The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to its knees and forced the discussion on the global public health crisis at the center stage. With the adverse impact on the economies worldwide, the global spread of Coronavirus has forced organizations big or small to acknowledge that social responsibility towards its people and community is a core function for any business to be successful.
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) notified on March 23, 2020, specifying the decision of the government to treat COVID-19 as a notified disaster and spending the funds towards the ongoing pandemic as an eligible CSR activity.
In March 2020, PM CARES Fund was initiated in which anyone can contribute towards India’s fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. Donations to the Prime Minister’s emergency fund to fight the pandemic were made eligible for CSR spending. However, for contributions to state agencies, only donations to the State Disaster Management Authority qualifies as CSR spending, not the contributions made to the Chief Minister’s relief fund. As per the Companies (CSR Policy) Rules of 2014, activities that solely benefit the employees of a company and their family members alone cannot qualify as CSR activities.
However, some organizations go beyond the mandate to support and do good for society. According to reliable sources, Tata Trusts is the biggest Indian funder of Covid relief. In 2020, grants from Tata Trusts and the Azim Premji Foundation made up half of the total funding pledged in response to the pandemic.
These legal developments have successfully encouraged corporations to work and initiate activities towards fortifying the healthcare requirement for the deadly 2nd wave. From procurement of cryogenic tanks, oxygen cylinders, building hospitals, and healthcare facilities, to providing logistical support in transporting medical equipment within India, the Indian corporates have marched hand-in-hand with the implementing agencies and government front-line warriors.
The 2nd wave laid bare the utter disarray of public healthcare. We expect that once the 2nd wave comes under control, the donations and CSR contributions will step up their efforts under CSR to bridge the gaps in the healthcare infrastructure. The collective efforts of India Inc will go a long way in supporting and building healthcare infrastructure in the long run.
Covid-19 has shown that CSR is more than just a service or a Public relations activity. CSR activities that are in tune with the needs of the community and other stakeholders contribute to the resilience of the business. The pandemic has given CSR a chance to connect and create a long-term relationship with their consumers and employees. A discussion on ESG no longer skims the discussion only on social risk but places it high on the list along with environmental risks.
To conclude, in the coming days, the Indian industries will witness a considerable increase in healthcare projects and spendings. The learnings from the ongoing pandemic can be effectively used in dealing with the neglected healthcare segments over the years.