The TCS recipe for CSR success

Deborah Hadwen, CEO of Tata Consultancy Services – Australia and New Zealand, says the business focuses on CSR themes which are aligned to its global activities

There are a number of important steps organisations should take in developing a successful corporate social responsibility program, writes Tata Consultancy Services – Australia and New Zealand CEO, Deborah Hadwen

If you accept that businesses have a duty to the communities in which they operate that goes beyond obeying law, then corporate social responsibility (CSR) needs to be an issue that is not just one of many functions that fits under HR, but a core value that is sponsored by the most senior leaders of the team.

There is no debate about commitment to CSR at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). As part of the larger Tata Group, the values are very clear and underpin the way we do business across our companies. We do see it as part of our responsibility to improve the quality of life of the communities we serve. Our strategy within TCS on how we wish to do this is also clear, and that is “impact through empowerment”. This guiding principle underpins any program that is developed and pursued.

Having organisational values that are embedded through decades of demonstrable behaviour is a strong starting point for any organisation looking to extend its responsibilities locally. However, you cannot “just add water” and then expect team engagement.

We are on a journey locally, and as we grow our activities and engagement around CSR, that journey has had bumps and we have been educated on what works best for us. Locally, CSR was under the responsibility of HR, and despite everyone’s good intentions, the result was a secondary focus as time permitted. TCS in Australia has grown significantly in the last few years, so our HR team is quite busy with many competing priorities.

Making CSR successful
CSR is not a project, but bringing project management thinking to it certainly helped us in lifting the quality of our approach. There are a few key elements that made a significant difference as we evolved:

  1. Executive sponsorship: Ownership of CSR was taken on by me as local CEO. This signals it as a priority.
  2. Governance: We formed a CSR committee that established quantifiable goals and objectives and reviews against them. We know what we are tracking and how we are progressing.
  3. Enablement: We invested in a talented CSR executive to develop and run our programs. The program development was centred on what we wanted as an outcome, rather than activities we were looking to initiate.

This strategy gave us the key capability to create a program that provides opportunity to those in our team who wanted to continue the Tata legacy of contributing to society.

“A culture is created by consistency in strategy and action, not just by stating values”

We have been looking for long-term sustainability around CSR initiatives; this is not a one-off for us. We have chosen to focus on themes which are also aligned to our global activities. These are education, health and the environment. We see the breadth of these as providing areas of interest for the broadest range of our team and clients, whilst staying aligned with global strategy.

Getting wins on the board
Quick, shiny wins are often key to gaining broader team engagement. We have done this through small, popular initiatives and also through large-scale engagements. Sharing the news is important, and as with leadership, in most areas it is not just vision but the communication that is needed. CSR contributions can be silent, but sharing the news does make the team see the value in our program. Most importantly, having a program with further opportunity for engagement is what creates the momentum.

Although many organisations provide financial contributions as a lead strategy, and we also do, in part, our main focus is to enable employee engagement. We see the multiplier effect that effort has and the benefit it gives the employee as they also gain personal satisfaction and a sense of involvement. This sits well with many beneficiaries with whom we work, as there is an increasing trend in those who are looking for engagement not just a funding source.

“You cannot ‘just add water’ and then expect team engagement”

CSR – to be effective and sustainable – has to be, or become, part of the culture, and for that, HR are key contributors and enablers. Unless there is senior sponsorship, the importance of CSR is at risk of becoming fragmented activities. It needs leadership, execution ownership and a willingness to learn and adapt to ensure appropriate effectiveness for your organisation. A culture is created by consistency in strategy and action, not just by stating values.

CSR results in TCS
TCS Australia focuses its CSR efforts towards three key areas: education, health and environment. Some examples of its activity in the past year include connecting with more than 5000 students, aimed at inspiring students to study STEM subjects and strive towards a future in IT. TCS’s work experience program has been extended from one to 11 schools and they have launched “Go for IT” in Australia, which is a structured and intensive work placement initiative designed to encourage girls to consider IT as a career.

Locally, TCS has created a Pro Bono Program which allows philanthropic entities to apply for technology services and support, twice annually. This year, over 60 applications were received. TCS also places strong emphasis on volunteering in the community: in 2015, TCS employees contributed over 2000 hours to Clean Up Australia Day. In 2014, TCS launched the “Purpose for Life” initiative to encourage each TCS employee to volunteer at least 10 hours a year with community organisations.

Last financial year, TCS also recorded a 40 per cent reduction in per capita carbon footprint, a 33 per cent reduction in per capita electricity consumed, a 13 per cent reduction in per capita fresh water consumption and a 76 per cent reduction in per capita paper consumption. As part of the Tata Group of companies, TCS also contributes close to 49 per cent of its annual dividend to Tata philanthropic trusts.