The Role of Business during Covid-19
May 5, 2020
We are realising that we are more interconnected than we ever knew, and undoubtedly, we are seeing that sustainability really matters in business. The health of our communities affects our business. The wellbeing of our team affects our business. We breathe the same air, and at least in this period, we are fighting the same enemy – if we do so together, we will come out stronger together.
The best practice in corporate social responsibility or corporate citizenship, whatever you call it, is changing as we speak, and everyone is watching.
Businesses have never existed in isolation. We are not here just to make profits, we are here to provide solutions or products to our clients, we are employers, we are tax-payers.
Who are we going to be after the epidemic?
Are we going to be better neighbours, better partners for our clients and suppliers, more flexible employers and more empathetic leaders?
It all starts with our response to this crisis now.
Some companies are showing extraordinary leadership in this fight – feeding the NHS (Leon), using their production lines to make hand sanitisers (Unilever) or 3-D printers to make protective equipment (Jaguar Land Rover). Ethical law firms, like Aria Grace, are giving even more pro bono advice.
Customers, partners, colleagues, stakeholders, are all asking, or will all be asking when it’s over: how did you respond, how did you help?
Your company might go through an extreme upheaval itself and you might not have a lot of cash. There are solutions for every budget, or even no budget, if you are offering things you already have. NCP, for example, is offering free parking for key workers: LinkedIn is offering free online courses.
When figuring out how your business can help, you can consider the following questions.
1. Who relies on you?
'Business Fights Poverty' and Harvard Kennedy School have provided useful guidance concerning your core business, such as:
- Ensure the health and safety of employees and customers, and regularly share information among employees, suppliers and distributors.
- Put people first.
- Identify vulnerable stakeholders in the company’s operations, value chain and communities.
- Extend access to paid sick leave, support remote working, and support hourly employees, contractors and factory workers financially.
Answering ‘who relies on you’ requires time and teamwork. We can facilitate a free Zoom workshop on that or you can do so yourself, just dig deep and make sure that you cover all stakeholders and don’t miss potentially vulnerable partners.
Once you have identified that, consider, where can you help?
- Be more flexible than usual (waving late payment fees for example)
- Think about partnership opportunities (what are they doing to help – maybe you can join forces)
- Provide free resources
- Add value to the existing relationship
If you can’t think of ways you can help, or don’t know what your partners need, you can ask them. Just the act of reaching out might improve your relationship.
2. Where can you have the most impact?
Impact is not what you did, but what changed as a result of your action, what’s the lasting difference because of your action. It can be difficult to measure but let’s begin with 3 questions:
- What are your core skills and how they can be transferred to help others?
- Where can you make the most difference?
- What will motivate and engage your team most?
Do you have any resources that can be of help to:
- Your local hospitals
- Other key workers
- Vulnerable isolated people
3. Where can you have the most influence?
Your network is your net-worth but it is also your sphere of influence. How can you mobilise them to help in this crisis?
eBay will match $1 million in funds raised by sellers who donate to COVID-19 response. New businesses can run an eBay store for free for three months with no selling fees to eBay, which will also provide educational webinars and business support.
Google will give $340 million of credit for ads to space to some companies (as well as donating money and expertise to help increase production capacity for PPE)
We can’t all be Google but we can find inspiration in smaller companies, for example, BPE Solicitors, who have partnered with a local charity that helps deliver essential medical items (including blood) to local hospitals. They are helping them raise money, and by using their existing contacts and social media presence, awareness as well.
There are ways we can all help.
Olga Ivannikova May 5th 2020
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