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Corporate social responsibility: At the helm of the fight against COVID-19

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Added 5th May 2020 08:19 PM

Private entities and persons have spearheaded philanthropic efforts through monetary and “in-kind” contributions in the form of necessary household supplies, motor vehicles, and equipment.

Corporate social responsibility: At the helm of the fight against COVID-19

Private entities and persons have spearheaded philanthropic efforts through monetary and “in-kind” contributions in the form of necessary household supplies, motor vehicles, and equipment.

By Grace Nanyonjo

The World Health Organization declared Corona Virus a Global Pandemic in early March of this year. Uganda reported its first COVID-19 case shortly thereafter upon which the cases have gradually increased to a sizeable number of victims. The silver lining is that a fraction of the people with the reported cases has since recovered while the rest are in stable condition.   

Henceforth the private business community, in collaboration with the government combined forces to combat this pandemic through the National COVID-19 Task Force.  The government subsequently launched a fundraising drive aimed at obtaining resources from different entities to aid in the fight against COVID-19.

This national cause has been championed by companies, traditional institutions, individuals, and investors in a joint effort towards the humanitarian programs that aim to address the health crisis created by the pandemic, as well as responding to the social demands of the community.

Private entities are not only motivated by the need to foster business continuity during these challenging times. It is also a clear manifestation that they are readily willing to respond to societal needs. Private entities and persons have spearheaded philanthropic efforts through monetary and "in-kind" contributions in the form of necessary household supplies, motor vehicles, and equipment. These are essentially needed by the community and government so as to navigate through this crisis.

Entities have also put in place measures to guarantee the safety of their employees and other stakeholders during this time. These range from providing protective wear for work purposes and limiting personal interactions by ensuring only essential staff report to work.

Implementation of social distancing by permitting employees to work remotely from home is the new normal. Entities have now resorted to using of video conferencing tools to have meetings and track the daily work tasks. Employers have also devised a means to address the employee's expectations during the crisis.

The mechanisms through which entities voluntarily respond to societal causes can be referred to as corporate social responsibility. Corporate Social Responsibility has been defined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as the continuing commitment of a business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.

Entities with robust corporate social responsibility policies are building a positive image for their businesses within the community while at the same time increasing their brand presence on the market.

These organizations from time to time give back to society through corporate philanthropy.

This has become the characteristic of the National COVID-19 Response Taskforce, as many entities have made myriad contributions to the cause. The contributions entail money and equipment to render assistance to the Ministry of Health towards fighting the pandemic. And also includes household supplies to the vulnerable, in addition to persons marginalized by the measures put in place to curtail the rapid spread of the virus.

 Manufacturing Companies have also prioritized the production of protective wear, ventilators, and oxygen equipment; that is pertinent towards the fight against COVID- 19.

It is an assurance to the society that these entities engaging in this noble cause understand the day to day challenges the common person is faced with due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizations have also integrated adaptive labor practices geared toward ensuring the welfare and safety of its employees and stakeholders. Organizations have incorporated social innovation tools within their Human Resource Policies in tandem with the prevailing times. It is a vivid illustration that the said entities understand that employees are the backbone of an organization's sustainability.

Other entities and individuals have also embarked on a series of cause promotions and activism through company-funded advocacy campaigns by sensitizing the public through various media platforms about COVID-19.

Perhaps this record-high generosity is premised on the fact that one of the greatest contributions we have been advised to make towards this fight is gratitude and kindness towards one another.  The Director-General of the World Health Organization has stated that our greatest enemy right now is not the virus itself; it is the fear, rumors, and stigma. And our greatest assets are facts, reason, and solidarity.

When this storm calms, entities at the center of this fight shall be fondly remembered. For this reason, it is not a coincidence that organizations with established corporate social responsibility policies enjoy a great reputation on the market. According to the Cone Purpose Study of 2018 in the USA, more than half of millennia would defend a purpose-driven company, if people spoke badly about it. Perhaps it is because consumers relate with their values and beliefs that are aligned with addressing the current social challenges of the society. 

Owing to the great market reputation, such entities have also ended up becoming market leaders due to the increased brand awareness in the community. By undertaking the pertinent role of donating to the fight against COVID-19, their brands are gaining notoriety on the market; a case for successfully expanding into a new market with ease.

Without a doubt, employees of these entities also identify with these organizations' purpose and values as they also play an integral role in its furtherance in society through volunteering projects and advocacy work.  Such employees feel valued within the organization because their safety and welfare is given paramount importance by an organization. 

The take way for SMEs and organizations that have not embraced this notion of Corporate Social Responsibility is that now is the time to integrate these social values into their organizational culture.  According to The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey of 2019, only 55% of the millennia agreed that business has a positive impact on society; a gradual drop from 61% in 2018. The notion was premised on the fact that 76% of the millennia agreed that businesses focus on their agendas rather than the wider society. It is a grand opportunity for entities to relevantly address the social needs of the community today and in the future. 

Charles Duhigg in his book ‘The Power of Habit' indicated that the former President of Starbucks shared with him one of the reasons behind the success of the business is that Star Bucks is not in the Coffee business serving people but is in the people business serving Coffee.

Every business desires to be regarded as highly reputable by the public while at the same making its fair share of profits. The best way to achieve this balance is by integrating Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in the organization's culture so as to contribute to the improvement and transformation of society and its people. Empathy is a cornerstone of any organization's culture that is driven with purpose. 

At the dawn of the new year, Forbes forecast that this year's corporate social responsibility trends were to be characterized by corporate leaders getting involved with communities and causes in ways unheard of a few years ago in a bid to embrace corporate purpose so as to inspire employees and engage customers. 

This is already being manifested in the fight against COVID-19 not only in Uganda but internationally too.  Leading multi-national corporations and philanthropists have taken the center stage to lend their hand and support towards this fight.

All persons are encouraged to continue contributing to this honorable cause. Gratitude is extended to all those that have rendered their unwavering support thus far. Aluta Continua. The Struggle Continues.  To the end.

The writer is a lawyer

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