Strengthening communities through CSR: Aon India
I’ve been working in the corporate world for almost 20 years now. While this journey has taught me how to be ‘politically correct’, see ‘shades of grey’ and move in the ‘right circles’, it’s also revealed to me my innate desire to give back to the community. Empowering communities and the underprivileged through the platform of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is where a part of my job satisfaction lies.
My main role comprises leading Strategic Optimisation and Transitions for Aon India from our Gurgaon office. I have also been heading CSR initiatives here for the last 18 months. Little did I know that for this role, I’d need passion and compassion to drive each initiative to closure and success, with no tangible rewards. I came across passionate people like myself, who were working in their own small worlds to make a positive change in their communities.
In 2015, Aon initiated projects on education and skill building, infrastructure building, relief to people hit by natural calamities and clean up drives. Our initiatives are benefiting about 450 students, ensuring that they develop the right skill sets to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families. For the last four years, Aon has been supporting students from classes XI onwards.
Under the Swachh Bharat projects, we have seen a marked improvement in the sanitation facilities of schools adopted by Aon. In the selected three:
- 24 toilets were built post our intervention through CAF India as opposed to nine toilets till early 2015
- There has been an average increase in attendance by 10% (basis data from school records)
- 2 playgrounds have been constructed as opposed to none in early 2015
- 1,892 students have access to safe drinking water
- 1,642 girls have access to sanitation facilities
- 1,430 students have access to playground facilities
- A boundary wall has been built to ensure safety
- 100 trees have been planted
We are also building computer labs in a few schools adopted by us. Our lab at Okhla, Delhi with about 25 computers set up, is already operational. To ensure sustenance, we also take the responsibility of maintaining these labs. In addition to community development, we now have environment and other community programmes in our charter.
A programme called Maadhyam was launched for Aon employees in 2015, through which they can provide voluntary services to selected NGOs. Across Aon’s five locations in India, the employees spend their weekends and after work hours offering creative writing workshops, story-telling sessions and lessons on personal hygiene, basic etiquettes, values and more.
Empowering communities is one of the values that Aon promotes and encourages. The leadership here is emblematic of living this value. Our CEO, Jasjit Singh Kang, himself reviews the progress of our CSR initiatives and participates in removing roadblocks and getting the right participation.
However, I feel we all can make a bigger impact if we can collaborate as organisations. This will enable us to take up more projects, create deeper impacts, put in collective effort and brain power to drive the ‘right’ initiatives and not necessarily the ‘common’ and ‘easy’ initiatives. This will also allow us to create a pool of resources and share as required. Further, there is a need to create a self-sustainable model so that we don’t lose what we have already created. Whatever the challenges, we are ready to take the leap!