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This article is written by Ananya V. Mehra, of Amity Law School, Noida, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


This article delves into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending within a group of prominent CSR-practicing companies in India. The article first establishes a pre-COVID-19 baseline of CSR practices in India, outlining prevailing norms. The article investigates shifts in CSR spending patterns following the COVID-19 pandemic, scrutinizing financial reports to identify changes in the overall CSR approach.

This work also explores the CSR initiatives employed by companies during the crisis, using a mix of quantitative data and qualitative insights to assess how CSR activities were rectified to address immediate challenges while aligning with long-term sustainability goals.

Lastly, the research examines the challenges and opportunities associated with CSR spending post-COVID-19 to provide a nuanced understanding of complexities companies face in sustaining and evolving their CSR commitments in the middle of such crises. The article’s outcomes contribute valuable insights to the discussion on CSR during a global crisis, offering practical implications for businesses, policymakers, and CSR practitioners to guide future strategies and foster resilience in the face of dynamic socio-economic challenges.


Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR Spending, COVID-19, CSR Strategies, Pandemic, CSR Patterns


The global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to public health, triggering widespread economic and social disruptions on a global scale. As nations struggled with the complex outcomes of the pandemic, businesses found themselves thrust into the forefront, compelled to navigate uncharted territories, adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, and re-evaluate CSR strategies. The pandemic has become a crucial test for corporations, demanding a reconsideration of their roles and responsibilities in the face of an unprecedented crisis.

Within the Indian context, where CSR has gained substantial importance as a key driver for sustainable development, the pandemic has inevitably left its mark on the allocation and implementation of CSR initiatives undertaken by leading companies committed to responsible practices. The socio-economic landscape, already intricate and complex, has been further complicated by the crisis of the pandemic, prompting businesses to modify their CSR approaches to address the emerging challenges and contribute effectively to societal well-being.

This research article delves into the connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and the CSR expenditures of prominent companies in India that have established themselves as leaders in CSR practices. The article embarks on a thorough examination of the evolving dynamics within corporate philanthropy, sustainability measures, and community engagement to provide a comprehensive understanding of how the pandemic has shaped the CSR landscape in the country. Beyond mere financial considerations, this article seeks to uncover the strategic responses adopted by these CSR leaders, shedding light on how they have navigated the complexities brought forth by the pandemic. Moreover, the article aims to unravel the intricate web of decisions made by these companies to address emerging challenges effectively, realign their CSR priorities, and contribute meaningfully to societal well-being amidst the unprecedented adversity posed by the pandemic.


The article aims to investigate the effects of the pandemic on CSR expenditures in prominent Indian companies. By establishing a pre-COVID-19 CSR baseline, analyzing the reports of these companies, and exploring adaptation strategies during the crisis, the study will examine the shifts in expenditure. This article will provide insights into the challenges and opportunities associated with post-COVID-19 CSR spending, offering helpful direction for businesses, policymakers, and CSR practitioners to shape future strategies in the face of dynamic socio-economic challenges.


CSR refers to the voluntary steps taken by businesses to contribute to societal and environmental well-being. In India, the legal framework for CSR has been in place since 2013, specifically mandated by Section 135 of the Companies Act. According to the provision of Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013, every Indian company with a net worth exceeding Rs 500 crore, a turnover equal to or surpassing Rs 1 crore, or a net profit of Rs 5 crore or more is mandated to establish a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) committee. Additionally, these qualifying companies are obligated to allocate a minimum of 2% of their total net profits towards initiatives falling under the ambit of CSR activities. [1]

In the pre-pandemic era, CSR endeavours in India predominantly centred around four key domains: health, education, rural development and environmental sustainability. These main areas were in alignment with both the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) and Schedule VII of the Companies Act 2013, which outlines the broad categories for CSR spending. As per findings from a report by Invest India, the cumulative expenditure on 105,358 CSR projects amounted to Rs. 71,277 Crores until the financial year 2019.[2]

Before the pandemic, various trends became evident within the CSR landscape. Companies underwent a significant shift in their approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), moving away from traditional philanthropy and compliance-driven efforts. Embracing a strategic, long-term perspective, organizations integrated CSR principles into their core values, aligning them with overall strategic objectives. This evolution involved collaborative partnerships with government bodies, non-profit organizations, local communities, and businesses, aiming to formulate impactful CSR programs beyond just philanthropy. This strategic integration marked an exit from isolated charitable acts, emphasizing sustained initiatives that addressed broader social and environmental challenges. The transformation underscored the interconnectedness between business success and societal well-being, promoting responsible practices for mutual long-term value creation.

The corporate field witnessed a transformative shift with the rise of collaborative Corporate Social Responsibility models, splitting from conventional methods. These innovative approaches included social enterprises, impact investing, public-private partnerships, and multi-stakeholder platforms, tackling complex issues through cooperation. Social enterprises balance profitability with social impact, integrating purpose into business models. Impact investing directs funds towards projects promising financial returns and positive social or environmental outcomes, fostering a responsible financial ecosystem. Public-private partnerships united businesses and government entities, leveraging combined resources for efficient solutions. Multi-stakeholder platforms facilitated collaborative decision-making, harnessing diverse strengths to comprehensively address societal challenges. These models aimed to create a holistic and impactful approach by combining the varied resources of government, civil society, academics, and businesses.

The infusion of technology and the reliance on digital platforms marked a transformative phase in CSR,  enhancing efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency. Technology expanded companies’ reach to remote communities, surpassing geographical limitations and broadening the positive impact of CSR programs. Technology also elevated transparency, facilitating real-time communication and reporting on CSR performance. Stakeholders gained timely insights into progress and outcomes, contributing to accountability and trust. This technological integration simplified processes, expanding the positive effects of CSR initiatives and contributing to a more effective and accountable corporate responsibility approach.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented numerous challenges and unique opportunities for Corporate Social Responsibility practices in India. The government expanded the scope of CSR initiatives to include COVID-19-related expenditures, addressing relief, prevention, research, and vaccination. Companies swiftly realigned CSR strategies, redirecting resources to support healthcare, frontline workers, and vulnerable communities. This quick response highlighted the adaptability of CSR-practicing entities during crises. Yet, questions arise about balancing immediate needs with long-term sustainability, pressing for a refined approach that aligns relief efforts with broader developmental goals. The post-pandemic era calls for anticipating societal, economic, and environmental shifts, prompting a modification of CSR strategies to meet evolving stakeholder expectations.


Based on the results from the web, the spending patterns on CSR by prominent Indian companies have undergone notable changes following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cumulative CSR spending of the leading 500 companies in India experienced a decline of 4% from the fiscal year 2019-20 to the fiscal year 2020-21. This decline was primarily attributed to the economic falloff and the widespread uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.[3]

Nevertheless, in the middle of the challenging circumstances brought about by the pandemic, certain companies opted to increase their CSR expenditures. Notably, Reliance Industries, HDFC Bank, Tata Consultancy Services, ONGC, and Tata Steel emerged as the foremost entities, ranking as the top five companies in terms of actual CSR spending during the financial year 2020-21.

These five companies collectively contributed to over a quarter (25%) of the entire CSR expenditure in India. The distribution of CSR spending exhibited variations across different sectors and states. The sectors including oil drilling, lubricants and petrochemicals, banking and finance, as well as computer software and IT, jointly accounted for over 50% of India’s total CSR funds. In terms of states, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Delhi collectively received almost a quarter (25%) of the nation’s total CSR funds.[4]

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was visible in the thematic areas of CSR spending. Health, education, and poverty alleviation emerged as the most prioritized sectors, collectively accumulating 65% of India’s total CSR funds.[5] The health sector experienced a noteworthy surge in CSR spending, driven by the urgent demand for medical equipment, supplies, and services. With the pandemic disrupting the learning processes of millions of students, the education sector also received heightened attention. Likewise, the poverty alleviation sector witnessed increased CSR spending, addressing the amplified vulnerability and hardship experienced by impoverished and marginalized communities due to the pandemic.

The manner in which CSR initiatives were carried out underwent a transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 47.3% of the CSR projects were implemented through intermediary bodies, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), trusts, and foundations. The shift towards utilizing implementing agencies was prompted by the impediments companies encountered in directly engaging with beneficiaries, a consequence of lockdowns and travel restrictions.[6] In this context, implementing agencies emerged as pivotal intermediaries, facilitating a vital connection between companies and the communities they sought to assist. Their role became instrumental in bridging the gap created by logistical challenges posed by the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of CSR investments in the less developed and marginalized regions of India. Approximately 5% of the effective CSR spending was directed towards aspirational districts, comprising the 112 districts identified by the government as the most economically and socially disadvantaged based on various indicators. Furthermore, about 2.4% of the actual CSR spending was earmarked for the northeast region, recognized as one of the most remote and isolated areas in India. This targeted allocation aimed to address the unique challenges and vulnerabilities faced by these regions during the pandemic.[7]


Several prominent companies in India strategically responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic, adjusting their business priorities to address and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.


Tata Sons, the parent company of Tata Motors, declared a financial commitment of Rs. 1000 crore to combat the challenges posed by COVID-19, including various related activities. This significant contribution was formally announced by N Chandrasekaran, the Chairman of Tata Sons. In this collective effort, Tata Sons collaborated with the Tata Trusts, an organization that has independently pledged Rs. 500 crores, to address the needs of affected communities by ensuring their protection and empowerment. The pledged Rs. 500 crores from Tata Trusts were allocated towards providing essential support for frontline medical personnel, including personal protective equipment and respiratory systems to manage the rising number of cases. Additionally, the trust procured more testing kits to increase per capita testing in India and establish modular treatment facilities for infected patients. The funds were also directed towards knowledge management and training initiatives for both health workers and the general public.[8]

Moreover, Tata Sons was actively involved in enhancing healthcare infrastructure by procuring additional ventilators for COVID-19 patients. Notably, the company also took measures to commence ventilator manufacturing within India, thereby contributing to the nation’s efforts to address the critical shortage of medical equipment during the ongoing pandemic. This multifaceted initiative highlights Tata Sons’ commitment to making a substantial impact in the fight against the pandemic.


Wipro Limited, a prominent global information technology, consulting, and business process services company, entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Maharashtra Government to establish a 450-bed intermediary care COVID-19 hospital within its information technology campus in Hinjewadi, Pune. This focus of this was on treating moderate cases and included 12 beds for stabilizing critical patients before transferring them to tertiary care facilities.

Wipro made contribution for the physical infrastructure, medical furniture, and equipment, along with appointing an administrator and essential support staff to ensure the rapid operationalization of the hospital with the necessary medical professionals.

In response to the unprecedented health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Wipro Ltd, Wipro Enterprises Ltd, and the Azim Premji Foundation collectively donated Rs. 1,125 crores. Beyond the hospital initiative, Wipro and the Azim Premji Foundation were actively engaged in humanitarian and healthcare relief efforts across various locations in Maharashtra, which served over 34 lakh beneficiaries nationwide.[9]


In the financial year that ended on March 31, 2022, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) allocated a substantial sum of Rs. 1,184.93 crores towards corporate social responsibility (CSR) endeavours. These initiatives encompassed critical areas such as oxygen delivery during the second wave of the pandemic, as well as contributions to education and healthcare. This marked an escalation from the Rs 1,140 crore spent in the preceding fiscal year.[10]

During the second wave of the pandemic, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) played a significant role in addressing the oxygen shortage in India. The company produced 1,000 tonnes of oxygen daily at its Jamnagar facility, RIL supplied it free of charge to 100,000 patients across different states. This contribution represented 11% of India’s total production of medical-grade liquid oxygen and positioned RIL as the country’s largest producer of this critical resource from a single location, despite not being a typical manufacturer of medical-grade liquid oxygen.[11]

Beyond oxygen production, RIL made notable contributions to India’s COVID-19 response. The company enhanced the country’s testing capabilities by developing its confirmatory tests, capable of conducting over 15,000 daily tests. RIL also established a 2,000-bed hospital dedicated to COVID-19 care, distributed more than 85 million meals, and provided 2.7 million litres of fuel for emergency response vehicles.

In the education sector, RIL initiated the Jio Institute campus in Ulwe, Navi Mumbai, spanning approximately 52 acres, with academic sessions scheduled to commence in 2022. Additionally, the company impacted 21.5 million youth and children through diverse sports initiatives since the foundation’s establishment.

As part of its rural initiatives, RIL created a water-harvesting capacity of 12.1 million cubic meters, ensuring irrigation for over 5,600 hectares of land for at least two cropping seasons. The company also supported 10,896 rural households in meeting their nutritional needs and provided training to 22,000 members of self-help groups.


ONGC, India’s leading company in crude oil and natural gas, holds the position of being the largest spender in Corporate Social Responsibility practice. ONGC dedicated Rs. 614 crores towards diverse CSR projects in 2018-19, focusing on areas such as healthcare, education, rural development, and environmental sustainability.[12] Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ONGC contributed Rs. 300 crores from its CSR funds to the PM CARES fund, complemented by its employees’ donation of two days’ salary, amounting to Rs. 16 crores, to the same fund.[13] The corporation contributed another Rs. 70 crores in the financial year 2021-22 to sustain medical equipment procured by Oil Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) during the two waves of the pandemic. [14]


The Infosys Foundation, the charitable and CSR division of Infosys, declared a commitment of Rs. 100 crores to aid the fight against COVID-19 in India. Rs. 50 crores of the commitment, was contributed to the PM CARES Fund. The funds were primarily allocated to three key areas:

  1. Expanding hospital capacity to accommodate and provide care for COVID-19 patients nationwide, particularly those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
  2. Supplying ventilators, testing kits, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and other protective gear for frontline healthcare workers.
  3. Ensuring improved access to food and nutrition for the underprivileged population facing the economic impact of the current situation.

The Infosys Foundation displayed its support by announcing the creation of a dedicated hospital in Bangalore for COVID-19 patients. Moreover, it facilitated the procurement of medical and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for multiple military and government hospitals across the nation. The Foundation is actively backing various NGOs engaged in providing food and hygiene kits to thousands of people in need.[15]


In the financial year 2020-21, HDFC Bank dedicated Rs. 634.91 crore to #Parivartan, its umbrella program encompassing all Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Out of this sum, more than Rs. 110 crore was specifically directed towards initiatives addressing Covid-19 relief.[16]

The leading private bank planned to establish 20 oxygen plants in different hospitals across India, along with three 100-bed COVID care facilities and two isolation centres. Additionally, it aimed to supply medical equipment and essential resources to over 200 hospitals nationwide. Collaborating with local authorities, the bank intended to identify suitable hospitals for the setup of oxygen plants and COVID care facilities.[17]

In its commitment to supporting education during the pandemic, HDFC Bank granted scholarships through the education crisis scholarship scheme to students impacted by the crisis. Furthermore, the bank distributed monthly rations to nearly 1.5 lakh individuals residing in villages.[18]


The global health crisis opened up new possibilities for CSR spending. Companies now have the chance to utilize their resources and expertise to support the COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts, while also addressing the impacts it had on various areas:

In the aftermath of COVID-19, CSR spending faces both challenges and opportunities:

Many companies experienced a decline in profitability and liquidity due to the pandemic, potentially limiting their capacity and willingness to invest in CSR.

The implementation and monitoring of CSR projects were disrupted by the pandemic, with NGOs and social enterprises facing operational and financial difficulties. Lockdowns and social distancing measures further hindered the delivery and evaluation of services.

The pandemic exposed weaknesses in the existing CSR framework, including a lack of coordination among stakeholders, insufficient innovation and scalability of CSR interventions, and inadequate impact assessment and reporting of outcomes.

Coming to the opportunities presented to the companies, had the chance to showcase their social responsibility and leadership by contributing to global and national efforts to combat the virus and its repercussions. The Indian government permitted the use of CSR funds for COVID-19-related activities, such as providing healthcare, sanitation, food, and livelihood support to affected populations.

The pandemic provided an opportunity for companies to reassess and redesign their CSR strategies with a more holistic and long-term perspective. Focus areas included pressing and emerging issues like health, education, environment, and digital inclusion.

Collaborative opportunities arose for companies to partner with various stakeholders such as the government, civil society, academia, and international organizations. By leveraging collective resources and expertise, these collaborations can create synergies and multiplier effects, enhancing the overall impact of CSR initiatives.


The COVID-19 pandemic had an appreciable impact on the CSR scenario in India and it could be seen from the CSR spending patterns of the companies mentioned in this article. The present scenario demands a strategic re-evaluation of CSR frameworks, emphasizing adaptability and resilience. It is vital for companies to not only address immediate pandemic-related needs but also recalibrate their CSR strategies to align with emerging societal challenges.

In this dynamic environment, where the significance of corporations in contributing to societal well-being has reached unparalleled levels, this article illuminates the critical value of adaptability and strategic foresight. The effects of COVID-19 on CSR expenditures act as a clear and urgent signal for companies to reassess and realign their dedication to social responsibility. This necessitates a deliberate effort to cultivate a future that is both sustainable and inclusive, prioritizing the well-being of the diverse communities the impact of these companies.


  1. Archana Koli, Rutvi Mehta, (2020), Corporate social responsibility practices in the times of COVID-19: A study of India’s BFSI sector, Down to Earth, (Accessed: January 8, 2024), https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/governance/corporate-social-responsibility-practices-in-the-times-of-covid-19-a-study-of-india-s-bfsi-sector-74583
  2. Dey, Pushpa, (2022), Corporate Social Responsibility on the decline: Why top Indian companies are going low on CSR expenditure?, Zee Business, (Accessed: January 11, 2024), https://www.zeebiz.com/companies/news-corporate-social-responsibility-on-the-decline-why-top-indian-companies-are-going-low-on-csr-expenditure-213085
  3. Madhukalya, Anwesha, (2021), India Inc to the Rescue! How Tata, RIL, Adani & others are Helping Fight COVID-19, Business Today, (Accessed: January 9, 2024), https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/economy-politics/story/india-inc-to-the-rescue-how-ril-tata-adani-others-are-helping-fight-covid-19-296456-2021-05-19
  4. Ray, S.K., (2020), Corporate Social Responsibility in Times of COVID-19 Pandemic, (Accessed: January 9, 2024), https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/corporate-social-responsibility-in-times-of-covid-19-pandemic/75771467
  5. Sidharth Choudhary, Vasundhara Singh, Anusha Bhagat, Shawn Bhalla, Shubhangi Thakur, (2020), Changing Landscape of CSR in India During COVID-19,  Invest India, (Accessed: January 10, 2024), https://www.investindia.gov.in/siru/changing-landscape-csr-india-during-covid-19
  6. How Indian companies are responding to COVID19, (Accessed: January 9, 2024), CSR Box, https://csrbox.org/how-Indian-companies-responding-COVID19
  7. Top CSR Contributions for Covid Relief in India, (2021), The CSR Journal, (Accessed: January 8, 2024), https://thecsrjournal.in/top-csr-contributions-for-covid-india/

[1] The Companies Act, 2013, Section 135, No. 18, Acts of Parliament, 2013 (India)

[2] Sidharth Choudhry, Vasundhara Singh, Anusha Bhagat, Shawn Bhalla, Shubhangi Thakur, The Changing Landscape of CSR in India During COVID-19, Invest India, (September 3, 2020), https://www.investindia.gov.in/siru/changing-landscape-csr-india-during-covid-19

[3] Pushpita Dey, Corporate Social Responsibility on the Decline: Why top Indian companies are going low on CSR expenditure? Zee Business, (December 16, 2022), https://www.zeebiz.com/companies/news-corporate-social-responsibility-on-the-decline-why-top-indian-companies-are-going-low-on-csr-expenditure-213085

[4] CSRBox, https://csrbox.org/media/CSRBOX-India-CSR-Outlook-Report-2022_Full-version.pdf, (last visited January 11, 2024)

[5] ibid

[6] CSRBox, https://csrbox.org/media/CSRBOX-India-CSR-Outlook-Report-2022_Full-version.pdf, (last visited January 11, 2024)

[7] ibid

[8] NDTV, Tata Sons Contributes Rs. 1000 Crore to Fight COVID-19, CSRBox, (March 30, 2020), https://csrbox.org/India_CSR_news_Tata-Sons-Contributes-%E2%82%B9-1000-Crore-To-Fight-COVID-19_572

[9] Philanthropy Amid Pandemic: Wipro to Set Up 450 Bed COVID-19 Hospital in Pune, CSRBox,

https://csrbox.org/Impact/description/India_CSR_news_Philanthropy-amid-pandemic–Wipro-to-set-up-450-bed-COVID-19-Hospital-in-Pune_670, (last visited January 11, 2024)

[10] Reliance Spends Rs 1,185 Cr on Corporate Social Responsibility in FY22, Business Standard, (May 30, 2022), https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/reliance-spends-rs-1-185-cr-on-corporate-social-responsibility-in-fy22-122052900166_1.html

[11] FE Bureau, Reliance Industries’ CSR Spend in FY22 at Rs 1,185 Crore, Financial Express, (May 30, 2022),  https://www.financialexpress.com/business/industry-reliance-industriess-csr-spend-in-fy22-at-rs-1185-crore-2541742/

[12] ONGC, The Economic Times, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/csr_ongc.cms, (last visited on January 11, 2024)

[13] COVID-19 pandemic: ONGC, IOC, other oil companies contribute over Rs 1,031 cr to PM CARES Fund, Financial Express, https://www.financialexpress.com/business/industry-covid-19-pandemic-ongc-ioc-other-oil-companies-contribute-over-rs-1031-cr-to-pm-cares-fund-1914954/, (last visited January 11, 2024)

[14] ONGC Contributes Rs 100 Crores to PM CARES Fund, PSU Watch, (March 31, 2023), https://psuwatch.com/csrwatch/ongc-contributes-rs-100-crores-to-pm-cares-fund

[15] Infosys Foundation Commits INR 100 Crore Towards COVID-19 Relief Efforts, Infosys, (March 30, 2020), https://www.infosys.com/newsroom/press-releases/2020/commits-100-crore-towards-covid-19.html

[16] HDFC Bank spends Rs 635 Cr, towards CSR including Covid relief in FY21, Business Standard, (July 8, 2021), https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/hdfc-bank-spends-rs-635-cr-towards-csr-including-covid-relief-in-fy21-121070801064_1.html

[17] Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): HDFC Bank to set up COVID care infrastructure, India CSR, (May 29, 2021), https://indiacsr.in/corporate-social-responsibility-csr-hdfc-bank-to-set-up-covid-care-infrastructure/

[18] ibid

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