|Through advocacy and philanthropy, corporations are capable of shaping public policy through CSR programs. / Photo by Olivier Le Moal via Shutterstock|
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business model or management concept that helps a company be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public as a whole. It is also sometimes referred to as corporate citizenship as firms are conscious of the kind of impact they are having on society, including environmental, social, and economic impact. While the health and economic issues surrounding the pandemic are widely discussed nowadays, CSR can be overlooked.
Noa Gafni, Rutgers Institute for Corporate Social Innovation’s Executive Director, shared that corporations often take a step back during a crisis but their role in the society continues to evolve and businesses nowadays are rising to the challenge. Through advocacy and philanthropy, corporations are capable of shaping public policy through CSR programs. They can use their resources to benefit society and develop profitable new services and products that will address the unmet needs of society.
Ways business leaders support society during the coronavirus crisis
There are crucial ways business leaders support society during the coronavirus crisis. One is by encouraging people’s mental wellness. Many firms, as well as local governments and states, recommend that people work from home if they can do so. The Centers for Disease Control have also recommended that all events and gatherings of more than 50 people are canceled for the next 2 months. Social distancing is important to reduce the spread of the virus but it also creates a negative impact on the emotional well-being of people. This is why corporations can come into play by supporting the physical and mental health of their employees and consumers.
American coffee company Starbucks, for instance, announced that it will be expanding the mental health benefits of all its employees. Such health benefits include 20 therapy sessions. Telecommunication firms have also signed a pledge with the Keep Americans Connected to make sure that people can still maintain access to connectivity.
Financial security of employees
The second way corporations are supporting society is through financial security. They commit to financially support their hourly employees, especially as factories and stores were closed or their hours of operations were reduced in response to the pandemic. Apparel company Lulumelon, which temporarily closed its stores, said it will continue to pay its employees their regular salary. Olive Garden, Apple, and Walmart are other corporations that have also updated their sick-leave policies so they can offer additional support and coverage for their vulnerable workers.
|The second way corporations are supporting society is through financial security. / Photo by Hadrian via Shutterstock|
Providing relief fund to SMEs
Large companies can also step out and support small businesses. Amazon is a good example of this as it has created a $5million relief fund to aid SMEs in Seattle, where its headquarter is located. Amazon referred to it as the Neighborhood Small Relief Fund to provide cash grants that SMEs need during the outbreak. It said that it will be directed to businesses that have less than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue. Meanwhile, Google has also pledged $1 million to organizations in Mountain View, impacted by the coronavirus.
How companies treat workers during a pandemic will define their brand for decades
Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban said via CNBC that how companies will treat their employees during a pandemic will define their brand for decades. “Not only is it a safety issue, but it’s also a business issue,” he said. Cuban has been reimbursing his employees who purchase coffee or lunch from local restaurants.
The billionaire’s comment comes soon after President Donald Trump’s push to reopen the economy possibly by April 12. Public health officials, on the other hand, warned that sending people back to work before the pandemic is under control will be problematic. Cuban said that he would rather “err on the side of caution” than rush things. He added that he will not tell people to go to work when he is uncertain. In the eyes of younger Americans, it would also be “unforgivable” to send their employees back to work “too quickly.” It is not just smart to take care of your workers but also good for your business.
World’s most socially responsible companies
A 2017 study involving 170,000 company ratings from respondents in 15 countries showed the most socially responsible companies. The study was compiled by Boston-based reputation management consulting firm Reputation Institute (RI).
The top company that emerged in the list is Lego with 74.4 RepTrak points. RepTrak means a complete Reputation Intelligence System that yields actionable and quantifiable insights. It likewise tracks the social responsibility reputations by focusing on the consumer perception of the firm’s governance, treatment of employees, and the company’s positive influence on the society, scoring each with the RepTrak pulse system. Lego tops the list as it introduced the Build the Change and Sustainable Materials Center and partnered with the World Wildlife Fund as part of its aim for sustainability.
The second company in rank is Microsoft with a 74.1 RepTrak CSR score. Its CSR activities focus on transforming education and providing free software for all students and teachers. The company’s co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates also have a reputation for social responsibility because of his work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The next company mentioned was search giant Google with a 73.9 CSR score. The study shows that its CEO Sundar Pichai has been speaking in public on issues he believes in, like countering the comments made by President Trump about Muslims. RI Chief Research Officer Stephen Hahn-Griffiths explained that how people evaluate firms has become more critical now than in the past because they have become more educated and familiar about the matter.
Other companies listed are Walt Disney Company (73.5 points), MW Group (71.5 points), Intel (71.1 points), Robert Bosch (71 points), Cisco Systems (71 points), Rolls-Royce Aerospace (70.7 points), and Colgate-Palmolive (70.4 points). In the 2016 survey, Samsung, Volkswagen, and Apple were also included in the most socially responsible companies but their CSR reputations receded.
Meanwhile, Benojo, an online platform for everyone's philanthropic needs, cited a study involving 22,000 investment professionals. While 77% of global respondents consider citizenship as important, only 18% believe it was a top priority reflected in the organization strategy, 26% said it is high on their list of priorities, and 56% said it is not their focus or not well-developed.
In the face of a pandemic, corporations play a significant role in the global efforts to help stop the spread of the virus. They can support the government to take action, focus on the well-being of their employees, or urgently fund community health networks and hospitals.