Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been a critical agenda for all corporates. While the company would invest in CSR with the purpose of giving back to the society and drive positive social change it was also a feel-good story that as communication professionals we loved to share with our stakeholders – media, consumers, partners. In January 2021, the introduction of the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Amendment Rules, 2021, brought about a pioneering change. The impact of COVID-19 led the Government to bring forth a differentiated approach to CSR making India the first country to change the approach from ‘voluntary’ to ‘mandatory’.
While the CSR policy may have changed from a ‘good to do’ to a ‘must do’ mode, the pandemic had brought forth the must do attitude amongst many of us since last year. Corporates, senior management, start-ups and every individual picked up the mantel to support the country, the community, the neighbourhood. This year with the second wave claiming many lives and leaving many distraught – mentally, physically and financially, there was a realisation that CSR and communication around CSR is not about just ticking a box or to push feel-good stories. This time communication was truly used judiciously, with the sole purpose of spreading authentic information that can be useful for the citizens in times of need and not to glorify the brand’s imagery.
While vaccination drives, creating a support helpline for ambulance and oxygen, onboarding a counsellor and a doctor who is always on call, long-term salaries for the deceased and many such initiatives are focused towards employees, companies have also opened their doors to support the community by providing free medication, free oxygen concentrators, finding beds, plasma, on-time deliveries, collaboration with NGO’s and many such initiatives that go beyond just the monetary support. And no! many of these have not been shared in an interview or via a press release.
There was a definite mindset shift towards individual and collective responsibility. A responsibility that every citizen aimed to fulfil. Each one of us leveraged communication to spread hope, joy and support, on the back of the realisation that one cannot sit back and say this will be taken care of by the administration or by the company. In our own ways we are doing our bit. From home chefs supplying food to patients to shelters opening their doors for dogs who lost their pet parents to the auto rickshaw warrior who ferries patients to the neighbours who stepped up for children in their neighbourhood or watering the plants of the quarantined neighbour.
Whether one-to-one or one-to-many, collective social responsibility was communicated with the objective to educate, inform and engage the audience in a positive social dialogue. It is heartening to see that communication of initiatives this year is measured, a lot more mature, and a lot more, more realistic. And I hope. Such a communication is here to stay.
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