What does 2024 have in store for CSR?

Two areas of work within the field of reputation stood out in 2023. One was Environmental Social & Governance (ESG) and the other Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

As we enter the decade of CSR law in the country and having listened to experts and academicians on what 2024 holds for CSR, here is what strikes me the most:

  1. CSR will become more strategic

There are still many organisations who do not have a strategy where CSR is concerned. It is easier for such organisations to do pure philanthropy and simply donate money as a means of utilising the mandatory spend. This is because execution of CSR projects involves design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and most importantly, partners. Which calls for, hard work.

Organisations that have CSR aligned with their overall vision, mission, and values, are known to benefit from serving the society in terms of reputation and employee engagement. And they are spearheading the change. Going forward, many more companies are likely to look at CSR as a strong enabler for license to operate.

  1. Deeper and not wider

Organisations will continue to favor serving communities located close to their businesses. However, the growing disparity between regions can no longer be ignored. The 112 aspirational districts recognised by the government as the most underdeveloped and underserved get a mere 1.76% of the total mapped CSR contributions in India. With awareness of this disparity growing, the next few years are likely to see enhanced CSR contribution in aspirational districts. The new mantra will be to ‘go deep’ and not ‘wide.’

  1. NGOs will need to speed up

It is unfortunate but true that majority of the CSR kitty is spread across the few large NGOs. Small NGOs who do more solid work on the ground lose out because of their inability to be more efficient. Lack of compliance and documentation is a major hurdle. If NGOs need to harness CSR funds, they will need to look inwards and sharpen their processes. There is not much time left for this.

  1. Policy push will become central

Policy reforms are a great way to augment societal impact. NGOs can act as proactive vehicles for driving policy change whether it is in healthcare, agriculture, education, or even, fintech. They have their ears to the ground and can act as local State advocates for the corporates to push for relevant policy reforms.

  1. Corporates will need to nurture NGOs

There is no organisation who does not want an NGO that is super-efficient, has speed, is agile and productive. Such a partner creates immense value for the project that gets translated into impactful programs in the communities. But NGOs also need to be nurtured. They need to be provided with enabling tools like coaching and mentoring. And corporates need to fund the organisational development of their partner NGOs. That is true partnership.

  1. Investors will use the gender sensitive lens

Impact investing will make more inroads in the world of corporate giving. And within that, investors will be looking for programs/projects that have a strong gender sensitive lens. For instance, currently, in the world of MSMEs, only 1% of funds are spent on women led businesses. This will undergo a change in 2024 as more and more investors and funders realise the impact of bringing women to the fore.

The path to new transformed India clearly goes through strategic and valued added CSR wherein women are seen as strong forces of change.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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