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Data And Insights On CSR’s COVID-19 Response

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By Anita Kumar

India reported its first case of COVID-19 on January 30, 2020, the same day the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared this a public health emergency of international concern. Up until the date of publishing this article, India had a total of 18,668 active cases with 775 deaths, with the expectation that numbers will increase across states in the coming days. The government has taken strict measures such as invoking The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and a countrywide lockdown, which started on March 24 for three weeks and was extended for approximately three more weeks.

In addition, the Government of India recently declared that companies tackling the COVID-19 crisis would be eligible under the 2% CSR mandate 1laid out in The Companies Act, 2013. The CSR spend on the COVID-19 response would come under items (i) and (xii) of Schedule VII relating to the promotion of healthcare, including preventive healthcare and sanitation, and disaster management. The CSR community has been quick to respond, with most committees and boards working overtime to speed up internal processes and get approvals for spends and additional budgets. In this article, we address some of the questions that companies frequently ask us.

1. How Is The CSR Community Responding To COVID-19?

We have analysed a total of 75 resource announcements for tackling the COVID-19 crisis totalling to a commitment of more than INR 4,134 crores 2from various CSR units, corporate foundations, and Public Sector Units (PSUs), including the Tata Trusts, L&T, Reliance Industries, ITC, Hero Group, SBI, Vedanta, and Infosys, among others. Of these, 89%, or ₹3,689 crores is earmarked towards relief work (any area that a community may need support with, for instance, health, nutrition, or shelter). Of this ₹3,689 crore, 54% (₹2,008 crores) is directed towards PM-CARES or state Chief Minister Relief Funds, while the remainder is directed by corporate foundations towards their own work or that of their partners.

₹315 crores (or 8% of the total funding being directed) is earmarked for specific areas including or related to healthcare—scaling, testing, and access to medical and sanitation supplies and equipment. There have also been a few in-kind donation announcements, including for counselling helplines or e-learning resources, drones, and food supply (by Parle, L&T, Nippon); availability for free or discounted testing kits or services (by Practo, Thyrocare, Mylab); and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as sanitiser and masks, and medical equipment such as ventilators (by Reliance, ITC, and various brewing companies).

Some corporates have come forward to support innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives (Pernod Ricard India and Marico), which can serve as a much-needed catalyst for med-tech entrepreneurs to ramp up testing and production of COVID-19-related products. Others have started employee campaigns with online crowdfunding platforms such as GiveIndia and Milaap, to support specific nonprofits and causes. A majority of CSR teams that we, at Sattva, have been in touch with over the past two weeks have allocated a portion of their CSR funds to the COVID-19 response; some have allocated more than their existing budget.

spiral staircase-csr
In times of crisis it is critical to direct the right kind of resources to the right people, at the right time and place, and if possible, in the right quantities. Photo courtesy: Pixabay

2. How Do I Maximise Impact With My Funding In The Current Situation? How Do I Decide Between Different Options Of Funding?

In times of crisis it is critical to direct the right kind of resources to the right people, at the right time and place, and if possible, in the right quantities. Asks from nonprofits and other organisations working towards the COVID-19 response have broadly been split into immediate relief on the healthcare and essential services side (food and shelter), and ongoing livelihoods support (urban and rural), social protection of vulnerable groups, skilling and education, research and development, and mental health counselling.

Many of the companies Sattva is working with are committed to investing where the need is highest, irrespective of their geographies of operation, and are contributing both fundings as well as in-kind donations to credible organisations. If the organisations’ protocols allow for quick turnaround, even small CSR grants given with speed are going a long way in supporting frontline health workers and organisations providing immediate relief. In some cases, we have been able to connect state governments and nonprofits in order to address gaps, be it in equipment or in infrastructure such as isolation wards.

Very few corporate announcements have taken a medium- or long-term approach, for instance, investing in food and agriculture supply chain security or livelihoods support post-COVID-19.”

We also see many of the larger corporates and PSUs contributing directly to the PM-CARES fund where the government takes care of all aspects of the value chain, including mapping the demand, mobilising resources and procurement, and logistics and final mile delivery. All donations have been made eligible for 100% tax deduction. However, these funds are intended for short-term measures to provide immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis, and it is as yet unclear whether these funds will be invested in alleviating long-term effects of the pandemic. Further, it is unclear how the usage of these funds will be monitored.

Interestingly, very few corporate announcements so far have taken a medium- or long-term approach, for instance, investing in food and agriculture supply chain security or livelihoods support post-COVID-19. Even on the demand side, most announcements focus on short-term needs, such as medical supplies, food, and shelter. This is possibly because companies are waiting for more data to emerge from the ground, and it appears to be a clear area of opportunity for investment.

Migrants stranded at the Anand Vihar ISBT, Delhi amid the nation wide lockdown.

While the conversation is still nascent, and we are still understanding needs at this point, there are a few questions that we are trying to answer along with our partners:

  1. How do we look at rebuilding the livelihoods of vulnerable populations in the post-COVID-19 world?
  2. How can we re-imagine skilling and education in light of extended mobility restrictions?
  3. How do we look at systems where production and consumption happen locally, thereby creating a virtuous cycle?
  4. How do we support our healthcare infrastructure in the medium- to long-term to improve our health system’s resilience and ability to respond to large-scale emergencies?

It is advisable for CSR to look at more structural funding towards rebuilding, and if possible, to plan for multiple scenarios, keeping an agile three-month, six-month, nine-month, and 12-month funding plan ready.

3. Should I Divert Funding From My Current Programs, Especially If Work Is Stalled Due To The Lockdown?

Diverting funding from current programmes poses a risk not just for the nonprofit and their staff, but also for the communities they serve. In some cases, programmes may be delayed by a few months; this might free up some resources in the current quarter for the COVID-19 response, but it’s important to ensure continued support for the organisations’ operating costs during this time.

CSR teams should explore specific strategies on COVID-19 relief with their existing grantees, before making any significant changes to their spend plans. On the mitigation front, companies can look at offering support to nonprofit partners in the domains of funding, employee well-being, stakeholder communication, and revisiting core priorities through a strategy exercise.

In terms of adapting to the new normal, companies could look at how organisations can support communities to become more resilient towards crises. They can also explore how CSR project planning—specifically timelines, operations, and budgets—can be tweaked to accommodate these extraordinary circumstances. In some cases, nonprofits can also pivot their basic delivery models to be more relevant in today’s situation. For instance, moving classroom skilling programmes to online or mobile-based courses, providing for counselling support within the healthcare domain for vulnerable communities, and so on.

4. Workers And Entrepreneurs Associated With Our Value Chains Are Vulnerable Due To The Pandemic. If We Work Towards Rehabilitation Of These Affected Communities, Would It Still Be Considered CSR?

 As per the recent circular brought out by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) on April 10, “Payment of salary/wages in normal circumstances is a contractual and statutory obligation of the company. Similarly, payment of salary/wages to employees and workers even during the lockdown period is a moral obligation of the employers, as they have no alternative source of employment or livelihood during this period. Thus, payment of salary/wages to employees and workers during the lockdown period (including the imposition of other social distancing requirements) shall not qualify as admissible CSR expenditure.”

LUCKNOW, INDIA – MARCH 26: Migrant workers leave Lucknow on the second day of national lockdown imposed by PM Narendra Modi to curb the spread of coronavirus at Faizabad crossings, on March 26, 2020 iN Lucknow, India. (Photo by Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

However, the circular further states that, “if any ex-gratia payment is made to temporary/casual workers/daily wage workers over and above the disbursement of wages, specifically for the purpose of fighting COVID-19, the same shall be admissible towards CSR expenditure as a one-time exception provided there is an explicit declaration to that effect by the board of the company, which is duly certified by the statutory auditor.” There is no explicit mention of supporting one’s supply chain vendors.

5. How Can I Leverage My Employees’ Contributions For Covid-19 Response? What Are Some Of The Avenues Through Which They Can Contribute?

Matching contributions are an effective way of involving employees. Corporates can match the amount raised by their employees towards the COVID-19 response, much like Wipro Cares, CISCO India, NVIDIA, Bosch, and many others have done. These funds may be directed towards location-based interventions (both healthcare and non-healthcare). Many nonprofits have requested remote volunteers (American India Foundation, PATH, Save the Children), for interventions such as counselling and mentoring youth and small entrepreneurs to help them create a digital presence on fundraising sites.

Volunteers are also needed for support in data analytics around COVID-19 testing. There are also a number of ways in which employees can look at leading or supporting hyper-local initiatives to provide essential products and services for the most affected in their locality, or offering their support to senior citizens and parents with young children. Animal lovers can also figure out how to support stray dogs and cats during the lockdown since many are now without their usual access to food and water.


  1. Under Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, every company having a net worth of at least ₹500 crores, turnover of ₹1,000 crores or more, or a minimum net profit of ₹5 crores during the immediately preceding financial year, is expected to spend at least two per cent of its average net profit before tax of three immediately preceding financial years in pursuance of its Corporate Social Responsibility policy.
  2. Data accessed as of April 13th, 2020.

Know more

This article was originally published on India Development Review.

About the author:

Anita Kumar heads the CSR Advisory practice at Sattva. She has more than 15 years of experience in both the private and the development sector, with her work spanning the fields of skilling, livelihoods, gender, and WASH, and functions including research, strategy, and operations. Anita is a graduate of IIM Calcutta and has an MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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