Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has changed the way our society functions. It has allowed businesses to give back to the society and take part in activities that promote a holistic development of communities and regions. CSR has become an integral part of any business with some countries making it a mandatory feature.
India became the first country to legally mandate CSR in 2014 and it can be rightly said that it is reaping the benefits now. As COVID-19 cases soared and healthcare infrastructure reached a breaking point, corporate houses were quick to chip in and launch initiatives to help out the people.
The government was also quick to facilitate such actions, announcing on April 22, 2021, that CSR funds could be used to set up “makeshift hospitals and temporary COVID care facilities”. This was followed by another announcement on May 5 which declared that CSR funds could also be used 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”.27
Backed by such statements, companies drew up their CSR budgets accordingly and got to work. Initial activity was centered around distribution of PPEs, masks and other equipment. This later transformed into procurement of vital oxygen supplies and critical care equipment as a supply shortage hit the country. Big names like the Essar Group, Hero MotoCorp, Honda India Foundation pledged part of their CSR budgets towards establishing temporary hospitals, quarantine facilities and oxygen plants.
It was not just the masses that these corporates directed their attention to. Employees of big businesses like Amazon, Mercedes Benz, HCL Group, etc. found themselves eligible for free vaccination drives conducted by their organizations along with their immediate dependents.
Although the pandemic is far from over, with experts predicting a third wave, the flurry of CSR programs launched by the corporates is a testament to the important role they play in the well-being of the community. Without help from the CSR activities, India would have certainly lost the fight to COVID-19 as its healthcare infrastructure was backed into a corner. This is a small victory for CSR but a crucial one in cementing its place as a critical component of the Indian culture.