COVID-19 is changing the face of CSR – here’s how
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt global business in many ways. And as companies adjust to new relationships with customers, stakeholders and consumers, priorities are changing. COVID -19 is changing the face of CSR in particular.
Corporate CSR strategies and outputs are under the microscope in an unprecedented way. And the global crisis should be considered a wake-up call for corporates to review their relationship with society. This period of adjustment and change will have long-term repercussions for CSR.
5 ways COVID-19 is changing the face of CSR
Times of crisis are catalysts for profound change and there’s no doubt that the global pandemic will fundamentally alter expectations from CSR strategies, as well as corporate output. While we wait for the immediate crisis to pass, we can already see how COVID-19 is changing the face of CSR and the importance of CSR:
- Corporate citizenship means adding true value
Corporate citizenship involves being socially responsible. It includes the extent to which a company meets their economic, ethical and legal responsibilities. Corporations must add value to the communities around them. It’s no longer enough to coast by on basic ethical responsibilities. To be a successful corporal citizen in the COVID-19 era, it’s vital to demonstrate active commitment to ethical behaviour.
By balancing the needs of the environment, community and stakeholders will shift companies to higher levels of corporate citizenship. While CSR is often seen as a strategy by companies large enough to give back to the community, small businesses can strengthen their engagement and ties to the community as well.
COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the efforts of businesses of all sizes to pivot from their usual business practice to directly help the community. From delivering food to vulnerable people to joining national programmes to increase PPE, businesses of every size have been rising to the challenges presented by the pandemic. And these foundations will be built upon when the pandemic has passed.
While corporate citizenship plays a strong role in sales growth and expanding into different markets, developing a wider CSR strategy initiates a symbiotic relationship between corporation and the surrounding community. Coronavirus is pushing businesses to their limits, but also demonstrating what can be done.
- Investors, stakeholders and consumers have higher expectations
Partly due to a renewed collective sense of community and the importance of helping one another, and partly because of the successful initiatives enacted by companies during the pandemic to help people, expectations have risen across the board.
Investors and stakeholders are now seeing the results of strong CSR policies that add tangible value. And this expectation will continue to rise. COVID-19 has reminded the world that business is about people. And while it’s next to impossible to please every stakeholder 100% of the time, it is possible to demonstrate your efforts to do so.
- Transparency and empathy are needed to build trust
Honest communication and an open CSR strategy will do more to build trust than just about anything else. People don’t expect perfection, but they do expect to be told how businesses are working towards helping people, the community and the environment.
COVID-19 shows us what companies can achieve outside of the normal expectations. It also shows what happens when corporations deny their human face. There is much discussion over businesses that are considered to have responded to the crisis badly – and those judged to be doing well. The point is people, including stakeholders, are watching and taking notes.
Consumer confidence is key to success and the pandemic is underlining the fact that what corporations do and say matters beyond the bottom line. Consistent, open and honest communication will help to build trust throughout the pandemic and beyond. Corporations must demonstrate a willingness to keep two-way communication flowing.
- CSR now begins at home
While CSR has traditionally been perceived as a strategy specifically contrived for investors, stakeholders and customers. COVID-19 has flipped the script and focused on employees too. Responsible and socially responsible companies are looking after their employees first and foremost.
Ensuring employee health and wellbeing is looked after then leads to authentic outreach to the community. Particularly in times of crisis, you can’t have one without the other. This expansion of CSR is now the new normal, as companies realise the holistic relationship between corporate success and employee wellbeing.
- CSR strategies are being rewritten
If there’s one positive we can take away from this pandemic, it’s that the world is now focused on what really matters. Physical and mental health is at the heart of every community, whether local, national or international. People need access to essential supplies in times of crisis and a strong infrastructure of support. Corporations have shown how important they are in linking communities, facilitating Governmental policies, delivering supplies, feeding people, getting medical supplies to people and overall ensuring that as many people as possible are kept safe.
Governments may make the policy, but corporations deliver the goods, services and assistance people need. We can expect to see formal CSR strategies shifting focus towards embodying these holistic principles. The world is waking up to how much we all depend on each other and corporations are at the heart of this.