AMCHAM’s CSR Committee organized the 3rd CSR Conference: Capacity Building in the CSR Ecosystem that brought together key stakeholders in corporate social responsibility for cross-sectoral panel discussions that identified and addressed challenges, opportunities and avenues for capacity building in CSR though the pandemic lens. The two-day virtual event was held on January 19th-20th. The conference began on January 19th evening with a warm welcome to speakers and participants by Ms. Ranjana Khanna, Director General CEO, AMCHAM. She briefly highlighted the work U.S. companies have done across sectors in CSR, spending more than $325 million over the last 5 years (pre COVID). Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Managing Director, Public Affairs & Strategic Engagement, India & SAARC Cisco Systems India, discussed the previous two editions of the conference and set the scene. He recognized some of the economic and social challenges caused by the pandemic such as the sudden rise of unemployment, lack of digital access and mental health challenges which have created a diversion of CSR funds in many companies to short term COVID related projects. The new role of technology would remain, collaboration would be vital and the desire to reach the end goal of bettering lives would remain for all CSR. Mr. Salil Gupte, Chairman, AMCHAM and President, Boeing India, gave the inaugural address from an industry’s perspective. He mentioned the conference has come at an opportune time as people rethink how companies operate in their communities supporting all stakeholders. He talked about how CSR has evolved over the last several years while companies have integrated CSR into their business strategies. Mr. Gupte broadly touched upon the CSR spending trends and how it has become an integral part of how American companies do business.
Mr. David Kennedy, Minister Counselor for Public Affairs, U.S. Embassy, gave the inaugural address from the U.S. government perspective highlighting the partnership that AMCHAM has with the U.S. Mission in India. The U.S.-India economic relationship has been strong as trading partners and U.S. companies investing billions in India through various sectors and research and development. With impressive CSR projects promoting sanitation, education and women’s empowerment, U.S. companies have made significant contributions to social development in India. In 2019, PepsiCo India was the recipient of the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) for environmentally sustainable operations and with Walmart India as runner up for the 2020 ACE Award for their work in the women’s economic empowerment. Ms. Kshitija Krishnaswamy, Co-Chairperson – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Managing Director – Corporate Citizenship, Accenture Solutions, in her closing remarks thanked the speakers for their insights and emphasized that technology and speed would be critical for the future. Ms. Krishnaswamy encouraged CSR practitioners that this is the time to step up and lead the charge on building back better. In the transition there is an opportunity to collaborate with all stakeholders and together make society the better place we all imagine.
Session 1: Global Trends in Corporate Philanthropy in the COVID Era was moderated by Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM featuring speakers Ms. Jill Huntley, Managing Director – Global Corporate Citizenship, Accenture, Ms. Mary de Wysocki, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs, Cisco Inc. and Ms. Paurvi Bhatt, Vice President Philanthropy and President, Medtronic Foundation. The panel discussed prominent trends in the social sector and how they have had to shift certain aspects of their strategy to respond to the pandemic. COVID has allowed the digital divide across the world to become sharper and shined a light on inequities. The need for CSR practitioners to prioritize inclusion was discussed. Speakers shared what their companies have done in terms of skilling, deploying technology in positive ways, creative framework for responding to global challenges and assistance to employees and their families. Ways to use the power of technology as a bridge and for the greater human good was an underlying theme.
On January 20th, the conference opened with Session 2: CSR Trends in India with remarks from Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM, in which he welcomed participants and summarized the learnings from the previous evening. Ms. Vrunda Bansode, Head – Marketing and India Data Insights, Sattva Consulting, gave a detailed overview of the India CSR landscape in India. She provided insights on a new report which used data from 2014-2019 to showcase American Corporations contributions in CSR. Apart from the investment trends, the report also gave a snapshot of the regional spread of CSR spends by sector and geography. Ms. Ranjana Khanna, Director General CEO, AMCHAM officially released the report that was created in collaboration with Sattva: India’s CSR Landscape and American Corporations. The special address was given by Dr. Garima Dadhich, Associate Professor, School of Business Environment, Head, National Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility (NFCSR), Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, in which she shared an enlightening perspective of the history and evolution of CSR over decades. She shared insights on recent developments and new regulations that affect CSR. Closing remarks for the session were given by Ms. Sangita Ghalay, Co-Chairperson – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Country Leader for External Communications and PR, Honeywell India, who thanked speakers for their valuable inputs and AMCHAM for organizing the conference.
Session 3: The Changing Landscape – Impact of Changes in CSR & FCRA Regulations on the Development Sector was moderated by Mr. Nehal Sanghavi, Senior Advisor for Innovation and Partnership, USAID/India and featured panelists Mr. Nitin Sharma, Senior Legal Counsel, South Asia/India, Becton Dickinson, Mr. Noshir Dadrawala, Chief Executive, Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, Mr. Amrut Joshi, Founder, GameChanger Law Advisors and Mr. Sachin Golwalkar, CEO, United Way Delhi. The panelists discussed compliance requirements for CSR which have undergone multiple changes during the pandemic, especially the FCRA amendment. The need for restructuring and reinventing at both donor and recipient level was discussed. Grantors and grantees need to work together to help address the trust deficit gaps within civil society organizations and a desire to work together for the ease of doing good emerged as key theme.
Ms. Aarti Mohan, Co-Founder and Head – Research, Advisory and Programmes, Sattva Consulting moderated Session 4: CSR in Times of COVID – Recovering and Rebuilding with speakers Mr. Aditya Natraj, Founder & Director, Kaivalya Education Foundation, Mr. Dibakar Bhattacharya, Director – Government Affairs, Medtronic and Mr. Neeraj Jain, Country Director – India, PATH. The discussion brought to the fore that the health of the nation is directly related to the economic performance of the country, hence there needs to be a continued focus on health, especially primary healthcare, that impacts the most vulnerable in the country. On the education front, education tech is now being used for teacher engagement which has seen a significant uptake since the pandemic. This has been a meaningful shift unlike the challenges with access to devices amongst children in rural areas. The idea of using partnerships and collaborations for greater impact and to augment the resources already out there was discussed.
Session 5: Disruption Through Innovation – Leapfrogging for Impact featured speakers Mr. Ankur Malhotra, Head, Government Relations, HPE, Mr. Manoj Kumar, Founder, Social Alpha, Ms. Ramona El Hamzaoui, Acting Mission Director, USAID/India and was moderated by Mr. Srikrishna Sridhar Murthy (Krishna), Co-Founder and CEO, Sattva Consulting. USAID showcased their initiative, REVIVE Alliance, founded by the Samhita-Collective Good Foundation to address challenges caused by unemployment and income gaps faced by workers in the informal economy through returnable grants. Since businesses have suffered during the last year, CSR spending would be impacted. Donors could look at credit, blended finance and loans as a medium of supporting challenges in communities. Participants were encouraged to leverage the start-up ecosystem for CSR and to be patient for results to come, adopting a more long-term view. How technology has supported healthcare solutions throughout the pandemic and a reminder to take advantage of the skills in a corporate were discussed.
The conference concluded with thoughts for the way forward from Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Ms. Kshitija Krishnaswamy, Co-Chairperson – CSR Committee, AMCHAM highlighting the need for AMCHAM to furth leverage the virtual world by holding more CSR modules with global speakers and continue to work toward ways to encourage collaboration between U.S. companies in CSR. Ms. Mamta Uppal, Membership and Events Manager, AMCHAM, thanked the partners for this event – Cisco (platinum partner) Accenture (gold partner), Honeywell and Medtronic (silver partners) and Sattva (knowledge partner). Ms. Valerie Swope, Program Coordinator, AMCHAM emceed the event.