Adapting Corporate CSR Efforts Amidst a Pandemic.

Not being able to have close human interaction changed most companies’ operations, including Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts. Volunteering and charitable giving have both been negatively affected by COVID-19 and the resulting recession.  Many companies are left wondering how to adapt their CSR efforts to be effective. CSR can’t just be a stunt to improve a company’s image—it has become a cornerstone for businesses’ reputations and culture.  Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate CSR efforts have been thrust into the spotlight. A Just Capital survey found that three in four Americans “will long remember the companies that took missteps in their response to the pandemic,” and four in five said they will remember “those that did the right thing by their workers by ensuring their health and safety or doing their best to avoid layoffs.” Another survey by Twilio found that one out of every three people appreciates companies that are community-minded and are taking charitable action in response to COVID-19.  We may currently be in a contactless world, but companies can still touch people’s lives with their CSR efforts—and, if these surveys are to be believed, that will be the new expectation. In the last year, we have seen countless companies pivot to support their stakeholders amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Bacardi converted its factory in Puerto Rico to make ethanol for hand sanitizer. The company produced more than 1.7 million 10-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer which were distributed to nurses, nonprofits, and frontline workers. Bacardi is also assisting the food and drink industry, which has been devastated by the virus, giving away more than $3 million through its #RaiseYourSpirits campaign. 
  • Since the pandemic began, Dropbox shifted its CSR efforts to online initiatives, focused on virtual career guidance, virtually engaging with those struggling with loneliness, supporting school partnerships, and giving opportunities to students. Dropbox joined the COVID-19 Tech Collaborative along with other Bay Area companies and distributed $22 million in donations to companies on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. 
These companies both demonstrated effective ways to adapt CSR efforts with resources that were readily available.   Why Does This Matter?  It’s clear that companies need to maintain a CSR presence. The public will notice businesses that have adapted their priorities during the pandemic and gone above and beyond to serve their stakeholders. In presenting these innovative and unique initiatives, companies exude authenticity to their audiences. Now more than ever, customers are closely watching companies to see how they respond to COVID-19 and what they are doing to assist in the hardships the world is facing.  The Takeaway  With this “new normal” sticking around longer than anyone anticipated, companies have to adapt and shift their CSR goals. So, what can your company do?
  1. Integrate CSR into key operations and measure and monitor impact. Adapting your company's CSR efforts does not have to be an outside-of-the-box idea—Bacardi just took resources it already had and shifted them towards a COVID-19-relevant initiative. So, evaluate your company's resources and find a way to shift them towards a COVID-19 initiative related to your brand. 
  2. Build external partnerships with companies and/or nonprofits that advance or even expand on your CSR goals. Dropbox teamed up with 25 other businesses and nonprofits, which amplified its efforts, reaching more people and raising more money. 
  3. Be transparent about your internal efforts and set goals for employees to reach. Employees are the backbone of successful CSR initiatives. Get them engaged from the outset. 


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