Communicating corporate social responsibility is crucial for engaging stakeholders. As long as conduct it in the right spirit, such communications goes a long way in building pride among staff and strengthens trust among external stakeholders. In the 5th edition of the CSR Communications Series, – Dr. Mahul Brahma, Vertical Head (CSR, Comms, Branding, Publishing, Conferences) and Chief Editor (Publications) at mjunction Services Limited, a Tata Group company shares his views on the influence of CSR and how this function can transform organizations.
This series invites CSR practitioners to share perspectives on the role of communication in showcasing the organization’s citizenship intentions, involving employees in driving social change and making a difference to employee engagement and the world.
Dr. Mahul is a recognized CSR and Communications leader and the Chief Editor of the international publications on steel and coal. He has won several national level awards in communications and CSR. An author, a columnist and a luxury commentator he has written the luxe trilogy comprising – Decoding Luxe, Dark Luxe and Luxe Inferno, and an anthology of short stories titled Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona. He is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta, University of Cambridge-Judge Business School, MICA, SSSUTMS and St Xavier’s College. A short film maker and actor, his first film was screened at Cannes Film Festival. He enjoys painting and playing golf in his spare time.
1. How is CSR/sustainability defined by your organization? How important is CSR communications for your organization and why?
CSR has been an integral part of mjunction since its inception in 2001. As a Tata group company, serving the community is our ethos. As an IT company our focus of CSR intervention has been in the area of digital literacy. We have expanded to sustainability with afforestation and livelihood projects as well as has been transforming lives of special students suffering from visual impairment as well as cerebral palsy using technology. CSR communication is critical on two fronts – creating pride and encouraging internal clients to volunteer for our CSR projects, to add a greater meaning to their jobs as well as creating a brand image of a socially-conscious company in the eyes of clients – existing and potential using branding communications as well as media.
2. How does your organization communicate CSR? What methods, channels and resources do you use?
Internally, we use emailers, creatives, internal newsletter and Townhalls with the Managing Director. Externally, we communicate with emailers, Media, our Annual Report, presentations from the Board Meeting for promoters.
3. Is there a dedicated team or individual for this role? If yes, what skills do they have and what skills does your organization value most?
CSR is communicated by the Corp Communications team that I head. As I am also responsible for executing the projects as CSR Head, it becomes a seamless communication. CSR Communication is a very nuanced one and at all points you need to understand that any communication should not sound as a “boast” or a “brag”. The tenor must always be that you are doing your duties as a socially conscious and responsible organization.
4. Are there budgets allocated to CSR Communications and to what kinds of activities does the organization invest most on?
It is a part of the communications budget. The CSR budget is spent towards CSR projects. For CSR I report to the Board of Directors.
5. What trends do you observe with CSR and related to communicating with internal stakeholders?
I am very disheartened to see the tenor of the CSR communications moving towards boasting. This is a very unhealthy trend. You need to impart a sense of pride and purpose internally to increase engagement.
6. Share how CSR communications is practiced at your organization – who leads it, how is it organized and what are the principles you follow?
As I have shared earlier, I lead CSR as well as CSR Communications. I report directly to Board for CSR, while for my other functions I report to the MD directly. The primary principle that needs to be followed is truthful communication focusing on how the lives of the beneficiaries are transformed. It is not an advertising channel.
7. Describe a campaign you are proud of, that resulted in business outcomes or impacted social goals?
The campaign on Project Jyoti has been very successful. We transformed lives of visually impaired students using technology. Not only media, I had written a case study on the same which was published in an international magazine. This has helped better our relationships with the client, government of Chhattisgarh with a social goal of digital literacy.
8. What advice do you have for CSR practitioners to communicate effectively?
Please focus on beneficiaries and how you are impacting their lives in all your communications. Never use it as a device to advertise.
9. What advice do you have for those aspiring to join this evolving domain?
There is a great scope for any professional to grow in this evolving domain.
10. How can organizations get better with CSR communications?
Internally, it must instill pride among employees, engage staff and give a greater purpose. Externally, it can build the brand as a socially conscious organization using every medium, including PR. Never look at this as an advertising medium. Humility goes a long way.
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