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Planning Your Firm’s CSR Strategy for the ‘New Normal’

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It is vital that we focus on building a CSR strategy which can successfully navigate the emergency we are still in
 

By Shaina Ganapathy, Head – Community Outreach, Embassy Group

The sudden onset of Covid-19 has impacted how we see the world, how we conduct business and how we go about our lives. Despite the human tragedy of lost lives and deeply scarred communities, there have been wide-ranging, severe economic and social changes caused by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns. With India in the midst of a second wave, CSR has been pushed to the forefront of most companies’ core approaches and requirements.
The Indian business landscape has seen a marked shift in the last few years towards becoming more responsible – with CSR becoming a leading indicator for how stakeholders expect organizations to operate. At the very beginning of the pandemic, there was an outpouring of relief efforts from the private sector, attempting to mitigate the damaging effects the lockdown had on the informal sector, the daily wage earners and migrant workers, as well as our frontline workers.

Preparation for the post-crisis period

A year later, and we find ourselves in nearly the same situation. It is vital that we focus on building a CSR strategy for this ‘New Normal’; one that can successfully navigate the emergency we are still in. Additionally, it is crucial that we prepare ourselves for the post-crisis period while leveraging the opportunities that are affording themselves. While the current situation has tested our resilience, it has also reinforced many of our successful approaches – providing us opportunities to reflect on how to build sustainable and responsible practices.
One of the questions corporates must ask themselves during this crisis is whether our efforts can be multiplied if we join hands with like-minded organisations. At Embassy, we long recognised the challenge of promoting social change as being beyond the scope of a single organisation. This became even more apparent during the pandemic period, underscoring the success of our Corporate Connect model and our belief that ‘Together we can do more.’

Collaboration is the cornerstone

As we navigate this ‘New Normal,’ collaboration should become the cornerstone of our CSR policies. Partnering with other corporates ensures that there is greater innovation, the creation of successful and replicable models and finally harnessing the strengths and skill-sets of each company. Open collaboration, and the innovation it creates, allows companies to go beyond their singular capabilities to benefit society from combined intelligence.
Covid-19 has been a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before – there has been no sector beyond the reach of its damaging influence, including the NGO sphere. The pandemic has led to a diversion of CSR funds towards short-term Covid-19 relief. This has the harmful effect of leaving long-term developmental projects without funds, and stopped short before their completion.
It is more vital than ever before that companies provide their NGO partners with the space to adapt to this new and unfamiliar way of operating without scaling back on their funding completely. Reaching out frequently to our long-term and current NGO partners ensures that companies can adjust to meet their needs during the crisis.

Mid- and long-term commitments

While companies have adapted rapidly to the current health, economic and social needs, there is greater success to be garnered from investing in medium or long-term commitments to society and vulnerable groups, especially those closest to us. Contributions towards sustainable infrastructure including the healthcare framework, food supply chains and livelihood support stimulates stronger development. The present disaster has thrown economic and social inequalities into sharp relief, CSR policies should advocate and enable sustainable development for our nation and the world at large.
Covid-19 has demonstrated that working in alignment with the larger national goals maximizes value for underprivileged communities. Understanding the existing needs of the Government and various state health departments allows companies to address the risks posed by the pandemic, which can also be extrapolated to any other future epidemic.

Clear communication

Above all, the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of providing clear and accessible communications both within our organizations and outside of it throughout the crisis. This includes disclosing to stakeholders and communities how we will be supporting them and to what extent. Employee engagement can strengthen the connection between a company’s CSR and workplace culture. CSR leaders and senior management can educate employees on how they can get involved and give back to their communities.
This is how a CSR strategy will be more effective in the New Normal.

(This column appeared in the July 2021 edition of our magazine. Click here for a copy) 

Shaina Ganapathy - latestShaina Ganapathy is Head – Community Outreach at Embassy Group. She is part of the Leadership Team at Embassy Group and heads the group’s outreach initiatives that focus on education, health, sustainable infrastructure. She spearheads Embassy’s Corporate Connect Program that draws together leaders and corporates across Embassy’s Business Parks with a common vision and aligned CSR mandates to spur collaboration for deeper and accelerated community transformation. She is one of the founding members of Stonehill International School.

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.

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