By Anna Morris
Research shows that people truly begin to understand a company’s values when decisions are made to sacrifice short-term profitability in favor of demonstrating or prioritizing values. In the early months of 2020, we got to witness companies across industries respond in different ways to COVID-19, each in alignment with their principles.
PepsiCo provided extra pay to front-line workers; Aflac donated money to organizations that were providing assistance for healthcare workers; and Delta Air Lines put multiple precautions in place to protect its employees.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be challenging under normal circumstances. But when consumers, employees and stakeholders everywhere begin to look to companies for a response in times of crisis, there is no better time to lean into your organization’s values and embrace CSR.
Here are four key reminders for evolving your CSR program:
Whether your company has an existing CSR strategy or not, it’s important for any CSR playbook to pivot and adapt to new needs in times of crisis. If a situation like the pandemic reveals holes in your strategy, use that opportunity to reevaluate. However, be careful that CSR efforts are in line with your broader company mission and remain mindful of acting simply for the sake of optics.
Reevaluate your employees’ needs
Employees should always be considered when creating a CSR strategy; the COVID-19 era has proven this tenfold. In the 2020 Aflac CSR Survey, employee health and safety ranked as a top operational priority. CSR efforts that already support employees can easily be expanded to address added concerns brought on by a crisis. Frequent check-ins with employees – whether during a pandemic or not – are an effective way to determine blind spots in CSR strategy and can uncover ways a company can better support its people.
It’s also worth noting that, in addition to COVID-19, the calls for social justice in 2020 have caused companies to reexamine their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, presenting another opportunity to evolve existing CSR plans. However, talking about solutions is not enough. Companies must act on their commitments.
Consider your community
During a crisis, leaders should pause to consider how the greater community is being impacted, and what’s more – what can they do about it? Companies like Cargill took care of both their employees and their community, first by paying workers’ and suppliers’ wages and setting up crisis support, then by committing $35 million to COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts through global and regional partnerships, product donations and employee donations.
Plan for the future
CSR efforts have certainly found the spotlight this year, but they remain critical regardless of crises at hand. With 91.4% of respondents saying they would buy from a company with an excellent CSR program and 84.3% of respondents saying they would give companies with excellent CSR programs the benefit of the doubt in the event of a crisis, it’s safe to say that a company’s reputation is at stake when CSR strategy is involved.
The pandemic has required companies to think outside of the box, resulting in new, creative and innovative ideas. Businesses that have taken this time to align their priorities and values are better positioned for a successful future.
With 49% of Americans believing that it’s very important for a company to make the world a better place (versus 37% believing it’s important for companies to make money for its shareholders), 2020 – among all its challenges – has provided an opportunity to prioritize doing good.
Interested in talking more about ways to evolve and strengthen your CSR strategy? Contact our team of experts today.