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CSR Initiatives in Times of Covid in India

The Covid-19 disease has disrupted the world in a tremendous way. The WHO has deemed it as a worldwide pandemic. The world has seen unprecedented developments like social distancing and lockdowns.

Most companies in India are playing a substantial role in enforcing and encouraging social distancing as well as contributing money to PM Care’s Fund, providing medical kits and masks, and various other positive initiatives to help the country deal with this deadly disease.

In this context comes the increased relevance of the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. The latter is serving as a crucial element of the arsenal to combat the pandemic in the country.

What is CSR?

CSR is a special business model which encourages a company to create social accountability- to itself, the public, and its stakeholders. Through the practice of CSR, companies can be conscious of the nature of their impact on all areas of society, such as environmental, social, and economical.

When a company engages in CSR in its normal course of business, it is operating in ways that benefit society and the environment instead of functioning negatively. CSR is a broad term that can assume many forms based on the company and its industry. Using CSR programs, volunteering and philanthropy, businesses are able to help the community while boosting their brands.

CSR is as important for the company as for society. CSR initiatives can help in forging a strong bond between corporations, employees, and customers. They help boost the morale of all stakeholders by proving to be more connected to the world around them.

CSR in India

India has a rich history of businesses contributing to the good of society. The pioneer of these efforts is commonly identified as JRD Tata. Since his time, there has been a growing awareness of contributing money and effort for social good. 

In the last decade of the 20th century, businesses have moved away from simple philanthropy to more engagement in activities benefitting the marginalized in society. This development has been triggered by both corporate will (internally) and enhanced expectations of the public and government (externally).

India has become the first country in the world to dedicate CSR as compulsory through an amendment to the Companies Act of April 2014. Since this amendment, CSR spending by corporate India has burgeoned remarkably. Listed companies in India spent over Rs. 10,000 crores in various programs such as education, social welfare, skill development, and conservation of environment.

CSR and covid-19

The pandemic has posed new challenges for the country. Extended lockdowns have worsened the economic crisis posed by it. Lack of awareness has worsened the situation. As per the Companies Act, funds may be spent on the following activities for the Covid-19 crisis and qualify as CSR:

  • Combatting poverty
  • Eradicating hunger
  • Promoting preventive healthcare (use of masks, social distancing, etc.)
  • Sanitation and safe, potable water
  • Reducing malnutrition
  • Disaster management such as reconstruction, rehab, and relief activities

Such developments have been welcomed by corporate India. The response to the call of the government to support Covid-19 endeavours has been overwhelming. Companies have donated crores to public funds to fight the pandemic.

Because of the announcement of the government that any amount devoted to fighting against Covid-19 will be deemed as CSR, the majority of companies have contributed to the PM’s Care fund or for various other initiatives to stem the tide of the pandemic and to support those affected.

In sum, effective CSR empowers a company to stand apart in the already saturated market and engage with customers in an unprecedented way that gains them both customer loyalty and brand promotion. The pandemic has offered companies an opportunity to connect and create market visibility for themselves while contributing positively to the community.

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