The unprecedented situations arising from COVID-19 require a new roadmap for recovery. The economy of India – and most of the world, for that matter – is in shambles. While businesses work towards regenerating the economy, corporate social responsibility and development initiatives have to rethink how they will uplift the most vulnerable sections of the subcontinent. Deloitte’s new report Social Response to COVID-19 says that going forward, companies will have to redesign their ongoing and new CSR interventions.
The CSR Journal spoke to Shubha Srinivasan, Director, Deloitte India about the roadmap to recovery from the pandemic.
1. Could you throw light on Deloitte’s new report: Social Response to COVID-19? How does it pertain to corporate social responsibility?
The knowledge paper lays out a roadmap to recovery in a post-COVID-19 world, through development and CSR initiatives. The entire country underwent a total lockdown in March 2020 due to COVID-19, leading to loss of livelihoods for millions and disruption of supply chains and services. While there have been broader economic implications of the pandemic on the GDP, the spread of the disease has also impacted various social dimensions and disrupted fragile local ecosystems.
The report Social Response to COVID-19 deep dives into broader areas like Livelihood, Rural development, Education, Skill development, Health, and WASH acting as a guide for corporates, non-profit organizations, and the government, identifying the extent and types of disruption. Strategic pathways to deliver high-impact solutions during and beyond the COVID-19 situation and the role of various stakeholders have been projected. A collective social response to COVID-19 with relevant development or CSR initiatives can create a regenerative economy.
CSR funders can leverage the report in understanding the type of programmes and interventions that can be implemented across respond and recover phases to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world. It also charts out the kind of stakeholder partnerships that corporates can consider to maximise their impact.
2. As businesses across industries run into losses and the economic recession continues to eat into CSR budgets, what are the funding challenges for NGOs?
Many corporates have directed funding towards relief measures resulting in CSR funding being diverted or lowered from long term programmes that were largely being implemented on ground by not-for-profits.
Most NGOs have gained additional funding for the relief phases but are struggling to secure funding for long term programmes. Specifically, NGOs with implementation models that required in-person delivery and resource reliant on the NGO.
Most Education and Skill Development programmes were challenged by the digital divide or were unprepared for the disruption in the delivery of in person learning modules.
Deloitte has identified a set of short, medium and long-term initiatives which will empower communities to recover from negative economic and social impacts. The report suggests a set of intervention concepts that can be integrated by not-for-profits to their programme structure at the grassroot level which can enhance the possibility of CSR and donor funding.
3. In what direction should corporate entities, nonprofits and the government of India collaborate for post-COVID recovery?
The document Social Response to COVID-19 also lays out the post-COVID recovery on a long term basis keeping the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as a milestone. A collaborative approach is required to make sure that the road to recovery doesn’t see many bumps.
Deloitte’s knowledge paper Social Response to COVID-19 brings out such areas of intervention where Corporates, Not-for-profits and Government functionaries work together leveraging their expertise and ensuring saturation of the services basis geography.
Going ahead, the Government needs to ensure favourable policies, regulatory framework and grants to the civil society organizations while the corporates need to extend their expertise and CSR grants to ensure seamless implementation of projects by not-for-profits. There are few prominent areas which need to be addressed collaboratively for long term positive change that ensures well-being of people:
1) Bridging the divide by ensuring that the vulnerable population is covered and receiving benefits of social welfare schemes
2) Developing rural economy by de-centralization of economic zones, skilling people with functional knowledge and creating sustainable livelihood opportunities
3) Strengthening and building health systems and service delivery in urban and rural India
4) Developing WASH infrastructure and ensuring clean and safe drinking water
5) Promoting environment friendly interventions/ approach that includes watershed management structures, climate resilient agriculture, green energy and highly efficient waste management solutions
6) Strengthening the various supply chains and IT infrastructure/ digital solutions
7) Promoting innovation by funding social enterprise to achieve services/ products that solve larger social issues while being accessible and sustainable.
4. What kind of CSR projects will corporates largely invest in for 2021 and later?
They will invest in CSR programmes to address the digital divide, strengthen supply chains and innovative delivery of services at the grassroots level. This is the time for innovative development programmes with larger community ownership can emerge.
5. How will the demands change in the skilling ecosystem after COVID-19?
Due to COVID-19 there is huge disruption in the skilling sector as several sectors like aviation, hospitality, textiles, etc. saw skewed opportunities. On the other hand, sectors like healthcare and wellness, pharmaceuticals, e-commerce saw multifold growth. Post COVID-19, industries must focus on upskilling and reskilling the existing workforce. Trainees/ employees must focus on developing their communication skills while curriculum must be re-designed to ensure effective content delivery and aspects of virtual reality and relevant technologies.
The predicted courses vital to the changes in the economy are Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, agri entrepreneurship, rural enterprise development, service and maintenance, farm equipment technician, risk analyst for agri products, digital and financial literacy. In this new era the importance of cross-functional skills will be vital. With a mix of right technical skills and digital knowledge, India shall progress ahead as a leading manufacturing hub for the global community.
6. India saw mass reverse migration during the lockdown. How can CSR support the building of the rural economy using the additional labour force and local resources?
CSR programmes can focus on community-centric initiatives – strengthening farmer producer groups, building sustainable supply chain farm- markets. India Inc can leverage the trained labour force that has returned to rural areas to introduce new livelihood training, skill development programmes and infrastructure development projects. Corporates can strengthen community-based organisations through capacity building initiatives combined with financial inclusion and enterprise development modules.
7. Grassroots level health workers and frontline workers faced stigma during the pandemic. What kind of capacity building can CSR projects incorporate for empowering and destigmatising these two groups?
Capacity building of grassroots level healthcare workers such as Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), Auxiliary nurse midwife’s (ANMs) as well as non-governmental paramedical workers is a must. For this purpose, CSR programmes could incorporate the following in future:
1) Awareness of the community on do’s and don’ts of COVID-19, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation monitoring.
2) Provision of good quality accredited safety equipment like PPE to the frontline workers as the viral load that frontline workers face is excessive which may create a sense of fear among some community members, leading to stigma.
3) Capacity building and involvement of Gram panchayat members and Community Building Organizations (CBOs) like SHGs in raising awareness among the community and to shun the stigma.
4) Creating/ proposing models and SOPs in consultation with experts ensuring that the overall process of testing, contact tracing, quarantine, treatment and isolation monitoring is hassle-free and not intimidating to people.
8. Does the CSR sector have a major role to play in post-COVID-19 recovery, especially when it comes to WASH infrastructure, Water ATMs, mobile testing centres etc.?
Corporates over several years through CSR projects have contributed towards WASH projects specifically in rural India. With more than Rs. 5051 crores spent in 2018-19 by CSR on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation and Clean Ganga fund, the corporate world has played an important role in upscaling the much-needed infrastructure. Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan has created a momentum over last few years by pooling in more resources towards WASH.
Post COVID-19 the gaps in the existing infrastructure are widely known. This has led to huge potential for the Indian Government as well as the private sector to bridge that gap by creating and replicating models that ensure delivery of clean drinking water, health and hygiene related services, promotion of community/ individual toilets, effective ways of waste management, shifting to green sources of energy etc.
At the same time, behaviour change of community is a continuous process. Due to COVID-19 there is positive disruption, with people quickly adopting several important health and hygiene practices that need to be further triggered and sustained with procedural intervention led by Corporates through on-ground implementing partners.