life; and a sacred substance. It is also a part of the ecological system, sustaining and being sustained by it; and it plays a vital role on Planet earth. Even if we are concerned with only one aspect of water in a given context, it is necessary to keep in mind the larger and more complex whole of which it is a part.

Secondly, the complexity and multi-dimensionality of water leads to multiple perspectives on water, which need not be gone into here, except to note that different perspectives could be valid for different purposes without necessarily contradicting one another. For instance, water as a basic life-support need is a fundamental right under Indian law and a human right in the UN system, and from this perspective, water is not a commodity subject to market forces. At the same time, water as an input into economic or commercial activity is indeed an economic good, i.e., a commodity. All that one can say is that water as life-need i.e., a fundamental right, takes priority over economic and commercial uses/rights. There is also the engineering perspective of control and manipulation of nature, which has increasingly come under question. There is further an important question whether water is private property or state property or a common pool resource held in public trust by the state for the community. The last view has been stated by the Supreme Court in some cases but it is not clear whether the matter stands conclusively settled. We have to wait for a crucial landmark judgment. There are also ecological, equity and social justice perspectives, and very clearly, there is a women's perspective of growing importance.

Thirdly, it is now common ground internationally that the world faces an imminent water crisis; many think that the crisis is already upon us; and it is also common ground that the crisis is going to be complicated and exacerbated by the phenomenon of climate change. Without questioning these propositions, one might ask: what is the nature of this crisis? Broadly speaking, there are two answers to that question. The Establishment or mainstream view is that the growth of population, the pace of urbanisation, the processes of economic growth, and higher standards of living, combine to generate an increasing demand for water which brings the finite availability of water under mounting pressure. The other view, held by many thinkers and commentators outside the government (including myself), and also by some in government, is that while there is indeed pressure on a finite resource by growing demand, the crisis is to a considerable extent the result of gross mismanagement and wasteful use of water in all uses, and a pattern of development that inexorably creates a competitive, unsustainable demand for water; in other words, the crisis is largely one of our own creation. The two diagnoses will lead to two different responses:

(i) augmenting the supply of water to meet the projected demand, which has been the implicit policy for a century and a half, and

(ii) restraining the runaway growth of demand and managing the requirements within the finite availability, which implies a reversal of that implicit policy. The latter response represents my own position.

Private corporate sector participation needs to be considered against that broad background. Two kinds of participation immediately come to mind, namely, the privatisation of water supply (or ‘water services’), and private corporate entities undertaking investment in and execution of 'major water resource projects'. These are strongly advocated by many thinkers and institutions, but considered unacceptable by many others including this writer.

In the case of privately owned projects, the ground for the objection is that the transfer of control over natural resources from the state and the community to private hands seems wholly undesirable. There are indeed cases of the kind in other countries, and there is the Maheshwar Project in this country, but the objection stated above remains. This will not be discussed further here.

The privatisation of water supply is slowly and unobtrusively making headway in several States in the country. That seems an unfortunate development for several reasons.

One,under the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution and the related schedules 11 and 12, local water management is a subject to be devolved to panchayati raj institutions or PRIs. Against that constitutionally mandated democratic decentralization, the entrustment of the water supply function to a private entity or even a public sector corporate body or parastatal seems quite wrong.

Secondly, as a fundamental right, the citizen is entitled to ask for the provision or assurance of water from his/her elected representatives. If it is privatised, this fundamental right becomes a contractual right to be received on payment to the supplier.

Thirdly, it is difficult to privatise the supply without some degree of transfer of control over a water source to private hands. Fourthly, in so far as water for life is a fundamental right, the state has a responsibility that cannot be shed. If the private supplier fails, the responsibility will shift back to the state.

There are several instances in which private corporate entities, pursuing their own objective of profit, have depleted and/or irreparably damaged water for agriculture, drinking water, and water for modest livelihoods in the surrounding area. These are cases of a wholly negative relationship between industry and agriculture and rural livelihoods.

We have so far been considering cases of negative relationship between industry and agriculture. There are of course cases of positive relationship. Apart from purchases of agricultural produce by industry, agriculture, particularly large-scale agriculture, gets a wide range of inputs needed for production from industry sources: chemical fertilisers and pesticides, fodder for livestock, agricultural implements, equipment such as threshers, tractors, harvesters, etc, tube-well and bore-well motors and pumps, and so on. Alas, even seeds may have to come from industry, as under the prevailing legal dispensation our famers are losing control over their own seeds and have often to pay fees or royalties to foreign companies. The Green Revolution, with its heavy stress on high-yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, has not only brought about a vulnerable dependence of farmers on industry, but has focused on a few HYV seeds to the detriment of large local, indigenous varieties, and has led to a loss of bio-diversity. Now, desperate efforts are being made by some individuals and NGOs to find as many of the lost seed varieties as possible and save them. Thus, what at first sight looked like a healthy relationship between agriculture and industry turns out on closer examination to be very different. The kind of agriculture-industry relationship that Green Revolution brought about was a pathological one.

In any case, the Green Revolution, which brought about a dramatic surge in production in the short run but has also generated a whole range of long-term problems, has more or less run its course. It is often said that we need a second Green Revolution. If so, it will have to be a very different kind of GR; and here is where the scope lies for a new, positive, healthy relationship between the private sector industry and agriculture. The 1970s GR brought about a high-capital, water-demanding, high-energy, centralised, chemicals-intensive, soil-health-endangering, biodiversity-reducing, inequitable, conflict-creating, unsustainable agriculture. If we need a new GR, it must be the opposite of the old GR in every respect. What we need is a low-capital, low-tech, decentralised, sustainable agriculture. The movement initially known as LISA and later simply as Sustainable Agriculture or Alternative agriculture started in the USA and spread further, and is particularly relevant for 'developing' countries. A similar movement known as LEISA (Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture) was of Dutch origin and has some following in India. It is not necessarily the same thing as Organic Agriculture but the two could come together. Kudumbam, Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) runs a magazine on LEISA. The late K. R. Datye had been urging a transformation from centralised fossil-fuel-based energy-intensive 'development' (which is unsustainable) to a decentralised, biomass-based livelihoods approach to development. He advocated a low external input, sustainable regenerative agriculture. LISA or LEISA or regenerative agriculture or organic agriculture: these are overlapping ideas that have many elements in common. If there is to be a new GR, it will probably be on these lines.

However, this is not really a 'private-sector participation' question. Pesticides, whether produced by a public sector company or a private sector company, will have the same effects on soil, produce and agricultural discharge. Similarly, dying units and hide-processing units will be equally polluting, whether publicly or privately owned. The question here is one of a relationship between agriculture and industry, particularly in the context of the Green Revolution; and this in turn is part of the larger issue of the kind of 'development' that we have chosen. If we need a new kind of GR, we also need a new kind of industrial development - benign, non-polluting, non-toxic. It is only under those conditions that we can conceive of a healthy relationship between industry and agriculture.

Let me return from that larger question to the more specific one of what HUF and HUL can do in relation to water and agriculture. This is a positive story indeed. HUF is already doing so much under its 'Water for Public Good' project that it is very difficult to offer any new ideas for their consideration. However, with some hesitation I am putting forward a few points that occurred to me as I reflected on what HUL as a leading corporate entity and part of a global organization can do in relation to water, a vital substance that is under growing pressure because of unsustainable demand, wasteful use and heavy pollution.

What can HUL do in relation to water? This falls under three heads:
(a) reduction of water-use and of the generation/disposal of polluting effluents in the production process;
(b) reduction in the demand for water related to the consumers' use of its products, and in the pollution potential of that use; and
(c) going beyond its production and marketing, engaging with civil society and NGOs in widespread local initiatives in augmenting the water available for use without adverse impacts, conserving the water so garnered, and using it economically to the best advantage in a sustainable and harmonious manner.

In so far as the production process is concerned, HUL is already trying to reduce the water requirement and minimise the generation of effluents (and also trying to obtain its requirements from sustainable sources). However, as long-term goals, HUL could consider adopting 'zero effluent' and 'zero net water budget'. Zero effluent is already the corporate goal of many of HUL's constituent units, but it could be universalised. As for water requirements for production, the efforts to bring these down probably do include multiple use of the same water, but I am suggesting that these be pushed further to the point that water once supplied and used is repeatedly treated and re-used so that there is virtually no need to ask for a further supply. This is what I mean by 'net zero water budget'. Undoubtedly this will be a very difficult aim to achieve, but I suggest its adoption as a long-term goal. Apart from reducing HUL's draft on the water resources of the country and minimising if not eliminating the pollution of those resources, these two goals will also make excellent economic sense from the point of view of profitability.

As for the water requirements relating to the use of HUL's products by the purchasers, and the pollution that such use contributes, HUL is no doubt already trying to reduce/minimise these, but I suggest that going beyond efficiency, innovation is called for.

  1. making the products less water-demanding in use, and
  2. eliminating or at least minimising the pollution arising from that use, call for R&D. Perhaps HUL is already pursuing R&D in these matters, but an increase in and intensification of R&D would be both highly desirable and eminently worthwhile.

Turning to HUF's very commendable activities at the local level in collaboration with several NGOs, there are many further valuable contributions that HUF can make.

First, local initiatives in rainwater-harvesting and other forms of augmentation of available water for local use need to be governed by some minimal knowledge of hydrology and possible impacts on downstream areas. Both the choice of the right locations for water-harvesting structures, and the extent of harvesting that can be done without undue interference with the hydrological cycle and without harm to downstream areas, are decisions that must be informed by knowledge. HUF could strengthen the knowledge base on which such initiatives are undertaken. Local initiatives are very necessary, but must be in harmony with the overall hydrology of the watershed/basin.

Secondly, the water so augmented needs to be conserved and economically used to the best advantage. Here again some contribution not only from traditional knowledge but also from modern science might be useful. In the past, S&T was called upon to find ways of making more water available. In future, S&T may have to play a different role, namely, to get the most out of available water - to make a little water go a long way. HUF can not only strengthen the knowledge base here, but also perhaps look for innovative ways of getting more out of less, including funding research in this direction. I am not making definite suggestions in this regard, but merely indicating a possible line of action.

Guidance may also be needed to ensure the avoidance of water-intensive cropping patterns. Further, conflicts between upstream and downstream users in a watershed need to be obviated. Rules governing water-use have to be devised and voluntarily adopted by the farmers. Here, Rajendra Singh's idea of a water parliament on the Arvari stream in Rajasthan (Arvari Sansad) might be a useful example. Local initiatives run the risk that the water so added to the aquifer might be captured by someone else, say, a rich farmer, through tube-wells or bore-wells. I don't know whether HUF has actually come across any such case, but this is a danger to be guarded against.

HUF could undertake, wherever possible, a promotion of SRI (System of Rice Intensification) which is said both to save water and to increase yield. This is already making some headway, but it would be a good idea for HUF to promote it.

Going a bit beyond this, HUF could explore the possibility of promoting Low Input Sustainable Agriculture and organic farming which would eliminate the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and the attendant pollution of soil and water sources, and of course the crops themselves.

Where the local initiative is based on groundwater, some idea of the aquifer would be useful. Mapping aquifers is a governmental activity, but HUF could do some local delineation in collaboration with government agencies.

Similarly, in urban areas, HUF could collaborate with government agencies in trying to revive defunct urban water bodies, reduce distribution losses, design and implement better water supply solutions for slum areas, etc. (Arghyam's work on Mulbagal in Karnataka is an example of a sustained initiative).

I hope HUF will find these suggestions relevant and useful and consistent with what they are already doing. Through partnerships with various NGOs, HUF is supporting local initiatives in water-harvesting and conservation, the economical use of water, better agricultural practices, and the generation or enhancement of livelihoods. In these initiatives, it will be a good idea to explore possibilities of promoting the emergence of a new, alternative, sustainable agriculture. HUF could thus align itself with an emerging transformation.

Addressing the Water Spectrum at Scale

After Independence, India's main thrust in the water sector was on building large dams across our many rivers. Following the 1970s, the focus has shifted to drilling of groundwater through tubewells, which was the bedrock of India's Green Revolution.

Over the years, evidence accumulated from the grave problems of these approaches. Big dams caused displacement of millions of people, whose resettlement and rehabilitation was not satisfactorily done.

The dams also caused enormous ecological damage. As for tubewells, they were soon caught in a vicious infinite regress, wherein the solution to a problem began to aggravate the problem itself. Water tables began to fall and serious water quality issues such as uranium, arsenic and fluoride in our drinking water started to appear. This happened, especially because 70% of India's land mass is underlain by hard rocks, which have a very low rate of natural recharge.

The nation took stock of these problems and initiated a major change in strategy focused more on decentralized solutions such as watershed development and participatory irrigation management. The challenge now is to ensure even this strategy does not fall into fresh errors of its own. This requires that we truly learn from the mistakes of the past and make the real paradigm shift that the 12th Five Year Plan has enunciated.

The single most important lesson we need to imbibe is a shift from an exclusive focus on the supply side to a more holistic demand management approach. We must recognise that however much water we may harvest, whether through big dams or smaller watershed structures, it will be of little use till we learn to manage the demand-side. What all does this entail? And how do we take this change to scale? I believe these are the questions that must engage the work of the Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF).

One, we need to adopt a more multi-disciplinary approach to water. Water is not about engineering and construction alone. It is not merely about building dams and ponds or digging wells and drilling tubewells. We need a greater focus on the management of water, wherein we value every drop that we have. Agronomists, hydro-geologists and social mobilisers all have a key role to play. Only with their inputs can we ensure that the water we harvest is put to sustainable and efficient use. Crop water budgeting, improved agrarian practices and an understanding of aquifers, as also the way people's institutions can be built, are all key elements of good management of water.

Two, management of water requires a participatory approach, where all stakeholders come together to understand and manage the common pool character of water. Many of our problems have arisen because the extraction and use of water, whether in our irrigation commands or groundwater, is done by individuals not recognizing that what they are using is a resource that belongs to many. The water in an aquifer can be drawn by many farmers and the extraction done by each one of them could adversely impact others using the same aquifer. This is what has happened in many parts of India where water tables and quality have fallen precipitously. Similarly, in irrigation commands, water has tended to be cornered by farmers in the upper reaches depriving tail-enders almost any access. New strategies are required, that have also been demonstrated successfully in some parts of India, which build on the common pool character of water and ensure sustainability and equity in use of water. Thus, collective groundwater management, which has been converted into a massive national programme under the 12th Plan and irrigation management transfer of irrigation commands must be part of the work HUF supports. Once farmers understand the nature of the aquifer from which they are extracting water, they realise that they need to be judicious in its use and work out sustainable and equitable management regimes for the same. Similarly, when farmers are given charge of their part of the command, they agree to pay a price for the irrigation service, which is now better assured and use the fees they collect to maintain and manage their part of the command.

These strategies try to optimize the match between cropping patterns and ecological conditions. The difficulty is that farmers also need to be assured a good price for what they sell. A lot of this depends on macro-economic policies on pricing and procurement, where an urgent shift is required towards less water-intensive crops. But large groups of farmers coming together can also try to solve this problem by collective marketing of their produce. This requires powerful institutions of small and marginal farmers that can enable them to secure a good price in the market. This is the third change required.

These farmers would also benefit through value-addition before sale. Thus, local agro-processing before sale could be a fourth element, incentivizing movement towards less water-intensive crops, assuring a remunerative price for what is sold, even in the absence of government support. This means that social entrepreneurship is also a key element of sound water management.

Water saving also requires a shift in technologies of agriculture. Drip and sprinkler irrigation is a fifth element of the change we need. Farmers must move away from flood irrigation towards these economical technologies of water application.

The sixth element of the innovative water spectrum would be a move towards agricultural practices such as a System of Crop Intensification, which can make significant savings of water.

Seven, a shift towards non-chemical agriculture, especially non-pesticide managed agriculture, could help save huge amounts of water, apart from being much more cost-effective and resilient to ecological shocks. My hope would be that all HUF supported projects would contain as many of these seven elements as possible, all of which should be based on a watershed approach to and understanding of water. HUF should act as a knowledge hub making best practices in each part of the water spectrum available to all its partners through the live demonstrations its projects will become. This knowledge would also be available to all other stakeholders, including governments and PRIs.

This is where we need to address the question of scale. How do we convert the small work we support into something that can be replicated at scale without loss of quality?

I propose two key elements of the scaling of impact strategy. One, partnership with government. Each project supported by HUF should include an element of leverage. Today, the government spends over Rs. 200,000 crore every year on its flagship programmes of social inclusion. Sadly, the utilisation of this money leaves a lot to be desired. One way of improving the quality of this massive spending by government is for civil society organisations to partner government in improving implementation, especially by working as support organisations to Gram Panchayats (GPs), who are the main implementing agency in many of these programmes. This would also help strengthen GPs, thereby strengthening grass-roots democracy in India. The other key element of the upscaling strategy is of capacity building that requires support to be provided to those institutions, which have the requisite capability and experience of doing capacity building at scale. Such organisations should become HUF partners. Each of them needs to be not only trainers but implementers first so that what they teach can be demonstrated in “living laboratories of learning” they have helped develop over the years, where both their successes and their failures can become schools of learning for others. These partners may have experience in all of the innovative elements listed above or only some of them. HUF could think of devising a multi-location, multi-partner training module for water implementers across the country, where different modules are taught by different capacity building partners, across locations. We could think of a system of certification of such courses.

Thus, HUF would support projects that not only harvest water, increasing its availability to farmers but also projects that help save water through new practices, technologies and institutions, as also an architecture of partnerships with GPs and government. HUF should also support partners who can build capacities of stakeholders in the water sector so that the small work done by HUF partners could make a massive impact at scale both through wider implementation as also the impact of this work on programmes and policies of the government, which could greatly benefit from this proof-of-concept that gains critical mass over time.

Ensuring impact from social investments

The recent CSR clause in India's new Company Act has triggered a quiet debate on how companies should think about social investments. This note shares emerging lessons on what it takes to ensure such efforts lead to sustainable impact.

Why invest in the community?
The new CSR clause invites corporates to invest in society. However, giving is not new to India. Indeed, India has a rich history of philanthropists, often businessmen, investing in communities around them. Multiple Tata Trusts (the first of which was set up in 1919, almost a hundred years back) have quietly offered scholarships to poor students, supported rural livelihood initiatives and communities and offered grants for research into preventive health etc. In addition, they have a rich legacy of institution building for India including TISS, TIFR, IISC, NCPA and the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospitals.

But it is not just the modest Tatas. Other business families such as Birla & Godrej, Mahindra & Bajaj, have supported temples and schools, the girl child and women, culture & classical music. And it is wonderful to see the next generation of business leaders stepping in now. Businessmen who have created wealth from new areas such as Private Equity and IT are now supporting areas as varied as governance, liberal education and water.

Why do these business leaders invest in society? Values is often a reason. Jamshetji Tata said, "In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder in business, but is in fact the very purpose of its existence". Legacy is another: John Harvard is still remembered, even if his first name is rarely recalled. As is the urge to give back to a society that enabled their individual success. Often these successful entrepreneurs see themselves as great problem solvers who now take responsibility to solve big issues in their societies. Whatever the reason, most philanthropists chose a cause and focus on it. Sometime this is linked to their business but often not. There is little link between the work of the Gates foundation and the business of Microsoft. Or the passion for education at the Wipro Foundation and the IT company. Or even the various causes of Tata Trusts and the Tata group companies.

However individual philanthropy is very different from corporate CSR. Companies support communities too. And the primary reason for this is often enlightened self-interest. In the past, this investment took many forms. Textile mills in Bombay in the early part of the last century built affordable housing for their labor, the famous chawls that still dot the Parel area in the city. Mining and steel companies run townships in Rourkela and Jamshedpur to attract and retain talent far away from large towns. And dairy players, in Punjab and Gujarat, invest in animal (& human) hygiene and skills, to improve animal productivity and reduce sourcing risk.

But is this just a legacy of the past? To the contrary. Going forward, companies are only going to increase their investment in society. Indeed, as awareness about sustainability increases and the implicit trust between citizens and business reduces, the social license of business has come under threat. As a result, CSR efforts of companies will move from a 'nice to do' to perhaps a 'must do'. While a certain share of the CSR fund will still be kept aside for areas of passion/interest (of the CEO and his wife!) to enable them to participate in events in the local community & influencers, an increasingly large share of the funds is likely to focus on areas of 'strategic' relevance to the company. This could be "place based' i.e. investing in the society/ geography around their factory or in their core market. It could be along the value chain they play in i.e. to replenish inputs they use in large quantities such as water or energy or air. Or to create enablers: talent and skills, demand drivers and consumption rituals.

Clearly investing in communities is good for business. The critical issue, unlike philanthropy, is to ensure a business rationale/link between CSR efforts and self-interest of the company. This gets more critical as the shelf life of CEOs reduces and only a sharp strategic link between the CSR effort and the business ensures these investments survive a change of guard at the CEO level.

    Making it work

    Starting a CSR effort is easy. Making it work requires careful thought. Successful efforts have three common characteristics.

  1. Be thematic: Most societal issues are complex. If they were easy to fix, the government or the society would have done so already. Take the example of creating livelihood in an area. Issues that a company will need to address will include the obvious ones: igniting aspirations in the local community, building skills & capabilities (including soft skills), creating linkages with job opportunities, ensuring successful on-boarding etc. But at scale, it is also likely to include issues such as creating new organization forms that create local jobs, de-risking investors, creating new forms of risk-financing to kick-start new organisations and managing the political context of the change. Few business companies understand these realities. And often, the best of NGO partners they work with focus on specific issues and rarely look at the whole system. It is therefore essential for a company to think through the system solution required to address the issue they have chosen to focus on. In the case of Hindustan Unilever Foundation, for example, a focus on water will include saving billions of litres of water in the short term. But overtime, this is likely to also include at-least four other themes: improving and renewing the water table in their geography of focus, modifying water usage & consumption norms in these villages (including crops grown and usage or not of bore wells); pricing water appropriately (by and for the local villages) and investing in right societal organization forms & technologies to measure & reward right behaviors.

    The implication of this thematic focus is on focus and time commitment needed upfront from the best minds in the company. From day one, it is critical that companies diagnose the right solution space and commit to addressing all the themes. As a result, they soon realize that their CSR effort is best targeted at 1-2 areas rather than supporting 50-60 small grants. This focused effort then requires a different approach: tap (external domain) expertise, bring the same rigor as they would to entering a new market/investing in a new factory and ensure that the best minds in the top team commit some time to this upfront, rather than relegating it to the PR/CSR team of a few good men.

  2. Commit for long: Linked to this mindset is recognizing that efforts of this kind take years to fix. Sometime decades. Even if the company choses to execute through external partners (whether arms of the government or NGOs), their investment commitment to these partners should be in sync with the time it takes to solve the issue and not the annual accounting cycles of the company. By the way, this does not mean giving the delivery partners money upfront. But it does mean having a clear set of mutually agreed milestones (both input and output), measuring them every year and then releasing the next tranche of investment once these milestones have been met. In the absence of this 'matching of investment horizons', too many NGOs spend a disproportionate amount of effort and time on raising funds, rather than on driving impact on the field.

  3. The implication of this is that companies need to set expectations for patience, have clear milestones and create a mechanism to measure achievements. The bar on impact is obviously higher when the focus of the CSR effort is the same area, year on year. Often working back from what the 2 page report on CSR in the annual report is a great forcing device for companies to demand higher impact from their delivery partners!

  4. Invest money plus: Finally, impact often requires more than money. NGO partners need capacity to help them scale up: IT systems, governance processes, project execution skills, specialist HR skills. Government partners need rigor to help trigger and sustain change: right processes to procure, alignment of multiple stakeholders, project management systems. Indeed, especially in India, often the biggest gap is not of funds but of skills. And companies naturally have these skills. In a great win-win, some of the CSR efforts could also be a great talent retention/training opportunity where a certain number of high performing managers rotate into these efforts for 1-2 years, transfer skills and then go back to their regular jobs.

  5. So it might be helpful for companies to not relegate CSR efforts to just the CSR team but treat it as a growth opportunity for their talent. In the process, their delivery partners will build more solid organisations, the company will increase the probability of impact and their talent will appreciate working for an organization with a bigger purpose.

Making a start

Most companies in India are perhaps thinking of how to craft a winning CSR strategy. Five things might help them:

One, commit to something core i.e. chose an area of focus that is connected to their business to funnel 80% of their CSR commitment;

Two, design the solution space upfront i.e. diagnose what will drive impact carefully looking at the system root-cause of these complex issues and not just the surface symptoms;

Three, commit to a long journey i.e. multiple years and

Four, bring capacity & innovation to the table, in addition to just money. Finally, given impact needs a marathon and not a sprint,

Baseline the start, identify milestones along the journey and have a transparent measurement & assurance system to reward, celebrate and recognize success. We look forward to HUF & its water efforts setting standards for such a tough but rewarding journey.