Philanthropy and CSR – What is the difference?

‘Charity’ and ‘Philanthropy’?

Charity, etymologically traces itself to the “Late Old English (in the sense ‘Christian love of one’s fellows’): from Old French charite, from Latin caritas, from carus ‘dear’”. Being a noun,  a ‘Charity’ essentially is “an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need”.

The legal basis on which such an organization can be constituted in India, is the Indian Trusts Act, 1882. Further regulation is under the Charitable and Religious Trusts Act, 1920 . With the legalese out of the way, lets get down to the brasstacks of the subject d’jour. 

Tracing its origins to the early 17th century: via late Latin from Greek philanthrōpia, from philanthrōpos ‘man-loving’, philanthropy, is defined as the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. 

Hinduism akin to and amongst other religions promotes the giving of alms to the needy which can be construed to be similar to the tenets of ‘philanthropy’ which is on a much larger scale. That said and done, to avoid any religious controversy, and to abide by the old military dictum of not discussing religion or politics , let it suffice to be stated that philanthropy is charity on a larger scale,  affecting larger populations, with a lot more resources at stake than an individual can bring forth.

Corporate Social Responsibility

As per the UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby  companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business  operations and interactions with their stakeholders. CSR is generally  understood as being the way through which a company achieves a balance  of economic, environmental and social imperatives (“Triple-Bottom-Line-  Approach”), while at the same time addressing the expectations of  shareholders and stakeholders. In this sense it is important to draw a  distinction between CSR, which can be a strategic business management  concept, and charity, sponsorships or philanthropy. Even though the  latter can also make a valuable contribution to poverty reduction, will  directly enhance the reputation of a company and strengthen its brand,  the concept of CSR clearly goes beyond that. The perspective taken is that for an organization to be sustainable, it must be financially secure, minimize (or ideally eliminate) its negative environmental impacts and act in conformity with societal expectations. 

The Companies Act, 2013, a successor to The Companies Act, 1956, made CSR compulsory. In India, CSR is compulsory for all companies- government or private or otherwise, provided they meet any one or more of the following fiscal criterions :

  • The net worth of the company should be Rupees 500 crores or more
  • The annual turnover of the company should be Rupees 1000 crores or more
  • Annual net profits of the company should be at least Rupees 5 crores.

It is mandatory that of the net profits earned by such a company as above, that at least 2 percent of these profits is spent on CSR related activities. 

Read this post for more info if required

Tata Motors – as an example of CSR

Not just dependent on the enforceable provisions of the Companies Act 2013, since many decades, Tata Motors has expressed its commitment to sustainable development, where business goes hand in hand with societal wellbeing and environmental consciousness. They have been running CSR programmes under various umbrella themes as follows:-

  • Aarogya – Health
  • Vidyadhanam – Education
  • Kaushalya – Employability or Skilling
  • Vasundhara – Environment
  • Amrutdhara – Drinking Water
  • Aadhaar – Community Development
  • Seva – Volunteering

Tata Trusts – as an example of Philanthropy

On recently becoming associated with the Tata Trusts as a Consultant / Tech Advisor for their various philanthropic health initiatives, it was an eye opener to realise the extent and depth of the philanthropic ideology of this Trust set up by the visionary Jamsetji Tata nearly 125 years ago!

Since its inception, Tata Trusts have played a pioneering role in transforming traditional ideas of charity and introducing the concept of philanthropy to make a real difference to communities.Through grant-making, direct implementation and co-partnership strategies, the Trusts support and drive innovation in the areas of healthcare and nutrition; water and sanitation; energy; education; rural livelihoods; natural resource management; urban poverty alleviation;  enhancing civil society and governance; media, arts, crafts and culture; and diversified employment. The Trusts engage with competent individuals and government bodies, international agencies and like-minded private sector organisations to nurture a self-sustaining eco-system that collectively works across all these areas.  (details are on their website )

Project Prayaas in Uttar Pradesh

Gorakhpur district lies in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, bordering Nepal, situated on banks of Rapti River. Gorakhpur and its surrounding region is mainly a rice growing area, with clay-ey soil and a very high water table, prone to flooding in the rainy season. This region is endemic for Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) amongst its peoples and there are many deaths due to AES every year.

Management of AES cases is done at Encephalitis Treatment Centres and the BRD  Medical College Hospital which remains the only tertiary care referral center for the entire Gorakhpur division (comprising Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Siddharth Nagar, Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur). Cases from Bihar and Nepal are also are referred to this hospital. A new AIIMS being constructed at a rapid pace in Gorakhpur, may enhance the quality of care presently available in the region. 

Besides the shortage of tertiary care services, there is poor accessibility to basic primary health care in the region, due to various intrinsic and extrinsic factors.  Hence, a combination of Primary Prevention and Secondary Prevention measures are considered to be the best approach in dealing with the paradigm. Facility strengthening and capacity building can proceed pari passu with the adoption of the Primary Health Care approach. 

The Tata Trusts have recently launched a ‘Best Practices’ demonstration program in one Block each of Gorakhpur and Siddarth Nagar Districts , to undertake a Primary Health Care based approach relying on strengthening and empowering the ASHA workers on ground.  

Through a judicious mix of on ground, hands on activities , centred around the pivotal role to be played by local communities, the Project has field workers “Cluster Coordinators” , interacting closely with ASHA workers at the peripheral echelon of the health care hierarchy, ascending upto the level of the PHC.

Mobile Medical Units, staffed by a Doctor, a Nurse, a Pharmacist and a Lab technician have also been envisaged and launched as an outreach component of the Project, in conjunction with the State Govt. At a recent launch of this MMU in end Sep, the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanathji , stated unequivocally, that his Govt is striving to ensure that basic healthcare reaches the villager, through incremental steps, and requires the assistance, participation and cooperation of all concerned persons to make the endeavour a success. 

Gorakhpur MMU launch
Hon’ble CM of UP flagging off Mobile Medical Unit van in Gorakhpur in end Sep 2018

Mobile Medical Unit – the role

Support to Mobile Medical Units (MMUs) under the National Health Mission (NHM),  is a key strategy to facilitate access to public health care particularly to people living in remote, difficult, under-served and unreached areas. The objective of this strategy is to take healthcare to the doorstep of populations, particularly rural, vulnerable and under-served areas.  It must be clearly known to all partners that the MMU is not meant to transfer patients and is not meant for emergency management of patients as it is not equipped and designed for such a role. The National Ambulance Service is to be contacted in case of emergencies. .

MMU services are envisaged to meet the technical and service quality standards for a Primary Health Centre through provision of a suggested package of services under 12 thematic areas-

  • Maternal Health,
  • Neonatal and Infant Health,
  • Child and Adolescent health,
  • Reproductive Health and Contraceptive Services,
  • Management of Chronic Communicable Diseases,
  • Management of Common Communicable Diseases & basic OPD care (acute simple illnesses),
  • Management of Common Non-Communicable Diseases,
  • Management of mental Illness,
  • Dental Care,
  • Eye Care/ENT Care,
  • Geriatric Care and
  • Emergency Medicine. 

You can have a look at the MMU Operational Guidelines here Mobile_Medical_Units NHM

Health Care Seeking Behaviour

Based on an assessment of the situation on ground , through a mix of Key Informant Interviews, Focused Group Discussions and general feedback, it is understood presently, that the health care seeking behaviour of the populace is the key area requiring to be focused upon. Essentially, people need to be sensitised to early recognition of illnesses (especially AES),  the need to seek treatment early, to seek treatment from appropriate sources and to not delay in such actions.

The pervasive influence of the media would be a major force multiplier , and needs to be suitably oriented, to ensure that appropriate coverage of future epidemics / outbreaks be done, along with highlighting of role in moulding societal behavioural responses. 

Gorakhpur media interview

The media are equally partners  and stakeholders in any campaign focussing on people at large, and need to appreciate their own potential and responsibilities and possibly seek technical support and advice from appropriate sources.



Published by Delta Zulu Consultancy

I am a Public Health Specialist with a passion for sustainable promotion of human co-existence with the environment! My areas of interest and expertise are Health Risk Communication and Community Engagement, Food Safety, Environmental Medicine and Mass Gathering Medicine. I believe in leveraging the power of technology to capture the imagination of people to inspire them to achieve their health potential, in a sustainable manner. I aspire to empower my partners and motivate stake holders to consistently seek 'work around' solutions, while hoping to achieve an utopian ideal balance.

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