Reassessing CSR Focus in Times of Crisis

At this moment, we are perhaps witnessing a crisis like none other in history – a pandemic that brought countries and businesses to a halt and radically changed human behaviour. Even though the effects of the pandemic across industries continue to be profound, it is quite inspiring to witness how corporates across the world are stepping up and leveraging their resources to make a difference and bring relief and aid in various ways. From the launch of community-based rapid-response to the development of diagnostics and vaccines, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is helping flatten the curve in the short term, while addressing the inequities of the crisis over the long term. In this context, revisiting the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) program can be a new focus area for organizations in the post-pandemic setup.

As we move ahead in the new normal, CSR must continue to contribute but on a different scale. The growing needs of healthcare, education, and sustainability across the globe are pushing businesses to reassess their priorities, frameworks, expectations and budgets to serve communities better. There is also heightened focus on collaboration and partnerships across a wider gamut of stakeholders such as governments, businesses and NGOs. Corporates have an opportunity to streamline and accelerate their community outreach efforts by shifting their focus and reinventing their framework to meet the extraordinary demands of the pandemic. 

We can relook at our outlook towards CSR by – 

Expanding the focus areas when the dust settles

In the pre-Covid era, philanthropic efforts of businesses, groups, and individuals have largely focused across healthcare, education, skilling, healthcare and community development. However, the pandemic has compelled us to prioritize healthcare related initiatives over the other. This has led to a significant gap in terms of intervention in other key social responsibility areas. Education is one such area. When government schools return to normal, corporates must extend their support as they used to in the pre-pandemic setup in terms of smart classes, meals, infrastructure, etc. The pace and scale of support also must be more than usual, as it must bridge the deficit created due to the pandemic. This is to be followed for other areas as well.

Ramping up the pace and scope of community outreach

The needs of the community during the pandemic have been multi-fold. Apart from preventing the spread of the virus there were many other issues such as food management, sanitization and hygiene among the local community. This means that organizations will have to relook at the needs of the community, even if it is for a shorter period, and design their programs accordingly to serve them better in these areas. Many businesses have already stepped in as partners to bridge these gaps and there is still a lot to be achieved. 

Collaboration with the government

While corporates have responded to the pandemic with record levels of support, we need to collaborate with the government at state and local levels to be really effective. During the pandemic, we witnessed such corporate-government collaboration predominantly in the healthcare space such as mask distribution, hospital infrastructure and helplines. However, it should not be limited to healthcare. This collaboration needs to continue in other areas as well. Governing bodies must harness the power of technology which is a strength of the corporates and serve other important areas.

Today, businesses need to reassess their CSR focus as per the needs of the community periodically to help them support better. There is a need for on ground measurement and evaluation of impact, as well as need analysis all over again. This renewed sense of responsibility and purpose will pave the way to restructure and reshape existing priorities and practices, laying down the foundation of the next phase of CSR.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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