As the world reels under the pandemic, philanthropy by corporates in India has increased but it has not kept pace with the rising need of the society bearing the brunt of Covid, loss of livelihood and employment, said Nihal Kaviratne, founder of St Jude India ChildCare Centres, which was awarded the social enterprise of the year at the Business Standard Awards for Social Excellence.
In an online discussion on Thursday, the award winners highlighted that the only way to make ‘giving’ sustainable was to align it with business itself. Dinanath Dubhashi, MD & CEO, L&T Finance Holdings, said, “We have to link it (philanthropy) to what we do for a living. Then it will not change because the next managing director would like to do something else.” L&T Finance was recognised as the socially aware corporate of the year.
L&T Finance initiative Digital Sakhi was about making rural women financially literate, Dubhashi said. That gave them confidence, enabling them to work with their head held high. “Using our business skills, we can scale up the social causes... About five years back, we were spending our CSR money on 30 projects and were not making much impact.”
Kaviratne agreed that alignment of business purpose and a social impact will ensure that philanthropy has a future. “If the community is a key stakeholder, then you will do well. There is a great future to companies with purpose and philanthropy.”
Since companies have registered lower profits due to Covid-19, the overall industry spend on corporate social responsibility related activity is also likely to be low with many redirecting money towards the pandemic, Dubhashi pointed out. Companies are mandated to spend 2 per cent of their profits in the last three years towards CSR.
“Beyond a level, we have to stop bothering if it is 2 per cent. We cannot wait for a ministry notification and then spend... People who truly believe that giving is good for business and heart will continue to give,” Dubhashi said.
M R Madhavan, who won the Business Standard social entrepreneur of the year for his venture PRS Legislative Research, said he started it 15 years ago with the idea that to make a significant impact on the lives of people in the country something had to be done at the policy level.
“The return on investment on every activity we have done is not in terms of cash but in terms of impact. I am touched by the generosity of our funders. Most of our funders have stuck by us during the pandemic,” Madhavan, co-founder and president of PRS Legislative Research, said.
Half of the members of Parliament, both upper and lower houses, use the PRS research to understand the laws better, according to Madhavan. He also lauded the work done by committees set up by the government to frame and evolve laws such as the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
The Business Standard Awards for Social Excellence were chosen by a five-member jury, chaired by Tata Institute of Social Sciences Chairman S Ramadorai. He led a jury made of the strongest names from the social sector: Bain Capital Private Equity chairman Amit Chandra, GiveIndia director & CEO Atul Satija, Pratham co-founder Farida Lambay, and Indian School of Public Policy founder-director Luis Miranda.