CSR Push: HUL, P&G in India

shiksha_logoHindustan Unilever, the Indian arm of Unilever and Procter & Gamble both FMCG giants are embarking on new CSR programmes in India.

Project Shakthi

The latest initiative by HUL reflects the low discretionary spending rates of its rural shoppers. With Project Shakti which HUL launched in 2000, it aims to work with female entrepreneurs. The scheme is based on a network of self-help groups and empowers female entrepreneurs to distribute HUL products like soap and shampoo. They are backed by in-depth training and loans.

Unilever has allied itself with the State Bank of India on a microfinance  drive in Maharashtra and Karanataka. The pilot phase has seen 12 of the Shakti Ammas who sell Unilever's goods act as providers of basic banking services, and 1,000 accounts have been established thus far.

According to the company, 20% of households from the test regions have signed up, and nearly 80% of participants are women, generally seeking an "accessible" way to enter the category. "The objective is to bring about financial inclusion in rural areas," Hemant Bakshi, HUL's executive director, sales and customer development. The ultimate intention is to roll out this offering across India in the next 12 months, utilising some of the 43,000 existing Shakti Ammas.

Shiksha

P&G has aimed at education for its CSR initiative. It ins effort called Shiksha, they are leveraging upon a tie-up with partners like Child Rights and You as well as Round Table India. Under this banner, a percentage of profits generated by brands like Tide, Ariel and Vicks are to be donated to secure better schooling for children. According to P&G India's marketing manager, "Shiksha is not just an initiative, but a passion that we as an organisation strongly believe in."

According to him, they are helping to build the future of India through education. They aim to build 20 schools this year and another 20 in the coming year. In order to stimulate awareness and interest in the most recent campaign, Procter & Gamble has enlisted well-known Bollywood actress Rani Mukherji as an ambassador for Shiksha. "The way India is growing, I don't think, without education, we can see a very bright future. So if we want a bright future for our country, I think education is foremost," she said.

Whilst both programs have their merits, it is obvious that the HUL campaign has a strong sales angle and the P&G campaign has a strong marketing angle. It is also interesting to note that the statements released came from the heads of these departments respectively. Does this mean that the Indian operations do not have an in-house CSR representative? I wonder what that says about integrating sustainability into the core of their business which both conglomerates claim that they do.

This very basic disparity shows to some extent that some multi-nationals operating out of India do not take a lead in paving the way for how CSR is perceived in India. This in turn is bound to lead to some doubts about the credibility of their operations.

Photo Credit: P&G's Shakthi initiative logo

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