Corporate Social Responsibility is often viewed as a benevolent supplement to a company’s activities. For forward-looking entities, however, CSR is embedded within their organisational DNA.
Such organisations not only believe in contributing to the communities in which they operate, but see their growth as intertwined with the socio-economic development of their city and nation. Being a responsible corporate citizen is about ensuring not only that one carries out CSR projects, but that one adopts a sustainable and socially conscious approach in all one’s operations.
This stance has been taken up notably by K-Electric (KE), the energy provider to Karachi, which has powered the city’s journey from a small port town into a bustling megacity which forms the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. In recent years the organization has transformed its business processes with a focus towards investment in infrastructure and customer-centricity. The organization has also emphasized sustainable practices in all its operations – with a key focus on Corporate Social Responsibility.
Talking to PAGE, Zehra Mehdi, KE’s Deputy Director ESG & Sustainability emphasized that “KE’s vision encompasses long-term growth not just for its customers and employees, but also for the wider society. As an integral part of Karachi and a responsible corporate citizen, KE’s ties to the city’s communities are visible in its wide range of educational, health and other social projects.”
One of the most impactful CSR activities initiated by KE is its ongoing Social Investment Programme (SIP), under which KE provides free or subsidized electricity to 16 philanthropic institutions in the city, including schools and major hospitals such as SIUT, TCF, Indus Hospital, LRBT, The Kidney Center and SOS Children’s Village among others. With this programme, KE provides a lifeline for the underprivileged and annually benefits more than 3.9 million people.
Related to this, KE, as a conscientious power supplier to Karachi, also provides capacity enhancement through investment in its SIP partners’ overall electrical system in order to enhance their reliability of supply.
This programme has supported SIUT in treating nearly 2 million patients in 2017. According to Abdul Bari Khan, CEO, Indus Hospital, the partnership with KE SIP helped over 750,000 patients receive treatment in 2017. Similarly Zaheeruddin M. Babar, who heads Karwan-E-Hayat, a hospital for the treatment of mental illness, said that KE’s support was critical for the hospital which treated around 65,000 patients last year.
The utility has adopted a structured approach of partnering with communities, ensuring that its infrastructure, technology and customer-service initiatives do not stand in isolation but are part of a holistic programme of social development. KE’s flagship project – ‘Project Ujala’ – exemplifies this approach.
This project is being carried out all across Karachi to end power theft and bring about a positive change for millions of people by spreading Ujala (Urdu for ‘light’) in their lives. The project supports community in the areas of education, health and social development and collaborates with residents for the installation of kunda-resistant Aerial Bundled Cables and low-cost meters. By doing so, the utility paves the way for better livelihoods, a reliable supply of electricity and consistent voltage.
To make the project a success on the ground, KE reaches out to social, political and religious influencers in the targeted communities for KE conversion. In addition, free eye camps and skin camps, as well as massive clean-up drives, are organised for communities who come forward to get legally connected to KE’s distribution and billing system.
Ultimately, Project Ujala ensures reliable and consistent energy access to areas where energy access penetration was low and where the socio-economic quality of life suffered as a result. It is also noteworthy that this initiative is sustainable because it creates a win-win situation – communities benefit through energy access and KE manages to reduce losses, strengthen its network and grow its business. So far Ujala has benefitted over 3,000,000 people.
The utilities CSR activities also include a focus on youth engagement and knowledge sharing. These initiatives aim to impart practical and invaluable knowledge to students and faculty members from engineering universities. During an industrial visit, students gain an-in depth understanding of KE and how a real-life power plant functions, ensuring a knowledge stream for future engineers. To date more than 9,000 students have been part of KE’s youth engagement platforms.
The organisation also established a first of its kind, state-of-the-art Electrical Engineering Lab at NED University which enables electrical engineering students to gain first-hand practical access to complex electrical equipment, and encourages Research & Development activities. The equipment includes modified relays testing benches, transformers and various other valuable devices used in grid stations.
The utility also supports lectures and guest speaker sessions at various universities, and also assists these institutions by sponsoring major events and exhibitions. In addition, students from engineering universities are encouraged to approach KE with ideas and research topics. KE also supports education through charitable activities, and recently donated a fully equipped computer lab to Ra’aana Liaquat Craftsmen Colony.
An integral part of CSR is environmental responsibility, and the organisation regularly conducts studies on potential environmental and societal impacts whenever it plans to develop a new project. The company has also prioritized energy conservation and focused on reducing carbon emissions through an interlinked approach that mobilises social action through awareness sessions while also educating and guiding consumers through Energy Audits and Energy Conservation Calculators.
Overall KE has reached over 1.46 million people through its awareness campaigns, which has resulted in saving over 209.9MW in total and reduced carbon emissions by 427,109 MT.CO2 per year. KE’s energy audits for industrial consumers, which total over 386, have saved over 54.2MW and save 107,769 MT.CO2 per year. KE’s school initiative for educating children about energy conservation has become a major success where not only school children but parents, teachers and the overall schools community has embraced KE’s message on saving electricity and country’s natural resources as part of sustainable living.
More than 12,000 students around the city have pledged to save electricity as part of K-Electric’s Energy Conservation Initiative.
One initiative which exemplifies this approach and has captured the public imagination is KE’s Plant for Pakistan campaign, a CSR environmental sustainability initiative whereby KE has pledged to plant 100,000 trees across the city to help combat climate change. To the present date KE has planted over 80,000 trees.
The #PlantForPakistan campaign has highlighted the importance of plantation and encouraged nearly 300,000 followers to plant trees and send in their pictures. In creating socially responsible citizens, particularly in institutions such as NED, Deaf Reach, Karachi Press Club and SZABIST, KE has played its part to ensure consciousness of sustainability was inculcated in the country’s youth. This was reinforced through BTL campaigns where there is distribution of free plants to the audience and requests to pledge to keep the environment safe.
In order to truly succeed, CSR must have internal support and drivers within originations, and at KE employees regularly participate in the INJAZ Pakistan, TCF Rahbar and TCF Career Counseling programmes. They also conduct management workshops to aid the capacity building of Social Investment Programme partners. Technical training and plant tours are conducted by technical experts: over 3,000 hours have been volunteered in recent years, bringing the total so far above 150,000 hours. KE aims to scale up this programme by bringing on board a panel of NGOs working for the betterment of the city and providing these options to their employees in the form of a volunteering menu.
Through these and planned future initiatives, KE appears committed to a robust CSR structure and indeed, this vision is inherent in its logo, which incorporates three colours that express the key facets of the organisation: orange for energy; blue for community; and green for environment. These three elements ensure that the company’s development is rooted in strong foundations of social responsibility.