How CSR Professionals Can Use the Crisis To Prepare For A Better Future?
Before the pandemic, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was already transforming from being viewed by leaders as their PR mechanism, operating as a somewhat separate entity, to being ‘the right thing to do’ and operating more in integration with the rest of the organisation. Covid-19 has accelerated this shift profoundly, perhaps so much so that this new paradigm will become non-negotiable post Covid-19 for all businesses.
Three skills CSR professionals should look to hone to capitalise and prepare for the future:
For many, the world on pause has finally given the space and time to reflect on their lives, leading to self-realisations and re-adjustment of priorities. CSR professionals should take this time to do the same, for their teams, processes, projects and policies. Ask important questions like ‘Are we clear on why we run these projects?’, ‘Do our policies still make sense?’ and ‘Do we believe in our values?’.
With busy work schedules, reflection can often fall down a priority list and remain as an abstract idea, but done properly, it can bring about insights and perspectives that may otherwise not have come to fruition. As you reset, perhaps reflection is something that should now be embedded into your culture and periodically allocated proper time in your work calendar.
Covid-19 has forced many organisations to quickly re-imagine their policies, how their employees work, how products and services are delivered, and how resources can be re-purposed. With examples like Louis Vuitton using its perfume production line to make hand sanitisers, we’re witnessing the scope of possibility through re-imaging. For every area of their work, CSR professionals should ask ‘Can we make this better by re-imagining it?’. For example, rather than requiring employees to take days off in block and with notice, could 50% of time off be authorised at the last minute when an employee feels like they need a break, whether this is a few hours or a few days? Could a policy like this improve productivity and help reduce burn-out?
In turn, reducing doctor visits and demand on mental health charities? Covid-19 has highlighted how interconnected we all are and how problems in one area can impact us all. So perhaps CSR needs to take a wider approach and see if they can design initiatives in a way that also help to address the problems charities and governments are trying to solve. Today presents a fantastic opportunity to create and get buy-in for ideas that previously may have been constrained by former policies or mindsets.
Quoting the Dalai Lama, ‘When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new’. The pandemic has humbled many of us in realising that we don’t have all the answers. Years of expertise and experience that many decisions would normally be reliant on, have in many instances become redundant. But it’s through the act of coming together, whether it be countries, companies, or communities, and really listening to each other that solutions are being achieved.
How could you as a CSR professional listen better? For example, if you have a grant-making division, rather than setting the terms of the working relationship with your beneficiaries in isolation, and requesting them to report on KPIs you have set, perhaps ask them these questions first, ‘Do you have suggestions on how best we can work together?’, ‘What data do you already collect and analyse?’. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.
Article by Rupal Shah, Head of Philanthropy at DVS Foundation, part of the DVS Property Group