Corporate social responsibility in the age of Covid-19 - Why CSR matters now more than ever

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In the 21st century, companies and their management are not solely accountable based on profit. There are other metrics that determine how well a corporation fares in relation to its local community and other stakeholders — collectively referred to as corporate social responsibility. This is more than just showing vocal support for the common good. CSR has become an intrinsic part of the process of providing shareholders with value and profit. In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is particularly important. With that in mind, we’ll examine the role of corporate social responsibility in the current pandemic.

COVID-19 Crisis

The crisis surrounding the coronavirus pandemic is still raging, and its effects may be felt deep into the next decade. There is no way of creating a complete account of how COVID-19 has influenced the global economy and created socio-economic instabilities. All the sectors and industries have felt blows due to this paradigm shift, from web-focused firms like WP Full Care to analog logistics companies.

As the weeks of full lockdown seem to be behind us for now, we can begin evaluating the impact of the pandemic on people’s professional and personal lives. For many, both have come to an abrupt halt. Authorities are attempting to slow down the spread of the pandemic, but the quarantine measures required in many areas have completely halted the economy.

Untested Waters for CSR

Before this situation, most CSR challenges only affected only the underprivileged section of the society. But this is something on a scale hitherto unknown to the world economy. We cannot name any kind of national economy, industry, or specific business that managed to stay unchanged in the wake of this pandemic.

There are two types of issues that surround all kinds of businesses these days — long-term problems like revenue streams for the rest of the year, and short-term problems that can be solved using the principles of CSR.

Even the most globalized businesses have to be based somewhere and they always have different franchises around the world. Being in touch with your local population is important for a company — it’s the corporate equivalent of being in good relations with your neighbors. That’s why companies always strive to show their concern for the community through fundraisers, weighing in on local politics, financing community outreach programs, educational incentives, etc.

Local governments often employ a variety of schemes to combat poverty and unemployment, but businesses can help with those as well, particularly in the COVID-19 age. Plenty of people have lost their jobs, the current numbers ranging in the tens of millions in the United States alone. This calls for cooperation between businesses and policymakers in an effort to allow easy prequalification and transitioning to new jobs.

There is no time like the present to utilize CSR values to soothe general anxiety and economic uncertainty. Corporate social responsibility is there to give corporate entities a human face people can relate to and interact with. And these corporations must radiate an understanding for the situation many people have found themselves in — empathy is the word of the day. Providing financial assistance and moral support to people who are in need is not only good for PR, it’s a duty.

The COVID-19 situation has basically dislocated everyone’s lives, and CSR values in the corporate world are something that could be an asset to everyone, from consumers, employees and CEOs to the general public who are facing the wrath of this pandemic.

CSR During COVID-19

While verbally upholding the principles of CSR during the pandemic is all well and good, there are still some practical points to keep in mind. Most businesses are struggling to cope with the impact the coronavirus has had on both their target audience and employees. Both of these groups tend to react with high sensitivity when brands undertake even the slightest action.

CSR is there to assist brands in showcasing their social accountability. This has become a focal point for both the community in general and particular stakeholders. At the same time, brands need to maintain a certain level of business performance in an extremely difficult time period.

The corporate milestones set by companies in this time need to include measures that focus on giving back to the community that supports them. For instance, working only with local suppliers is a good way to inject some economic activity into the community. Also, helping similar businesses create a mutual network is bound to create new jobs for the locals. Plus, contributing community service hours is also a very practical and visible way to show your care for the community.

Finally, one of the best ways a business can positively impact the local community is to increase the local quality of life. Of course, hiring from among the locals is the most direct way to do that and provide them with a livelihood — but investing in local education is also an excellent avenue towards such a goal. For instance, a college program for a company’s employees is an excellent choice, or donations to the local schools.

Focus on Employees

Very often, businesses wrongly focus entirely on CSR in relation to their target audience. However, CSR isn’t all about external marketing. Social responsibility, just like most good practices in business and in life, starts right at your doorstep. With that in mind, every business should try to prioritize their employees.

Firstly, the health, security, and general comfort of a business’ employees should be the number one priority at this time. Seeing as a global pandemic is underway, absolutely everyone is in danger, regardless of their company or job position. Safety measures like screen doors and disinfectant solutions are the most basic things one can do for the safety of their staff, and the people they come in contact with.

Naturally, the particulars here differ from workplace to workplace, and depend on the sector that we’re talking about as well. While the tactics differ, however, the strategy remains the same — making the workplace safe for all of the employees with every possible precaution.

Employees need to have an increased level of flexibility while they complete their work assignments. You have probably seen many businesses shift to a remote, work-from-home organizational structure in the past couple of months, particularly among professionals in the IT sector. Obviously, not every workplace is susceptible to such a change. If that is the case, then workplace precautions become more important than ever.

CSR and Consumers

Now that we’ve examined how brands should uphold CSR values when dealing with their own staff, it’s time to look outwards as well. As you might imagine, this crisis is both a PR nightmare and an opportunity for brand definition. However you look at it, it’s definitely an extremely precise balancing act, especially if we’re talking about brand management for a huge company.

In this period, it should be noted that customers seek one thing above all else — reassurance. If you’re a supplier (or in the vertical chain) of primary household goods or medical supplies, you’ll have experienced a surge in demand. That being said now is not the time to be looking to make the biggest possible profits — it’s time to give something back. Product and service providers should aim to give their customers the most value for their money, while still remaining financially afloat.

Most importantly than everything else, though, self-promotion should be avoided at all costs in this period. People will, with good reason, look unfavorably at attempts to curb the competition and advance your brand at anyone’s expense. The optics involved with promotion in the current state of affairs would likely do more harm than good.