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How the Coronavirus Crisis Will Change CSR

Covid-19 will be an unwelcome guest in our lives for some time. The deaths will be a grim reminder of its gravity and economies will take a significant time to recover. Moreover, the political, social, and cultural impacts of the pandemic although difficult to currently gauge will certainly be profound. And it’s clear that as we move through this crisis and beyond UK charities working both at home and abroad will have increased needs and also, due to the halt of many fundraising activities, less money, even with the government’s support package. This means that those that can help will need to help more. How will the coronavirus crisis relate to businesses and their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities?

The origins of CSR, of course, go back to the beginning modern capitalism with smart bosses realising that treating their workers fairly would increase productivity but there has been a significant acceleration in CSR over the past few decades particularly with regards to supporting society as a whole. However, today is a key moment for CSR. Never before has there been such a need for CSR’s contribution yet such a difficult environment in which to deliver it.

There have recently been impressive examples of CSR in practice. Some firms have gone to great lengths to support their employees beyond the UK Government’s schemes. And many have given products and resources to help in the Covid-19 fight. But it’s a challenge for many businesses. If they are struggling for survival it may prove extremely difficult to even retain and pay staff let alone short term to look at the needs of others.

But things will move on. It’s simplistic to say that we have all been in this together but we will have been united against an enemy in a way that has not happened since World War Two. Society changed after that and it could happen again post Covid-19, with more empathy for those around us and some adjustment on what should be life’s priorities.

Business will reflect that with the pre-coronavirus trend towards CSR accelerating. Owners and executives have been impacted by the pandemic as have employees. This will generate more support for CSR as for potential recruits will the attraction of joining a socially responsible company. But the general public will be the key to encouraging business to do more CSR work. With people’s changed social perception the brand value of CSR will increase. Consequently more business will see it not as a peripheral activity but as a focus item when reporting on performance. And already we are seeing a huge growth in CSR-related activity featuring in businesses advertising and other communications.

So, in conclusion, in the short term there some big challenges for CSR but longer term, some real opportunities to play a bigger part in business and in society as a whole.

 

Peter McQuade

 

 

 

 

Article by Peter McQuade, MBE. Peter has spent most of his career as an executive in the software industry but alongside that, he has been actively involved in the charity sector for over 30 years receiving an MBE for this work in 2016. From 2013 to 2016 he was global head of CSR at Qlik and he now works as an independent CSR consultant.

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