Sameena Mahmood, The Woman Behind RRD GO’s CSR Program
Sameena Mahmood is the CSR Lead at RRD GO. RRD is an American Fortune 500 integrated communications company that provides marketing and business communications, commercial printing and related services. She was gracious enough to give us some time from her busy schedule. We made the most of it and had an intriguing conversation. Here are some excerpts.
Can you tell us a little about your background and what made you step foot in the social sector?
By education, I’m actually a zoologist. I come with a broad spectrum of experience in L&D, HR and operations, which is my forte. I started my career with a company called OfficeTiger. At OfficeTiger, I had the opportunity to work in a lot of areas like HR, Training, Administration etc while managing a team. I was given an opportunity to move from operations to L&D and used my experience in core ops. to design customized programs. After OfficeTiger, I worked in HR/operations at Mercer and Ma Foi and came back to core operations at HP and TNQ. Right now, at RRD, I manage the commercial print and call centre operations.
RRD believes that we all bring something different and add value from our experiences across roles and my diverse background made me a good fit to lead our CSR efforts.
What is your approach to CSR at RRD?
We don’t look at CSR activities as branding opportunities. The primary objective that we have always focused on is engaging employees in social interventions. I enjoy my role so much more because of this engagement component. Regularly engaging in socially-oriented activities adds value, adds meaning and deepens my connection with the company and I believe this is true for everyone.
Often, a function leader will come and ask me if their team can be involved and engaged in some CSR project because, at RRD, we want everyone to feel that they’re making a difference. As a company, we are lucky to have the opportunity to do so and we try to involve as many employees in our programs as possible. For those who can’t really leave their desks for an outdoor activity- we arrange volunteering activities which can be performed from their desk. These include projects like working on a coding assignment for an NGO.
Our employees are some of the best talents around. They carry the spirit of doing good even after their departure from the company. I often receive many requests from ex-employees looking for CSR projects they can volunteer for because they just love volunteering.
Moreover, I believe that writing a cheque and assuming that as the fulfilment of the CSR mandate doesn’t add any value to the company. Building that meaning with employee engagement makes all the difference.
Who are your most active volunteers?
Our production teams regularly sign up for activities. They mobilize volunteers, conduct orientation sessions and take care of the event on the ground. In the field, during volunteering activities, generally, a group leader emerges from each group who manages the group activities. It’s not the manager or senior leader that leads events. This way, volunteering is also a wonderful leadership development tool.
What do you think about ‘mandatory’ CSR?
I believe this law is made to push corporates in the right direction and to give some structure to their social commitments. As I connect with more and more companies and understand the CSR projects they’re working on, I realize that people aren’t really thinking about the Companies Act anymore. CSR is increasingly becoming a part of what companies are doing today.
Does being so passionate about your profession take a toll on your personal life?
Of course not. Even when I’m at events over the weekend or during days that I have to stretch my working hours, it’s never a toll on my personal life because I’ve got a great team. If it gets to be a bit too much for one person to handle, somebody else steps in and gets the job done. We make sure that there are backups and there are people who know what’s happening with the projects.
What would you say is the most important trait you need to have to work in CSR?
Patience. CSR is a noble area to work in since we’re doing something really good for the community and society, but there are times when you’ll be tested and your patience will be tried. You also have to be very thorough and need to be willing to take the time to validate, verify and do due diligence instead of letting your heart do all the work.
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