We have all been battling the multiple waves of the pandemic, and also the economic uncertainties COVID-19 has brought upon us. Given the situation, the Government of India (GoI) is encouraging companies to provide social support. According to a March 23, 2020 Ministry of Corporate Affairs circular (mca.gov.in), all expenditures incurred on activities related to COVID-19 would be added as permissible avenues for CSR expenditure. As per a May 5 announcement, companies could use CSR funds for “creating health infrastructure for Covid-19 care, establishment of medical oxygen and storage plants, manufacturing and supply of oxygen concentrators, ventilators, cylinders and other medical equipment for countering Covid-19”.
However, even before the government nudged companies, several corporate players stepped up to do their bit. For instance, Procter & Gamble announced that the company will contribute towards the vaccination of over 5 lakh Indian citizens by pledging Rs. 50 crore in partnership with government and local authorities in India. As stated in this report - https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/pg-pledges-rs-50-crore-from-csr-kitty-to-vaccinate-5l/articleshow/82267138.cms - for every P&G employee in India, the company is contributing towards the vaccination of 100 Indians.
In similar vein, Wipro Ltd, Wipro Enterprises Ltd and Azim Premji Foundation, have together committed Rs. 1125 crore towards tackling the unprecedented health and humanitarian crisis. These resources are not only helping enable the dedicated medical and service fraternity, but funds will go towards supporting the most disadvantaged communities. These responses will be carefully coordinated with relevant government institutions and are executed by the Azim Premji Foundation’s 1600-person team, in collaboration with many of its over 350 strong civil society partners, who have a deep presence across the country.
India’s CSR expenditure for FY20 stands at Rs 17,885 crore, down from Rs 18,655 crore the previous year. CSR constitutes 28 percent of India’s total philanthropic giving, but is expected to further decline by 5 percent this year, according to the India Philanthropy Report 2021 by Dasra and Bain & Company (https://www.bain.com/insights/india-philanthropy-report-2021/).
Based on the government announcement, funds may be spent for various activities related to COVID-19, under the following items of Schedule VII:
1. Eradicating hunger
4. Promoting healthcare, including preventive healthcare
5. Sanitation, including contribution to the Swachh Bharat Kosh set up by the Centre, and promoting sanitation and making available safe drinking water
6. Disaster management, including relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction activities
Illustrating with examples
Here are a few more inspiring examples of corporates pitching in during the ongoing health and humanitarian crisis:
- Sudha Murty, chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, recently announced (in a Forbes India report) that outlays for the coming financial year will be prioritised around Covid-19 relief, followed by the construction of infrastructure for the Bengaluru Metro, as the Karnataka state government has given a go-ahead for the project and it provides livelihoods to many workers. “Out of our Rs 275 crore budget, we are spending Rs 90 crore on Covid-19 this year. This can increase depending on the situation. Our first priority is Covid relief… we adjust [focus among causes] and keep adapting,” she said in the report (https://www.forbesindia.com/article/take-one-big-story-of-the-day/inside-the-reshaping-of-csr-in-india-during-covid19/67821/1). The Foundation had allocated Rs 110 crore to Covid relief last year, taking the total Covid-related contribution to Rs 200 crore over the past two years.
- In March 2020, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) earmarked Rs. 100 crores towards helping India during the pandemic. In addition to its long-term global partnership with UNICEF, the company has contributed over 1 crore soaps and sanitisers to vulnerable communities during the outbreak. This contribution has been made in 18 states, including tribal areas, flood-hit regions, COVID hit villages and slums, remote tea estates amongst others (https://www.hul.co.in/).
- Ambuja Cements and ACC, both part of Swiss cement major LafargeHolcim group, have collectively contributed ₹3.3 crore to three NGOs to support daily-wagers, migrant labour, slum-dwellers and homeless stranded across the country on account of the lockdown. These NGOs include Goonj (involved with disaster relief), Praja Foundation, and Mumbai Roti Bank, who are working with labourers and daily wage workers who have lost their livelihood on account of the country-wide lockdown.
- As a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, Bosch Group in India immediately donated Rs. 5 crore to the PM CARES Fund and pledged additional Rs 45 crore for various community welfare initiatives, the company said in a statement (https://www.bosch.in/). Stating that Bosch India has also started various welfare initiatives to help the underprivileged, it said, the company has been supplying cooked meals from its kitchen in Bidadi plant and through the Art of Living Foundation to about 4,000 migrant workers and other needy individuals, on a daily basis.