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Top CSR Trends to Expect in 2021

The year 2020 was a year that showed us a different facet of life. It made us realise how ill-prepared we were to face a disaster, despite that, how we emerged a winner by adapting to the new and changed circumstances. Life post-corona is referred to as ‘new-normal’ considering the fact that it would be practically impossible for people to go back to the normalcy of the time before the pandemic.
2020 also disrupted the CSR space in a major way. Most of the companies spent the majority of their CSR funds towards COVID-19 relief in 2020. This took away the finances and attention from many other causes and goals with respect to addressing them. As the new year arrives and the world moves towards the recovery phase, the companies are gearing up with new plans and goals for their CSR initiatives.
Ms. Pearl Tiwari, Director & CEO, Ambuja Cement Foundation said, “Covid-19 is predicted to remain with us for sometime, and the pandemic continues to change things in the development sector every single day.  It will be important for CSR bodies, NGOs and other developmental organisations to remain agile in these conditions – maintaining an ability to pivot and quickly mobilise to respond to ever-changing needs on the ground in communities, in what are increasingly tricky times.”
Let us take a panoramic view of CSR trends in 2021, as per some of the corporates and Non-Profits.

Rising Importance of Skill Development

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on the global economy. There has been a steep rise in unemployment this year as the lockdowns and social distancing norms have not allowed people to attend work, and they do not have the skills to work remotely. In order to make economic recovery in the COVID ensued newly normal work environment, the workforce will need to acquire the skills to be more employable.
Mahindra Group in 2021, intends to redirect its CSR focus in addressing the same through its flagship CSR initiative – Mahindra Pride Schools (MPS). In the wake of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, Mahindra Group with Naandi Foundation as the implementation partner plans to re-calibrate the curriculum of MPS to impart employable skills required in the post-COVID era. The program will look to expand the curriculum to new domains of agriculture, healthcare, eCommerce, services and entrepreneurship in addition to technology. MPS will also treble the pace of job creation by providing 100,000 additional jobs in the next five years vis-à-vis 15 years.
Malhotra Weikfield Foundation is also aiming to focus its CSR initiatives towards education and vocational training. In the field of education, the foundation will provide Scholarships to those existing Scholars who have continued their academic pursuits in Pure Sciences. The Foundation will also continue to assist and help its Alumni students considering to pursue Ph.D. courses in Pure Sciences. For the skill training, the Foundation will continue to contribute and set up Indo Swiss Center of Excellence, Pune (ISCEP) a skill development institution to impart training in the “Skills of Tomorrow” in the Centre of Excellence in Manufacturing (CEM) and Centre of Excellence in Agriculture (CEA) at Koregaon Bhima, Pune, a project with a capital outlay of over Rs. 450 million.
Dr Manu Gupta, Co-Founder, SEEDS has said, “”The year 2020 was extremely critical especially for the humanitarian sector. It kept us on toes, serving the most in need, marginalised communities. It brought upon the realisation and made it absolutely clear that new age disasters and risks like Covid-19 pandemic can’t be managed with tools from the previous centuries. As we step into the new year, we remain committed to helping people with small businesses with all kinds of support that can facilitate rebuilding their livelihoods. Our efforts will have more impact if corporates come forward to help revive small businesses across India in 2021 and redirect them towards greater sustainability and resilience”.

Focus on Healthcare

The pandemic gave us a reality check regarding the state of healthcare in India. As the World Health Organization predict even more severe and dangerous pandemic in the upcoming future, there will be a need to improve the healthcare facilities significantly in the country. Learning from the lessons of the last year, the corporates aim to not lose their CSR focus from healthcare.
Cadila Pharmaceuticals, for 2021, aims to focus its CSR initiatives to serve the communities and the nation with tertiary healthcare services through its charitable hospital – Kaka Ba Hospital. Urmila Joshi, General Manager, CSR, Dholka, Cadila Pharmaceuticals has said, “The year 2020 has fast-forwarded the need of humankind to come together for the betterment of the society and the world as a whole. Post COVID-19, the way forward for CSR for any organization is going to change. While the focus on the core objectives, i.e. working towards the sustainable development goals will remain the same, the approach will be different. The pandemic is here to stay. This will affect how we work at the grass-root level. Hence, we as organizations, need to reevaluate our strategy of implementation. As a CSR community, we need to work towards meaningful initiatives keeping the post-pandemic impact in mind.”
Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt Ltd (Fiinovation) aims to allocate its CSR resources to address the healthcare needs of the underprivileged population of the country. Dr Soumitro Chakraborty, CEO, Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt Ltd has said, ““To say that COVID-19 had been disastrous would not be hyperbole, however, with just one exception. It pushed the idea of corporate social responsibility deep into the corporate consciousness. Corporates irrespective of their sizes and geographical locations rose to the challenge and augmented the government efforts by re-orienting their CSR strategies. The pandemic exposed India’s healthcare deficiencies and infrastructural inadequacies and remedying these would be a major focus for corporates in 2021. Improving access to primary and preventive health care has become imperative in order to equip the nation better to face future outbreaks.
Small towns and villages of India have faced challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak owing to the abysmal state of healthcare facilities. Fiinovation aims to work towards strengthening the healthcare landscape in these areas with the support of its partners and associates. We hope to channel our resources and energy at bolstering the rural population of India and intend to focus our efforts towards curative and maternal healthcare in the underprivileged sections of the society. Imparting skill development training and promoting social entrepreneurship as an exercise to extend support to marginalized communities for improved livelihood opportunities, will also form a major part of our CSR strategy this year. This year let us focus more on the human aspect of social development.”
Focusing on its goal of eliminating the avoidable blindness, the non-profit Sightsavers aims to help the persons with avoidable visual impairment get back on their feet in 2021. Mr RN Mohanty, CEO Sightsavers India said, “The year 2020 has not been easy on any of us. When the pandemic struck, life came to a halt for people with disabilities who found it extremely difficult to support themselves and their families. Sightsavers India, along with its partners, reached out to persons with disabilities in different corners of the country and ensured that they were supported adequately. With the incredible support of our partners and donors, Sightsavers will continue to work towards eliminating avoidable blindness and promote equality of opportunity for persons with disability.”

Recognising the most vulnerable section of population amid the Pandemic – Children

Children had been affected very badly because of the pandemic. Their education was affected since the schools were closed, their social life had been disrupted because of the lockdown and social distancing norms and their mental health was affected because of staying in isolation for long hours.
Addressing the need to focus on the welfare of the children, Mr Sumanta Kar, Senior Deputy National Director, SOS Children’s Villages of India has said, “SOS Children’s Villages of India supports close to 25,000 children and youth through two flagship programmes – Family Like Care, a curative model that provides loving homes to children without parental care in Children’s Villages. Family Strengthening, a preventive model that intervenes in vulnerable communities for preventing ‘at risk’ children from losing parental care by upholding family income through women empowerment and capacity building. The year 2020 has been eventful in many ways. The pandemic impacted children under our care in several ways. As we self-implement these programmes, our teams quickly adapted by building the capacity of caregivers and coworkers, safeguarding villages from infection, enabling digital learning for children, looking after their emotional wellbeing, supplying essential food and hygiene kits to vulnerable families who lost livelihoods and so on.  The year also witnessed four cyclones (Amphan and Nisagra in the second quarter and more recently Nivar and Burevi in the southern region) causing a further blow. All these disasters have rendered millions homeless and without a livelihood. Our teams evacuated cyclone-affected families and shifted them to safer places, providing essential supplies – food, water, shelter, clothing, and medicines. They are currently working on restoration for the families affected.
We signed two MoUs with the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of Gujarat for providing technical expertise and for being the nodal agency for the State’s Kinship Care and After Care programmes. The annual cultural festival e-Tarang was hosted virtually. The event witnessed participation from over 700 children from both the programmes across 32 locations/22 states. We have reached out to 2500 new children in 2020 through our community outreach interventions.  We have also set up two quarantine centres in Bhopal and Pune, wherein abundant children are getting family-like care and are being prevented from the impact of COVID-19.  Our teams are working tirelessly to help secure the livelihoods of families in the communities we serve. We plan to reach out to 8000 new children in 2021 and there is a need for greater collaboration. We are grateful to our partners and sponsors for their continued support.”

Environment Conservation and Sustainable Development

The new US President who will take office in 2021, has made major commitments regarding streamlining of climate action. This will ramp up the pressure of taking action for environmental conservation for all the countries of the world. India will not stay far from it, and this dialogue will inspire more companies into investing their CSR funds for activities related to environment and biodiversity protection.
HCL has predicted the same and ensured that a better planet with all people achieving peace and prosperity is at the heart of its culture. Ms Nidhi Pundhir, Director – HCL Foundation said, “Going forward, I feel that organizations must start becoming more conscious about environment and sustainability concerns while carrying out their projects. At HCL Foundation, we remain committed to addressing the socio-economic concerns while focussing on ecosystem conservation and sustainable practices. CSR programs have the potential to bring value to the business as well as the society if done in an organized manner. By aligning corporate citizenship efforts with revenue-generating activities, we can ensure that our CSR programs are strategic and sustainable.”
With new dreams and expectations of a brighter year, we step into 2021 hoping that the year is proven good for the world and that if another calamity hits us, we are prepared well enough to manage it causing catastrophic damage to humanity. We, at The CSR Journal, wish you all, a Very Happy and a Prosperous New Year.