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This article is written by Bharathi Priya S of 8th Semester of School of Excellence in Law, TNDALU, Chennai, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


Companies exhibit social responsibility to stakeholders through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), focusing on philanthropic efforts to enhance stakeholder welfare and address societal needs. The Companies Act of 2013 marked a pivotal shift, making it mandatory for certain Indian companies to spend on CSR activities. Since then, frequent amendments and clarifications have shaped CSR legislation. Examining the legal complexities, this article highlights alterations in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies during the last two years amid the pandemic, investigating the impact of these changes on the distribution of CSR funds. Notably, in the last two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, changes include allocating CSR funds to COVID-19 relief, carrying forward excess CSR expenditure, and granting 100% tax deduction for COVID-19-related activities. These alterations impact how companies allocate their CSR funds. This article not only explores the intricacies of relevant legal aspects but also illuminates the practical implications for prominent CSR companies in India. It delineates the strategic considerations and challenges confronted by companies while adjusting their CSR spending practices in response to the unparalleled circumstances arising from the global health crisis. Employing statistical data, the study analyzes the shifts in CSR trends over the past three years, particularly during the pandemic, shedding light on how companies have adapted their spending strategies and utilized funds for COVID-19 relief efforts. The article provides a comprehensive understanding of the dynamic interplay between legal obligations, statistical trends, and the practical challenges encountered by these companies in fulfilling their CSR commitments during the ongoing pandemic.


CSR, Covid 19, CSR Trends, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR Shift, Pandemic, CSR Spending, CSR Expenditure, Schedule VII, Regulations


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is viewed as a managerial concept in which companies aim to incorporate environmental and social considerations into their business operations and engagements with stakeholders. CSR is commonly perceived as the means by which a company attains a harmony between economic, environmental, and social objectives[1]. As defined by Philip Kotler and  Nancy Lee[2], CSR is characterized as a dedication to enhancing community welfare through voluntary business practices and the allocation of corporate resources. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) entails an ongoing commitment by businesses to act ethically and contribute to economic development while enhancing the well-being of their workforce, their families, the local community, and society as a whole. In simple words, CSR can be defined as a business model by which companies actively strive to contribute to societal welfare and economic development. The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in unprecedented challenges across global landscapes, profoundly impacting various sectors and prompting a reevaluation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. This article delves into the intricate dynamics surrounding the CSR expenditures of selected leading companies in India in the wake of the pandemic. As the corporate sector grapples with the profound and lasting effects of the health crisis, this article scrutinizes how these prominent companies have adapted their CSR spending strategies to align with the evolving socio-economic landscape.


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is reflected in of Section 135 the Companies Act,2013[3]. This section makes it obligatory for companies meeting specific criteria to adhere to CSR provisions in India. As outlined in Section 135(1), CSR requirements are applicable to any company that fulfills at least one of the following conditions in the preceding financial year:

– Net worth of Rs. 500 crore or more

– Turnover of Rs. 1000 crore or more

– Net profit of Rs. 5 crore or more

The Board of Directors of any company subject to CSR provisions must guarantee that the company allocates a minimum of 2% of its average net profits from the immediately preceding three financial years, in accordance with its CSR policy, in each financial year. In cases where a company has not completed three financial years since incorporation, it should spend 2% of its average net profits from the immediately preceding financial years as outlined in its CSR policy. The CSR committee of these companies is responsible for creating a CSR policy, outlining the planned activities and the corresponding expenditure. The committee is also tasked with ongoing monitoring of the company’s CSR policy. Subsequently, the CSR policy is presented for approval to the board of directors. The Schedule VII of the Act enumerates the list of activities that a company may include in its CSR policy. The activities viz,

  • Eradicating poverty, malnutrition and hunger;
  • Measures for promoting sanitation and healthcare;
  • promoting gender equality, empowering women;
  • setting up hostels for women and homes for orphans;
  • establishing old age homes, setting up day care centres;
  • Taking initiatives to alleviate disparities experienced by socially and economically disadvantaged groups;
  • Promoting environmental sustainability, protecting of flora and fauna, conserving natural resources and maintenance of soil, air and water quality;
  • protection of national heritage, art and culture;
  • Providing training to support the development of rural sports, Paralympic sports, and Olympic sports;
  • restoration of buildings and sites of historical importance and works of art;
  • setting up public libraries, etc.,

can be undertaken by a company in adherence to Section 135 of the Act. In addition to this, the legislative framework of CSR was further strengthened by the  Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Rules, 2014. This stipulates the rules relating to setting up of a CSR committee, CSR expenditure, CSR reporting, and display on the website.


The Government of India declared the novel coronavirus outbreak within the country as a “notified disaster”, allowing state governments to mobilize resources from the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF). Subsequent to this notification, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) clarified that utilizing funds for COVID-19 relief would be considered a permissible activity under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)[4]. Furthermore, the MCA recommended a liberal interpretation of the activities to capture the essence of those permitted under the Schedule.[5]

The scope of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities was expanded by an amendment to CSR norms on August 26, 2020, to encompass Research and Development endeavors concerning new drugs, vaccines, and medical devices related to the virus. As per the Gazette Notification, any R&D activity undertaken by companies focusing on countering the Covid response for the years 2020-2023 is considered a CSR activity, subject to specific conditions. These conditions stipulate that the activities must be conducted in collaboration with organizations mentioned under item (ix) of Schedule VII of the aforementioned Act. Furthermore, the details of these activities must be disclosed separately in the annual CSR report within the Board’s report.[6]

On January 22, 2021, the Ministry of Company Affairs issued a clarification regarding permissible Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending by companies. The clarification specified that utilizing company funds for public outreach programs and awareness campaigns aimed at promoting COVID-19 vaccination would be recognized as an eligible CSR activity.[7]

In response to the COVID-19 crisis and to provide aid to those affected, the government established the ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES). Additionally, Schedule VII underwent an amendment to include contributions to PM CARES as CSR, alongside the existing Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.[8]

On 22 April 2021, the MCA also issued another clarification on spending CSR funds for setting up makeshift hospitals and temporary COVID care facilities[9].

It was clarified that, according to Schedule VII (i) and (xii) of the Act, activities such as providing temporary COVID facilities and setting up makeshift hospitals are considered eligible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The MCA further outlined that spending CSR funds on the following activities would also be recognized[10]:

– Enhancing health infrastructure for COVID care

– Establishing facilities for medical oxygen generation and storage

– Supporting the supply and manufacturing of ventilators, cylinders, oxygen concentrators, and other medical equipment, or similar endeavors.


Indian companies played a significant role in supporting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been substantial backing from Indian enterprises for the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund. The following highlights some of the contributions made by major corporate entities towards combating the COVID-19 pandemic –

Tata Trusts and Tata Sons[11]

In the fiscal year 2018–19, the CSR of the Tata Trusts, namely the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Allied Trusts, was Rs. 10,944 million. In the same year, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and Allied Trusts made contributions totaling Rs. 4,107 million. The primary areas of interest were rural development, healthcare, and water, energy, education, culture, and the arts. Together, Tata Sons and Tata Trusts gave the COVID-19 crisis relief of Rs 1,500 crore. The Rs 500 crore donation from Tata Trusts will go toward the production of respiratory systems, testing kits, PPE, modular treatment facilities, and health worker training.


Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) expended Rs. 18.78 crores during the fiscal year 2018-19 from the sanctioned budget of Rs. 57.49 crores for that period. This allocation was utilized to support initiatives such as healthcare promotion, vocational skills enhancement for employment, education, entrepreneurship development, women empowerment, conservation of natural resources, and contributions to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. Furthermore, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, LIC allocated Rs. 105 crores to the PM CARES fund, including a Rs. 5 crore donations from the LIC’s Golden Jubilee Fund.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) [13]

RIL allocated Rs. 904 crores for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, focusing on rural transformation, environmental sustainability, disaster response, health, education, and sports for development. Additionally, RIL contributed Rs. 500 crores to PM CARES and Rs. 5 crore each to the Chief Minister’s funds in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Under the leadership of Mukesh Ambani, RIL established a 100-bed center at Seven Hills Hospital in Mumbai for COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, the Reliance Foundation is collaborating with NGOs to provide complimentary meals to individuals in need.


Wipro Group allocated a sum of Rs. 1853 crores towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The primary focus of their expenditure centered on community healthcare, education for underprivileged individuals, and initiatives related to ecology and environment. Additionally, Wipro Group and Azim Premji Foundation jointly committed Rs. 1,125 crores, expressing that these contributions would support and strengthen the dedicated medical and service professionals on the front lines of the battle against the pandemic. Within this commitment, Wipro pledged Rs. 100 crores, Wipro Enterprises committed Rs. 25 crores, and the Azim Premji Foundation pledged Rs. 1,000 crores.

L&T [14]

Larsen & Toubro allocated Rs. 122 crores for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the fiscal year 2018-19, emphasizing initiatives in health, education, skill development, water, and sanitation. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, L&T has earmarked Rs. 650 crores for assistance. This includes a commitment of Rs. 150 crores to the Prime Minister’s fund, and a monthly provision of Rs. 500 crores to support approximately 160,000 contract workers by ensuring the continued payment of their wages and providing essential food and amenities.

Contributions by Other Companies:

The HDFC Group[15], a financial services conglomerate, has pledged Rs 150 crore to the PM CARES fund to support the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts. Additionally, JSW Group, engaged in steel, cement, energy, and other sectors, as well as Bajaj Group, a leading automotive company, Infosys, a prominent IT giant, PhonePe, an online payments company, Torrent Group, operating in pharmaceuticals and power, Hero Cycles, a bicycle manufacturer, and the Adani Foundation, have all committed Rs 100 crore each to contribute to these initiatives. Paytm has committed Rs 500 crore, with the contribution directed towards the PM CARES fund. Canon India has launched an initiative benefiting approximately 12,000 daily wage workers and individuals below the poverty line. It supplies essentials and other necessities to its SOS villages in India. Steel Authority of India (SAIL) has committed Rs 30 crore.

The National Thermal Power Corporation of India (NTPC) has contributed Rs 257.5 crore, while SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited) has pledged Rs 30 crore. The Reliance Group has committed Rs 500 crore, and the Bharti Group has pledged over Rs 100 crore. PepsiCo India has not only provided meals to economically disadvantaged areas but has also supplied testing kits to diagnostic facilities. The company’s NGO partners, including Akshaya Patra Foundation, Smile Foundation, and Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), have collectively distributed more than 50 million meals and 25,000 Covid-19 testing kits across the country.[16]

NTPC has initiated various programs to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including the establishment of specific Covid-19 facilities in 45 hospitals and health units, totaling 140 beds. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, SAIL has mobilized a significant number of health services across all of its hospitals located in its five main integrated steel facilities.

[17](Source: Invest India)


In the pre-COVID fiscal year, companies predominantly focused on areas such as education, environmental sustainability, healthcare, and rural development. While this emphasis persisted in the post-COVID fiscal year, there was also an additional allocation towards Research and Development and disaster management, which was not observed in the pre-COVID fiscal year. This shift may be attributed to the urgent requirement for vaccine development and the necessity for a substantial contingency fund to address the impact of the COVID-19 disaster. These observations align with the hypothesis that CSR spending by companies in the post-COVID fiscal year is notably directed towards healthcare and sustainable development initiatives.

(Source: Sage Publications[18])

Three key policy changes were implemented regarding COVID-19 and CSR expenditure. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs clarified that CSR funds spent on COVID-19-related activities qualify as CSR expenditure. This includes expenses on preventive healthcare, sanitation, ex-gratia for temporary workers, and quarantine facilities. Additionally, excess spending can be claimed as CSR expenditure in subsequent years. Moreover, companies making donations for COVID-19 activities are eligible for a 100% tax deduction, offering a lucrative opportunity for tax benefits while fulfilling CSR obligations, particularly since tax deductions don’t apply to all CSR expenditures. These adjustments aim to incentivize corporate contributions to pandemic relief efforts.

Thus, It is evident that the companies have significantly shifted their CSR spending from education to healthcare in the post-COVID Financial Years, primarily due to the urgent need for medical resources to combat the pandemic, as evidenced by their contributions in various ways.


While numerous companies directed their attention to the healthcare sector and research and development during the pandemic, we can see that some companies allocated their CSR expenditures to activities associated with their core business areas. Companies like ONGC, Coal India Bharat Petroleum, Indian Oil and GAIL primarily involved in the energy and mining industry, have a higher CSR expenditure on environmental sustainability and healthcare. Despite shifting focus to healthcare due to COVID-19, these companies contribute more to environmental sustainability due to their high carbon emissions.

Public companies like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, SBI, and Bank of Baroda have allocated the highest CSR funds to rural development and education in FY 2020-2021. This is due to RBI guidelines requiring 25% of banking outlets to be opened in unbanked rural centers, and the growing demand for demand-oriented banking services in rural areas, incentivizing these companies to invest in rural areas. Companies like Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Tata Motors invest heavily in CSR activities to improve road safety and licensing systems.

As the CSR activities of companies are directly linked to the long-term business objectives of their respective industries, these companies continue to allocate a specific portion of their CSR funds to their core activities.


The COVID-19 pandemic presented several pressing challenges that affected Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in India.

The unforeseen economic downturn caused by the pandemic had repercussions on company operations, leading to financial constraints for businesses. Due to income losses and uncertainty about future revenues, corporations faced challenges in allocating funds for CSR initiatives.

Given the sudden and unprecedented nature of the pandemic, businesses were compelled to reevaluate and adjust their CSR priorities. Immediate relief efforts took precedence over long-term sustainable solutions, prompting the rapid adoption of strategies to address the most pressing needs.

The initial emphasis on addressing the healthcare crisis presented challenges for CSR projects. Companies had to redirect resources from other social causes to extend support for medical assistance, provide protective equipment, bolster healthcare infrastructure, and contribute to vaccine and treatment research.

Movement restrictions and disruptions in supply networks hindered the efficient delivery of assistance and aid to vulnerable populations. The logistical challenges impeded businesses from effectively transporting essential goods and services to the communities in need, causing delays in the implementation of CSR projects.

The unpredictability of the pandemic posed challenges for the planning and implementation of long-term CSR programs. Companies found themselves continually adjusting their strategies and reallocating resources in response to evolving circumstances, thereby facing increased difficulty in sustaining consistent and prolonged CSR activities.


In summary, the COVID-19 pandemic presented considerable hurdles for corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending in India amid economic uncertainties faced by companies. Nevertheless, the Indian government exhibited proactive responsiveness through regulatory adjustments that eased burdens on businesses. These changes not only granted essential flexibility but also spurred companies to prioritize and enhance their CSR initiatives. Adapting regulations to the evolving economic scenario, the government not only facilitated ongoing CSR spending but also emphasized its commitment to advancing socially responsible practices. Despite initial challenges, the revised regulations established an environment where corporations could navigate pandemic-induced difficulties and actively contribute to community welfare. The government’s strategic approach not only protected business interests but also emphasized the significance of corporate citizenship. Consequently, the impact of COVID-19 on CSR spending in India acted as a catalyst for positive transformation, instilling a renewed sense of responsibility among corporations and fostering sustained endeavors toward social and environmental well-being.


  1. Sage Publications, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09749292221093835 ( Last Visited on Jan 12, 2024)
  2. India CSR, https://indiacsr.in/india-csr-spending-report-2022-23/( Last Visited on Jan 12, 2024)
  3. Down To Earth, 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 ( Last Visited on Jan 12, 2024)
  4. Blog Ipleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/understanding-corporate-social-responsibility-covid-19 pandemic/#Role_of_%E2%80%98Invest_India%E2%80%99_in_coordinating_relief_response( Last Visited on Jan 12, 2024)
  5. Invest India, https://www.investindia.gov.in/siru/changing-landscape-csr-india-during-covid-19#:~:text=Following%20the%20notifcation%2C%20the%20Ministry,activities%20permitted%20under%20the%20Schedule ( Last Visited on Jan 12, 2024)
  6. Everfi, https://everfi.com/blog/community-engagement/corporate-social-responsibility-trends/ ( Last Visited on Jan 12, 2024)
  7. Good Era, https://www.goodera.com/blog/csr-and-covid-impact#:~:text=Organizations%20are%20now%20turning%20to,%2C%20volunteering%2C%20and%20sustainability%20initiatives ( Last Visited on Jan 12, 2024)
  8. Clear Tax, https://cleartax.in/s/important-relaxations-compliances-mca-amid-covid-pandemic ( Last Visited on Jan 12, 2024)
  9. Nileshbhsi M. Gamit, A Study on Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) and Covid-19 in India, 5, GAP, 48-50,(2022)
  10. Amit Kumar Thakur, CSR During Covid-19: Experience and Learnings , https://www.terlin.org
  11. Business Response to Covid-19 Through CSR, https;//iica.nic.in
  12. Dr. Preeti Pandey, Impact of CSR Initiatives in INDIA During Covid-19: An Analytical Study, https://www.jcreview.com

[1] UNITED NATIONS INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, https://www.unido.org/ (last visited Jan 6,2024).


[3] The Companies Act, 2013, Section 135, Acts of Parliament,2013(India)

[4] INTERNATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION, https://www.ibanet.org(last visited Jan 10, 2024)

[5] INVEST INDIA, https://www.investindia.gov.in (last visited Jan 10, 2024)

[6] BLOG.IPLEADERS, https://blog.ipleaders.in (last visited Jan 10, 2024)

[7] CLEAR TAX, https://cleartax.in (last visited Jan 11, 2024)

[8] DOWN TO EARTH, https://www.downtoearth.org.in (last visited Jan 11, 2024)

[9] THE HINDU BUSINESS LINE, https://www.thehindubusinessline.com  (last visited Jan 10, 2024)

[10] Mayashree Acharya, Important Relaxations in Compliances by MCA Amid COVID Pandemic, CLEAR TAX (Jan 10, 2024, 9:30 PM), https://cleartax.in

[11] Mr. Prasad Naik, Mr. Yash Babrekar, A Study on the Impact of Covid-19 on CSR Activities, 8 IJCRT, 2634-2636 (2020)

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Atchuta Sai Gowtham, The changing landscape of Corporate Social Responsibility in India Pre & Post Covid- 19, 5, IJFMR, 1, 5 (2023), https://www.ijfmr.com/papers/2023/6/10192.pdf

[17] https://www.investindia.gov.in/siru/changing-landscape-csr-india-during-covid-19

[18] Sakshi Agarwal & Varun Garg, An empirical Study on the Corporate Social Responsibility Regime in India: Pre Covid and Covid Times, Sage Publications, April 29, 2022, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09749292221093835

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