Creating compassion through CSR: How ICICI Lombard’s ‘Caring Hands’ aims at making CSR inclusive

ICICI Lombard, with its latest initiative, is set to create a CSR campaign which is inclusive in every sense of the word. It not only aims at providing preventive healthcare checkups annually to school students, but also seeks to include its employees in the activity. To know more about the initiative and the impact of it, Qrius talked with Mr Jerry Jose, the Head of Human Resources at ICICI Lombard General Insurance.

Qrius: What is ICICI Lombard ‘Caring Hands’ activity?

Jerry Jose: ‘Caring Hands’ is a unique employee volunteering program that was launched by ICICI Lombard in 2011. As part of the activity, ICICI Lombard employees conduct eye check-up camps for underprivileged children at schools across the country on a single day. Cross-functional teams are formed by employees to handle the entire exercise. As part of the process, employees obtain permission from schools, source the services of ophthalmologists and manage the camp on the day of the activity.

They also take up the responsibility of collating the eye check-up data, coordinating with a central CSR team to obtain centrally sourced spectacles and handing over the same to the children through the school authorities.

This program provides our employees an opportunity to hone their leadership skills as they take up the onus of executing the entire project. Given the format, it also ensures camaraderie among employees as they join hands for a noble cause.

Qrius: Why has ICICI Lombard ‘Caring Hands’ targeted only municipal schools across the country?

Jerry Jose: We have focused on underprivileged children that study in municipal and other similar types of schools since they have limited access to quality health check-up especially in the area of eye vision. Through this program, we ensure a better vision for children thereby facilitating a brighter future for them. Further, focusing on the age group of 9 – 13 years ensures the sustainability of the initiative as the chosen age band of children is in the formative years of their life.

Qrius: As mentioned children who have vision impairment are given corrective lenses. How helpful is this to an individual child’s life?

Jerry Jose: Visual impairment can present a child with many challenges. Reading becomes difficult, which often impacts their ability to study. This can impact their education which in turn keeps them from pursuing their dreams. When they grow up, they may face challenges in getting or keeping a job. As vision impairment can worsen over time, it is imperative to identify these issues early.

Since the last 6 years of this initiative, we have received positive feedback from the children receiving spectacles that they felt a lot more confident and could perform better at studies as they regained a clear vision. Even those children who had a normal vision felt happy that their eyesight was good, adding to their confidence.

Qrius: Which cities do ICICI Lombard’s ‘Caring Hands’ initiative activity target?

Jerry Jose: The ‘Caring Hands’ initiative takes place across India. Our focus has been to reach out to underprivileged children across urban and rural areas. On an average, we are able to reach out to children across more than 100 locations every year

Qrius: How successful has the ‘Caring Hands’ campaign been so far?

Jerry Jose: The Eye check-up exercise involves sourcing higher-end equipment and specialist doctors i.e. ophthalmologists across all camps organized on a single day. Despite these challenges, ICICI Lombard employees have been successfully conducting eye check-up camps year on year. In 2016, 33,386 students in 285 schools across 110 locations benefited from the program. In the process, 4,802 children were identified with poor vision and given spectacles free of cost. In 2011, we went further through a tie-up with an eye care institute to fund the treatment of those children who had vision complications.  

In the last 6 years, the initiative has reached out to over 1.4 lakh children with more than 20,000 benefiting from corrective spectacles. The initiative has gained such importance in the company that every year, the day of eye check-up camps is earmarked as ‘Caring Hands’ day in ICICI Lombard.

Qrius: What is the vision for your campaign?

Jerry Jose: At ICICI Lombard, we are committed to contribute to the community at large as part of our corporate vision. Caring Hands is part of this focus towards fulfilling our role as a responsible corporate citizen. We introduced this program much before the mandatory requirement was announced for companies to spend 2% of average profits for CSR activity. Even today, we spend a little over 2% of our average annual profits on initiatives that benefit the society at large.  

Qrius: How is the ‘Caring Hands’ initiative different from other CSR campaigns?

Jerry Jose: Caring hands is an employee volunteering program, wherein employees take up the responsibility of organizing the activity end to end. We engage our employees for a noble cause and do not outsource the activity to any outside entity including NGOs. Further, the initiative is on a voluntary basis, wherein only those employees who are interested and wanting to contribute, participate in the program. Over the years, we have consistently witnessed over 50% of the company’s talent base participating in the program every year.

The initiative is also unique in the sense that it focuses on underprivileged children who have poor vision. These children are in their formative years and therefore a clear vision is critical for their future. We realized that very little is being done in this case and hence decided to take the onus in our hands.