Can CSR help in mitigating COVID-19?

Ever since the Companies Act of 2013 was notified, India assumed a pioneering role in channelizing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds in alignment with national priorities. The philosophy that has guided India’s approach towards CSR is that corporations are social beings with deep roots in the society and their physical presence in various districts of the country, including in under-developed and tribal dominated ones, puts them in a unique position to complement the efforts of the government system in delivery of public benefits.

In times of emergency, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic, the deployment of CSR funds becomes more crucial to rapidly fill critical gaps that overstretched state capacities may find difficult to deliver on. To achieve this aim, companies need to work in partnership with the district administration in their local areas, identify the areas where they can assist and synergise their resources with that of the government.

Many conscious Indian companies have played a significant role in creating awareness of social distancing, hand sanitation and general hygiene as an aid to mitigate the spread of this deadly infection.

Here, comes the importance of CSR, which could play a crucial role in the age of this pandemic where common people are trying their best to get through this tremendous challenging time. CSR is a “self-regulating business model” that implies the procedures of interaction by a company with its stakeholders and the general public at large, creating a scenario of being socially responsible.

As per Section 135 of Companies (CSR) Rules 2014 and Schedule VII of Companies Act 2013, every company having net worth of Rs 500 crores (about USD 67 million) or more, or turnover of Rs 1,000 crores (USD 134 million) or more, or net profit of Rs 5 crore (USD 650000) or more during the immediate preceding financial year, must have a CSR committee and spend at least 2% of the average net profits earned during three immediate preceding financial years to CSR activities.

The Government of India is also inspiring the companies to provide social support in this age of covid-19. As per report of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs dated March 23, 2020, all expenditures incurred on activities related to covid-19, will be added as the permissible avenues for CSR expenditure.

In the present era of covid-19, it is interesting to note that some companies are performing CSR activities by promoting social awareness for social distancing. The most significant contribution has been made by McDonald’s, Audi, Coca-Cola, Volkswagen and many more. The McDonald’s company sent the message to the society by bifurcating the logo ‘m’ divided into two parts n n. The two parts of ‘m’ represent the meaning of social distance. Similarly, the logo of Audi is represented by four separate rings and exploring the tagline to keep distance. The new logo of Audi is enough for understanding the importance of social distancing. It is also true that the automobile company Volkswagen plays an important role to make awareness about the necessities of the social distancing to prevent the expansion of pandemic virus in the human body. Volkswagen has presented their new logo by creating a gap between V and W. The Bengal Beverage company has also changed their logo by creating a gap from each letter. The company also shares their message as “Staying apart is the best way to stay united”.

Apart from the transforming the logo into new shapes to express the importance of social distancing during the presence of novel coronavirus, many companies also have changed their advertisement slogans to make understand the importance of social distancing.

For instance, NIKE. The new slogan of NIKE is “if you ever dreamed of playing for Millions around the World, Now is your Chance. “Play Inside, Play for the World”. Famous dairy brand Amul released a series of messages motivated people to wash their hands, greet others using the no-contact, namaste method and to work from home to protect novel coronavirus from the social transition. Again, the new slogan logo of Pizza Hut denotes “Pizza Home”. Tata Motors has released an innovative TVC that paves the pathway of how crucial it is “to stay home now to be together always”. Hindustan Unilever Limited, through its product Lifebuoy soap, spreads the message of “washing hands frequently with Any Soap or Hand-wash or Alcohol based Sanitizer to combat against the spread of Corona Virus”.

No doubt, CSR activities are intended for the general public, but it starts firstly from the management and the employees of the companies. Right now, most of the companies have taken precautionary measures for most of their employees to Work from Home (WFH) and also use masks and Washing hands with sanitizers frequently for those working under emergency duty.

To summarise, the industry, which is currently facing one its greatest challenges, can certainly survive to live another day. Not only that, the learning from this crisis can be effectively leveraged to uncover otherwise neglected segments and will ultimately lead to a booming business within the next 3-4 years.



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