Managing risk, adapting to new circumstances and redefining organizational goals are challenges faced by both small companies and international giants during the raging pandemic. We check if and how the initiatives of many companies can change the perception of corporate social responsibility.
The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the approach of many companies to areas of operation such as organization and work management. We already know today that some of the foundations of CSR in the so-called new normality are taking care of the mental health of employees, demonstrating a flexible approach to their needs, protection and safety.
Counteracting the effects of the crisis
Polish and foreign companies react to the crisis in two ways. The first is to counteract or mitigate the effects of the crisis, and to support local communities. The other comes down to responsibly shaping relations with clients and employees, including creating good sanitary practices or providing support to those who need it. #BiznesReagujeOdpowiedzialnie (#BusinessReactsResponsibly) is a campaign organized by the Responsible Business Forum, which promotes the involvement of entrepreneurship in the fight against the coronavirus. The initiatives cover a wide range of good practices, from promoting innovative solutions, through supporting the local community (PZU, TESCO Foundation), to helping people at risk of exclusion or volunteering for schools, uniformed services and healthcare. Examples that are worth following include financial aid from the Biedronka Foundation for senior citizens in need or the Leroy Merlin campaign “Pomagamy Bohaterom” (“We help heroes”), thanks to which hospitals in Białystok received disinfection devices and personal protective equipment.
International corporations have also offered help to fight the effects of the coronavirus. Apple, H&M, and Amazon have donated millions of masks to health professionals in the US and Europe, while Johnson & Johnson has given one million surgical masks, as well as goggles, protective suits, thermometers, and respirators to crisis-hit areas in China. The premium brand Louis Vuitton has adapted its factories to the production of hand sanitizers that have been sent to French hospitals.
Other examples of initiatives include the Restarting Together project – a joint initiative of twelve companies, such as Microsoft, Airbus and CEMEX. Its goal is to look for innovative start-ups supporting a return to the new normality after the pandemic. Restarting Together focuses on trying to restore basic socio-economic systems, helping the most affected, and developing strong communities which can overcome new challenges better. The numerous activities include:
- cybersecurity solutions, digital workplaces, e-commerce and digitization;
- smart cities, 4.0 Industry;
- online education (e.g. digital learning platforms), telehealth.
Project qualification requirements include, among others: short implementation time (up to 6 months), measurable social and economic effects, practicality and reachability of the goal.
How will CSR change after the pandemic?
The latest research by the Responsible Business Forum (carried out by: ARC Rynek i Opinia) shows that almost 80% of companies introduced various types of campaigns targeted at employees or customers. Many of these initiatives were focused on adapting workplaces to new requirements. The solutions also included psychological support for people in need. Employers’ efforts are positively assessed by 7 out of 10 respondents. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer report, as many as 49% of respondents believe that workplaces are better prepared to deal with the effects of coronavirus than the state (43% of responses). The vast majority of respondents (79%) also believe that companies take responsibility for their employees. The time of pandemic has clearly demonstrated the significant impact of good leadership on CSR. Socially responsible business allows building stronger relationships also with customers and the public. This is extremely important in times of crisis when social expectations are rising, especially in relation to big brands. A company that supports its employees and has actively helped during a crisis is appreciated by consumers, a fact which, in turn, favours the creation of a meaningful and lasting relationship.
The observation of CSR activities undertaken by companies around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic shows how the approach to corporate social responsibility is changing. Companies are increasingly getting more focused on direct support for the immediate community and initiatives to mitigate the effects of the crisis. It can be suspected that similar efforts will be repeated in the event of subsequent crises, more and more often caused by, for example, climate change, including floods, droughts and hurricanes. These optimistic predictions definitely outweigh the negative approach, and the most important question now is not “Should you invest in CSR?” but “How to invest in CSR?”.