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How CSR must evolve in 2023

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At 75, India has reasons to both celebrate and deliberate.
According to India Philanthropy Report 2022, India’s total social sector funding has seen a 12% annual growth over the past five years. And yet, from the uneven outcome of development, it is clear that India has miles to go before achieving its United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) commitments by 2030.
The report further states that according to NITI Aayog, India needs to funnel approximately 13% of its GDP into social causes—the current average is about 7%—to achieve its SDG targets. However, the fiscal deficit restricts the government’s ability to spend, which in turn makes building a robust philanthropic infrastructure critical for the country’s next phase of development.
CSR spends, which have sustained an unbroken 15% rate of growth year-on-year (halted only during the pandemic), are expected to command almost a third of the total share of private giving by FY2026.
Given that CSR will be the dominant form of giving, a key consideration that emerges is how corporates can grow the scope and impact of corporate social responsibility in India. How can Indian corporations scale development efforts further and address pressing social issues to ensure large-scale impact? In short, how can India Inc make giving better?

CSR – the changing landscape

Over the years, India Inc’s CSR initiatives have gradually become more strategic activities. Organisations are now looking to move on from siloed approaches. They want to be an active participant in addressing some of India’s most intractable social problems. In fact, India Inc wants to ensure that giving to the social sector is more efficient, impactful and agile.
Hence, the focus hereon will be on measuring and understanding CSR’s impact and not just reporting it. More companies will seek data and insights to improve and deliberate upon looking at a problem holistically rather than focus on short-term, isolated interventions to achieve developmental goals. Impact assessment to help understand Return on Investment (ROI) is a must, as is studying how technology can play an integral role.
Technology can play a vital role in strategizing, planning, managing, and reporting CSR programs, and be a game-changer when it comes to solving real-world problems. From designing CSR programs to delivering them end-to-end,  technology brings greater transparency by enabling stakeholders across the ecosystem to gain better insights. To put it simply, it is time CSR decision-makers find pathways to access verified information and leverage technology and data to manage CSR processes efficiently.

Better together

The crucial role of collaborations and strategic partnerships when it comes to solving pressing issues like climate change, poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment is undisputed. Collaborations in CSR have the power to not only transform social issues but also increase the value of a company by creating solutions that go beyond just serving a community.
To scale development efforts and address pressing social issues, collaborative efforts in CSR need to combine expertise, mitigate risks and diversify funding sources.
As programs and budgets get larger, expertise will need to come from multiple CSR donors and multiple NGOs working together with intermediaries and experts. For example, the recently held World Economic Forum launched the Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA) initiative in partnership with over 45 organizations. The goal of GAEA is to fund and grow new and existing public, private, and philanthropic partnerships (PPPPs) to unlock the $3 trillion of financing needed each year to reach net zero, reverse nature loss, and restore biodiversity by 2050. Collaboration amongst CSR funders will also diversify risk for everyone. Transformational investments in the private sector need consortiums of capital providers working together, so isn’t it but natural that large CSR programs will eventually do the same?
And finally, a collaboration between different types of donors – retail funds, HNI funds, brands, and CSR funds – complement each other because their constraints are different. For instance, the India Covid Response Fund brought together funds from corporates, HNIs and retail givers at home and abroad to support relief initiatives impacting over one crore lives, underlining the power of effective, timely giving at a scale befitting the cause.

Conclusion

Multiple CSR programs working together with NGOs on the ground to achieve a shared outcome ensure new opportunities for growth – as a society as well as an industry. This was never before evident than during the pandemic, which saw the very best of community, corporate, and government come together. Corporates mobilising funds and reaching out to communities became the strongest ally to the government at a time when public health systems were under tremendous and unprecedented pressure.
When the wind blows, there are those that build walls, and then there are those that build windmills. For India Inc, the time is now ripe for reinventing that windmill by rethinking the way businesses give back to the community.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Sumit TayalSumit’s journey spans consulting, private equity and business operations. Prior to joining GiveIndia, he was the COO for Netscribes, a data and insights firm. Earlier, he led the India investment team for Helix Investments, a US based private equity fund, and consulted for large Indian corporates while at KPMG. He started his career writing code and managing projects at Tata Infotech and Cognizant.