Why Clean Energy is Not a Darling of CSR Projects

By Preeti Mehra, The Hindu Business Line, December 19, 2017

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/specials/clean-tech/not-a-box-to-tick/article9996981.ece

While there is an enthusiasm to tick the box of clean technology and sustainability among companies in the country, surprisingly there is no such zeal when it comes to giving Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects a green tag.

This has come to light in a recent report released by CSR consulting firm Samhita Social Ventures that undertook a 100-company survey with the support of Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and International Finance Corporation. It showed that only 39 companies chose renewable energy projects and most of them were product-based solutions such as distributing solar lamps or installing solar street lights.

What is more, unlike the common perception that public sector undertakings are the key movers in the clean energy space, only 16 out of the 39 companies were state-owned. The other 23 were private entities.

The survey revealed that over 50 per cent of the 100 companies chose projects in sanitation, education, skill building and livelihood enhancement. So, why is there this disinterest in choosing the clean energy sector and working on out-of-the-box ventures among companies? Anjali Garg, Energy Specialist at International Finance Corporation says that corporates perceive that energy programs require technical know-how and this usually lowers their interest in this space, especially when they are not from industries like power, oil & gas or heavy engineering that have inherent capabilities in implementing energy initiatives. “In cases where there is interest, the lack of a developed ecosystem means that technical and implementation partners are difficult to source,” says Garg. Priya Naik, Founder and CEO of Samhita has another point to make.

She says companies often respond to the need of communities, many in the vicinity of their establishments. And communities ask for basic requirements such as sanitation, health care, skills and education facilities.

“They do not communicate a need for well- functioning electricity grids, energy and power systems; this is because their basic energy needs are met by kerosene lamps, wood and others,” says Naik. “Therefore, companies are unable to identify the need and provide strategic solutions accordingly.”

How then can clean energy increase its exposure in the CSR sector? Educating companies and spreading the word are obvious solutions. Garg points towards IFC’s Lighting Asia, India program that is trying to create awareness amongst corporates about quality lighting solutions and sustainable CSR programs that focus on ecosystem development rather than just distributing a product.

Source: The Hindu BusinessLine.