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CSR In the Light of SDGs

CSR and SDGs
2015 was a watershed moment in the international development scenario. It was the year of transition from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs in short.

What are the SDGs?

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted on 25 September 2015 by 193 countries to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda, according to the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme).
These goals range from ending poverty to looking at climate action. The 17 goals come with 169 targets to be achieved by 2030. India along with other countries signed the declaration on 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

SDGs and CSR

SDGs and CSR activities share a lot of overlap in terms of their thematic areas. The Companies Act, 2013 sets a broad framework and gives direction for better sustainable future and SDGs set tangible well-defined targets to measure the outcome of activities. India ranks at 116 of 157 countries on the SDG Index (according to the SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2017). We will evaluate CSR in the light of SDGs.

Focus areas

Health and Education continue to receive more traction from companies with 56% of the projects and expenditure, which is linked to 5 SDG Goals, according to India’s CSR Reporting Survey 2017 by KPMG.


Only 20% companies have aligned their CSR projects towards SDGs and have made disclosure regarding same in their Annual Report. However, strategic integration of same in CSR Policy is observed only with two companies.


Over 1300 projects to the tune of almost INR 5000 cr. (more than 70% of the CSR spends during current year) were spent through a combination of direct, own foundation and partner organisation. This is a significant alignment to SDG Goal 17 i.e. Partnerships for the Goals.

Spread of expenditure

SDGs cover a broad range of social and economic development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, environment and social justice. Similarly, backward districts in India are identified on the basis of health, education and economic issues which are holding back the development of the country. Both have inter-linked thematic areas that that need attention and action.
According to the KPMG report, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh account for more than 60% of the backward district concentration across India. However, it is critical to note that these states account for only 15% of CSR projects and 15% of total expenditure towards CSR during current year.
Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh account for more than 70% of the CSR expenditure during current year. However, they have over 15% backward district concentration. The North East states have the least focus with less than 2% CSR expenditure during current year against 25% concentration of backward districts.
Although, only 20% of N100 companies have disclosed mapping of their CSR projects with SDGs, going forward, it is anticipated that more companies might map their CSR projects with SDGs. Expectations will not be restricted to mapping alone, but for companies to design their CSR strategy in such a way that they systematically contribute to achievement of specific SDG targets and aid in the country’s development and global sustainable future.