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The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) During COVID-19

The pandemic has prompted businesses to intently reflect on organisational practices. It has also spurred businesses to become more community focused to support government action and mitigate negative repercussions. Everyone ...

The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) During COVID-19

The pandemic has prompted businesses to intently reflect on organisational practices. It has also spurred businesses to become more community focused to support government action and mitigate negative repercussions. Everyone has a responsibility to step up and do their part to quash the coronavirus.

Giving back to the community and doing right by people will not only help the community through the recovery period, but will inspire commitment, engagement and motivation within a workforce. This is why corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be high on every organisation’s agenda.

The importance of Corporate Social Responsibility during a crisis

As Aaron McEwan, VP of Advisory at Gartner points out, “How [organisations] respond [to coronavirus] could have enormous implications for their employer brand, corporate reputation and even their financial survival”. Therefore, business leaders must take this as an opportunity to make a positive impact and give back to the community.

A recent Havas Meaningful Brands Study looked at the consumer perception of brands during crisis. It found:[1]

  • 78% said that they will have a stronger affiliation to brands and businesses who go above and beyond
  • 78% believe brands need to adapt their business to help the greater good during the COVID-19 crisis
  • 66% have even gone as far as saying that they will abandon brands and businesses that only act in their own self-interest in the current environment

The above statistics clearly indicate that consumers think brands should play and active role in supporting people during this pandemic.

The 3 types of CSR

There are three main types of CSR: environmental, ethical and philanthropic. Examples of CSR include:

  • Engaging in charitable giving and community volunteering
  • Making socially and environmentally conscious investments
  • Improving labour policies and embracing fair trade
  • Changing corporate policies and introducing initiatives to benefit the environment (e.g. reducing carbon footprint or going “green”)

The role of CSR during COVID-19

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, CSR has become even more critical. Communities around Australia and New Zealand have been experiencing extreme hardship – with hospitals and foodbanks, for example, having a higher demand for supplies and assistance.

Corporations in Australia and New Zealand are doing what they can to help those in need. For example, Nestlé announced it will donate a minimum of $2 million worth of products including coffees, cereals, pet food and meal bases to be distributed through Foodbank Australia’s 2400 charity agencies to help those who are vulnerable. It was also reported that, as of 1 April, New Zealanders had raised $850,000 for The Salvation Army in response to a call for donations to accommodate the growing demand on its foodbanks.

There have also been reports of donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals, as well as support to non-profit services and charities who help those in need of mental health assistance, domestic violence support, etc. What’s more, many businesses – small and large – around Australia and New Zealand have reportedly been reducing the price of their products and services to alleviate some pressure on their customers.

How your business can help during COVID-19

The degree to which a business can “give back” during COVID-19 depends on their unique situation in a universally unique time. However, there is always something that can be done – big or small. Forbes[2] has identified some initial questions businesses can ask themselves:

  • Who are our core partners and how are they? Do we have the capacity to shift how we do things?
  • What major COVID-19 related concerns is my organisation positioned to solve? Do our products, brands, talent or services lend themselves to helpful engagement right now? If so, how can we best and most effectively deploy this value?
  • Is my labour force working at capacity? If not, is there a way to repurpose roles/teams to fill new needs and maintain productivity?
  • Can we offer help to the healthcare system?
  • Can we join forces with those doing similar work? Can we create new partnerships and collaborations to benefit the community?

Three ways to enhance your business’ CSR

Below are three ideas for enhancing your organisation’s commitment to CSR:

1. Support local businesses and local non-profits

The economic fallout from COVID-19 will affect communities for weeks and months to come. Therefore, it’s important that communities club together to keep each other afloat. Instead of investing financially in large corporations, businesses should, where they can, give their business to those smaller and/or struggling. They should also invest in local non-profits who are responding to COVID-19 but don’t have the capability to fundraise on a larger scale, and therefore are receiving fewer charitable donations. By receiving cash donations, local non-profits can purchase goods and services that will best serve the community’s unique needs.

2. Give attention to mental wellness

The repercussions of COVID-19 have had negative impacts on the mental wellbeing of many Australians and New Zealanders – accelerated mostly by social distancing and working remotely. Business leaders should do what they can to extend support to their employees through an employee assistance program (EAP) and partner with other charities and support services.
Financial stress may also be impacting employee health and wellbeing, so businesses should look at ways they can offer support or financial relief to staff. This could be in the form of childcare assistance or offering more paid leave so that employees can care for dependents at home.

Read our 5 tips for dealing with COVID-19 anxiety.

3. Virtual volunteering

In-person volunteering isn’t possible right now, but there are ways remote employees can “give back”, even when sat at their desks. Businesses leaders should look to connect employees with not-for-profits that are making a positive impact around the world, and that align with their own values. GlobalGivingTime is an online virtual volunteering platform that connects businesses with not for profits around the world. Points of Light is another non-profit, nonpartisan global network that connects volunteer-mobilising organisations around the world.

By increasing your contribution to the community, you will not only encourage positive change in relation to the pandemic recovery, but you will also inspire commitment and engagement within your workforce.

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[1]“Is there a new post-crisis era for brands? The research says yes”, Dynamic Business, 2020

[2]“The power of purpose: how CSR should be acting like first responders to tackle coronavirus”, Forbes, March 2020