AMCHAM’s CSR Committee organized the 5th CSR Conference: New Paradigms in Corporate Social Responsibility on May 18th-19th that highlighted best practices, deeper collaboration with the government’s development programs and explored synergies with all stakeholders in the CSR ecosystem. The conference began with a warm welcome to speakers and participants by Ms. Ranjana Khanna, Director General CEO, AMCHAM, who briefly highlighted the work U.S. companies have done across sectors in CSR throughout the pandemic. Mr. Sanjay Koul, Vice Chair and Chairman – Karnataka Chapter, AMCHAM and Chairman & Managing Director, Timken India, in his opening remarks, spoke about the CSR work in Karnataka and shared about AMCHAM’s 2022 CSR photo exhibition Together for Good. Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Managing Director & Chief Policy Officer, Cisco Systems India, set the scene and gave a session wise overview of the 2-day conference. In the keynote address, Ms. Uma Mahadevan, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, Government of Karnataka, shared about the initiatives and COVID relief work in her state and invited AMCHAM’s Karnataka Chapter to meet with her. Ms. Veena Reddy, Mission Director, USAID/India, in her special address, emphasized the commitment of American companies to harness the power of the private sector for development, discussed USAID initiatives in women’s empowerment and blended finance opportunities for health solutions, among others. Mr. Ankur Malhotra, Co-Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Head, Corporate Affairs & CSR, Hewlett Packard Enterprise India, made closing remarks and thanked the esteemed speakers.
Session 1: Reimagining Purpose: Walking the Talk, moderated by Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM, focused on how the pandemic has pushed organizations to reimagine their purpose and unlock new frontiers on both social as well as business value creation. Ms. Deeksha Vats, Chief Sustainability Officer, Aditya Birla Group and Ms. Mankiran Chowhan, VP for Enterprise Sales, Salesforce discussed the importance of sustainability and evolution of purpose within their own companies. The goal of enriching lives, inspiring trust, generational shifts in mentality and the desire for employees to work for a purpose driven organization were highlighted.
On May 19th, Session 2: CSR Opportunities in Climate Change & Environment was moderated by Mr. Sudeepto Deb, Partner – Sustainability and Business Advisory, Sattva with panelists Ms. Shradha Kapur, Engagement Lead, India Climate Collaborative, Ms. Juhi Gupta, Head of Sustainability, PepsiCo India and Mr. Deepak Krishnan, Associate Director, Energy, World Resources Institute (WRI) India. The discussion covered the role private sector can play in creating a sustainable future, the catalytic role CSR can play in setting high ESG standards, energy as an enabling factor to aid SDG goals and the ambitious climate targets corporates are making.
Session 3: Building Ecosystem Resilience: Beyond the Pandemic was moderated by Mr. Rathish Balakrishnan, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Sattva with Ms. Shama Karkal, CEO, Swasti and Trustee, Catalyst Foundation, Ms. Maneesha Chadha, Global Philanthropy, Asia Pacific, J.P. Morgan and Mr. Santanu Chakraborty, Director – Program Implementation & Humanitarian Response, Save the Children. Speakers shared learnings from the COVID crisis, how organizations have been able to adapt with agility, specific capabilities to build for future resilience, importance of digitization of civil society, how critical it is to define the end goal of a project and trusting in your partners.
Session 4: CSR Compliance Advisory: Form 2 and More was moderated by Mr. Pawan Kumar, Lead – CSR Advisory, Sattva with panelists Ms. Lavanya Shrinagesh, Global CSR and Diversity & Inclusion Leader, Genpact, Ms. Tanhieya Ghosh, Director | Legal & Compliance – India & Frontier Markets Plus, Medtronic, Mr. Nikhil Pant, CEO, REACHA (Former Chief Program Executive, National Foundation for CSR, IICA, MCA) and Ms. Bandana Jha, Vice President, Social Impact and Sustainability, Wells Fargo India & Philippines. With the amendments to the Companies Act, 2013 notified by the MCA in February 2022, via the Companies (Accounts) Amendment Rules 2022, this panel discussed the newly introduced Form CSR-2, its implications for unspent or unutilized funds, clarity on 5% admin overhead and best practices in budget planning, among other compliance challenges. Mr. Nikhil Pant shared a presentation on Analysis of Amendments to CSR Rules, January 2021, Form CSR 2 for Corporates & Role of NGOs in CSR Compliance.
Session 5: Scripting Impact at Scale: Government as a Partner began with a special address by Ms. Anna Roy, Senior Advisor, NITI Aayog, in which she shared about the Women Entrepreneurship Platform, a NITI flagship initiative that works towards developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women. She also talked about the importance of technology and digitalization to aid in CSR and the desire to have a rating system for NGOs. This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Smita Jacob, Head – Government Engagement & Partnerships, Sattva with speakers Mr. Madhukar Banuri, Founder & CEO, Leadership for Equity (LFE), Ms. Samar Bajaj, Director, India, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Ms. Manju Dhasmana, Director – CSR & Philanthropies, Microsoft India. The discussion revolved around benefits and challenges of working with the government, integrity and trust building, opportunities in outcome-based performance, best practices when choosing a Ministry to partner with and how to navigate through various politics.
The conference concluded with thoughts for the way forward from Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM highlighting the need for organizations and companies to be purpose driven. With climate change challenges globally, sustainability was no longer negotiable for corporates and all CSR projects would need a sustainability angle. Mr. Krishnan thanked the esteemed speakers and valuable partners for the conference: Sattva (knowledge partner), Cisco (gold partner), Salesforce (special partner) and Medtronic (silver partner). Ms. Valerie Swope, Program Coordinator, AMCHAM emceed the event. More than 135 people participated over both days.