How Indian firms are upholding their CSR promises during the COVID-19 pandemic

From donating a day's salary to PM CARES to mobilising production of essentials, corporate houses are doing their bit to bolster the nation's efforts towards containing the outbreak

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Apr 8, 2020 12:23 PM

Months after it first surfaced in Wuhan, China, the coronavirus continues to spread across the world, which has been grappling with the crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to the global economy. Businesses across the world are trying to combat the uninvited distress, trying their best to save their stakes.

But despite trying times, India firms are putting every effort to fulfil their corporate social responsibilities in the wake of the pandemic. Some have decided to aid the government’s PM-CARES fund while others have resorted to independent methods to do their bit. 

Indian businesses have whole-heartedly supported the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund. Both governmental and private organisations have donated to the PM-CARES fund. National Thermal Power Corporation of India (NTPC) has contributed Rs 257.5 crore. The Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) has donated Rs 30 crore. The Vedanta Group has given Rs 101 crore to the fund. The Reliance Group has committed Rs 500 crore, and Bharti Enterprises and its companies Bharti Airtel, Bharti Infratel and others have pledged over Rs 100 crores. These are a few among many other firms who have joined hands with the nation in its fight against the coronavirus.

Apart from corporate houses, the employees too have pledged to be a part of the global fight against the pandemic. NTPC employees have contributed their one-day salary, collectively amounting to Rs.7.5 crore. SAIL employees have done the same, raising Rs 9 crore for the donation. The employees of Bharti are also making personal voluntary contributions towards this cause through a platform set up by the company. Bharti companies will match the amount contributed by their employees, and the same will be donated to the COVID-19 initiatives.

Shri Anil Kumar Chaudhary, Chairman, SAIL commented, “This is a humble contribution from the Company and its employees in the fight against the coronavirus emergency. We stand committed to dedicating ourselves in the service of the nation in every possible way. Along with this, we have also scaled up and mobilised various health services in coordination with local authorities of respective state governments for fighting this medical emergency situation.”

“COVID-19 has posed an unprecedented challenge for the country and we at Vedanta are doing all that we can to provide the healing touch, especially to the marginalised sections.  Our chairman, Anil Agarwal, has been among the first industry leaders to pledge funds to fight COVID-19 impact and the amount has now been doubled to Rs 201 crore. Vedanta has donated Rs 101 crore to PM-CARES Fund and has created a Rs 100 crore corpus, which is catering to the needs of the daily wage workers, providing preventive healthcare and taking care of our employees and contract partners,” informed Roma Balwani, Director, Brand & Communications at Vedanta Group.

Companies have also made individual contributions towards the cause.  In a joint statement, Omar Navarro, the Vice President of Supply Chain for the Region and Neil George, the Managing Director-NIVEA India said, “Firstly, we are very proud to support our healthcare workers who are on the frontline against COVID-19, risking their lives to protect us all. Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary solutions and we are happy to do our part to help in this time of need. We have been in constant touch with the local authorities and our key partners, having worked very hard over the past few weeks to make the switch at our plant and formulate the liquid hand sanitizers. We would like to thank our employees and our network of partners who have worked relentlessly to make this possible in record time. In these difficult circumstances, it is crucial for all industries to come together, step up and support the fight against COVID-19.” 

Ahmed ElSheikh, President, PepsiCo India, said, “India, like the rest of the world, is facing an unprecedented challenge. We at PepsiCo India are fully committed to supporting the nation in its fight against COVID-19. Providing meals to the economically weaker sections and testing kits to the diagnostic units are critical requirements at this stage. PepsiCo India will be activating its NGO partners - Akshaya Patra Foundation, Smile Foundation and Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), to provide over 5 million meals and 25,000 COVID-19 testing kits across the country.”

He further added that PepsiCo India stands committed to lending its full support to both the Central and State Governments in their fight to collectively overcome the global health challenge.

 Beyond contributing to the PM-CARES Fund, firms have been incorporating other CSR activities to not only protect the interests of the firm but the employees too.

A spokesperson at NTPC informed that the firm has spent Rs11 crore for protective measures at various locations. He said,” Additionally, NTPC has taken several initiatives to contain the spread of the virus and set up dedicated COVID-19 units at its hospitals.” He added, “This has been done utilising 45 hospitals/health units with 140 beds to make isolation facilities. Along with it, a total of 8 ventilators are being procured at Hazaribagh (Jharkhand) for the district administration. At present, there are 7 ventilators in the project hospitals. Efforts are being made to acquire additional PPEs, sanitisers from available agencies”.

SAIL has mobilized various health services in large numbers across all its hospitals situated in its five main hospitals located in the five integrated steel plants to fight against the outbreak of the coronavirus. Sumita Dutta, Executive Director, Corporate Affairs said, “During this time of lockdown, the company, despite cutting production, has kept its essential plants and equipment in running condition with minimum manpower, after taking necessary preventive and safety measures. The Company has also provided a large number of medical facilities including ICU beds, isolation beds, quarantine facilities, large quantities of sanitizers, PPEs, masks etc at its hospitals and at the workplaces in its Plants and Units”.

Vedanta has joined hands with the Ministry of Textiles to import 23 machines for manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE). Balwani informed,” Vedanta has pledged 10 lakh meals for daily wage workers, a segment which has been very badly affected. We are also feeding 50,000 stray animals, which have no access to food during the lockdown”. She further added, “We have provided more than 100,000 masks, and another 2,00,000 N-95 masks are being imported, which will be handed over to the government. We are also collaborating with district hospitals to provide them with medicines, medical equipment, markings and disinfectant sprays. We have tied up with Apollo Hospital for a 24/7 help-line for our employees to give them basic health information and guidance.”

“The compassion and volunteering we have seen at our business units are amazing. We salute all our volunteers, district administration personnel who are working round the clock at all our locations; they are our true heroes. Our humble gratitude to each one of them,” said Balwani.

Firms are working tirelessly to keep up with the momentum of the nation’s economy despite the distressing times. With NTPC giving an aggressive push to renewables and building fresh generation capacity by harnessing solar and water energy, SAIL has cut down production and kept essential plants in running condition with minimum manpower. “Airtel’s network teams continue to work 24X7 to ensure that India’s digital backbone continues to operate seamlessly and people stay connected with their loved ones and are able to work from home at this hour of global crisis”, informed the company spokesperson.  

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