Covid-19 caught the world by surprise. Its impact on the community has been so deep that it affected the economy and livelihood of people. In tackling the impact of the pandemic, organizations together with government agencies worked together to mitigate its impact. On the government side, it established regulations, lockdowns and quarantine sites. The organization helped with food supplies, masks, respiratory devices, funds, and the provision of sanitizers. CSR programs in an organization occur in different ways through the employees, customers and the community. Managers play a critical role in implementing CSR programs through planning and overseeing their implementation. Implementation of CSR programs faces many challenges despite posing opportunities to an organization. Some of the opportunities include good customer service, organizational reputation and availability of financial resources. The article ends by providing recommendations that can help solve challenges hindering the implementation of the virus.
Corporate Social Responsibility during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Covid-19 caught the world by surprise. No country had planned or prepared for its inversion. The virus spread like wildfire, infecting many people and causing a lot of fatalities and economic hardship for individuals and organizations (Johnston, 2021). Even the national government operations were destabilized because it was forced to implement restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. According to Teng et al. (2021), the pandemic affected the well-being of people, the public health, hotels, manufacturing industries, logistics, and tourism industries. The employment rate in society declined as people were fighting for survival. As the positive cases of Covid-19 increased, hospitals and health workers were overwhelmed with work. Hospitals were overcrowded, and there was insufficient space for patients to be accommodated (Teng et al., 2021). Those infected with the disease were quarantined to prevent further spreading of the virus to the uninfected ones.
Non-Governmental agencies (NGOs) partnered with the government to support food, financial resources, evacuations, oxygen cylinders, and food for the affected families. For example, hotels provide quarantine rooms for travellers in a country and those who need to travel outside the country. According to WHO statistics, by the end of November 2020, the virus had infected about 54 million people, while around 1,313,919 people died due to the disease (Mahmud et al., 2021). The effect of the pandemic reached a point where it forced the World Health Organization to declare Covid-19 as a global pandemic. Dr Tedros Adhanom Gheebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, once said, “this is not just a public health crisis; it is a crisis that will touch every sector. So, every individual must be treated involved in the fight” (Durcharme, 2020). His statement shows the impact of the virus on the community.
Many people were devastated, confused and filled with anxiety during the pandemic period. A lot of information flowing through social media platforms causes more havoc and pain than solutions. Some individuals used the media to stigmatize people from the affected countries. For example, when the virus was first identified in China, the United States president went to his social media and wrote, “The United States will be powerful supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the ‘Chinese Virus” (France-Presse, 2020). The president used the word “Chinese Virus” to signify that the virus was only capable of affecting the Chinese people.
Many leaders in various states come together to condemn the presidents’ statements. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio wrote in his tweet, “Our Asian-American communities – people You serve — are already suffering. They do not need you fueling more bigotry” (France-Presse, 2020). World Health Organization leaders and leaders from various sectors joined hands in rebuking Trump’s comments. People come together from all diversities with one goal, to support each other to cope with the virus through their businesses and homes. The achievements made as a result are unimaginable. Leaders took it as their responsibility to stop the spread of the virus (Mahmud et al., 2021). At the same time, responsible citizens educated the community members on how to live a healthy life. Some donated food while others clothing, shelter, and financial resources.
To help the community, the organization took it as their corporate social responsibility to help people affected, infected or not infected but in areas prone to the disease manage its spread and impact. One of the responsibilities is to provide food. For example, Peloton Interactive Inc., a fitness company, assisted the community by providing food to the affected districts in the United Kingdom, according to their 2021 financial year report (Peloton, 2022). This paper aims to investigate the role of corporate social responsibility leaders in protecting their customers, employees, and community members during the pandemic period. This is because all of these individuals were affected in one way or another.
The research questions
- How can businesses support the community during the covid-19 pandemic?
- What actions can managers take in their various organizations to curb the spread and protect society?
- What actions can organizations take to show they care for their customers’ needs and issues?
Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an international concept for responsible organizations. It means that organizations or business entities have an ethical or moral obligation to their employees, customers, the environment, competitors, and the country’s economy that affects their business (Mahmud et al., 2021). Some people refer to it as a voluntary responsibility/commitment. No place in the law requires organizations to take part in community development. However, morally, companies need to benefit the community from which they generate their revenue. Not all companies have accepted corporate social responsibility as part of their functioning. The meaning of corporate social responsibility has evolved. Its definition in the 19th century was not the same, despite the concept being the same. In the 21st century, people have recognized that society and the business community are intertwined to exceed the normal relationships between employees, suppliers, customers, and the community (Mahmud et al., 2021). CSR has been classified as internal or external CSR. Internal CSR refers to an organization’s developmental benefits to its employees to show respect and acknowledgement of their hard work and commitment. The benefits include competitive salary payments, off-day services, commissions, and insurance coverage. External CSR refers to the organization’s commitment to developing the community, the natural environment and the consumers of its products and services (Mahmud et al., 2021). A company’s social responsibilities cover four areas: legal, ethical, economic, and philanthropic responsibilities.
Philanthropic is the first order of responsibility where businesses have a responsibility of giving back to the community and improving the quality of amenities and life of people present in society. This part primarily manifests itself in an organization’s internal and external affairs (Hishan et al., 2020). Companies participate in community fundraising or volunteering activities to give back to society. However, economic responsibility is any business entity’s first level and responsibility. When it is economically stable, it can cater to its employees’ needs and society. Legal responsibilities are the second level of the pyramid that states that companies are responsible for following all the state laws, rules and compliances (Hishan et al., 2020). For example, companies are not supposed to practice discrimination based on gender, race, or geographical location. Ethical responsibility talks to corporation management’s moral, just, and fairness in dealing with employees, customers, and community issues.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Responses to the Pandemic
CSR has been in practice in the United States for more than 50 years (Mahmud et al., 2021). Corporate philanthropic giving had exhibited itself during the covid-19 period when organizations had to help the community and its employees. Companies provided food and financial resources to the affected ones. In the tourism sector, hotels provide accommodation services to the infected and those to be quarantined. Although one person can see it as a form of business, it is social responsibility when howls provide price subsidies to those who will quarantine themselves in their facilities. Some organizations provide hospitals with personal protective equipment, sanitizers, testing kits, and respiratory systems (Teng et al., 2021). Organizations were forced to make some adjustments to cater for the impact of covid-19.
CSR and employees
An employee is one of the critical stakeholders of an organization. They determine the success, production and quality of an organization. An employee’s positive role is responsible for creating or improving an organization’s brand image, reputation, business growth, community development, good stakeholder relationship, and social welfare (Teng et al., 2021). In most human resource management literature and CRS domains, employees involved in CSR activities have a positive attitude toward whatever task they handle (Rupp & Mallory, 2015). When employees engage in CSR activities, they create many benefits for an organization and its employees (Xiao et al., 2020). However, the employee perception of CSR actualization affects a company’s operations.
Job-relevant CSR activities an organization provides can motivate and develop employees to increase their professional and social skills, leading to business growth (Mahmud et al., 2021). Modern research has argued that employee involvement in CSR activities is how they take part in solving community issues (Bode & Singh, 2018). In cases where an employee loses jobs, as in the covid-19 pandemic, the remaining staff will try to manage the workload in their various workplaces. According to Bapuji et al. (2020), philanthropic efforts occur when employees manage an organization’s business and influence the community whenever people lose jobs and become sick. Therefore, employers and employees need to establish good relationships in the time of a pandemic to work efficiently in maintaining quality products and helping the community. The community is dependent on the employed because they are part of the community. When an organization and an employer help an employee, it is regarded as a CSR responsibility.
CRS and Customers
Customers give social crises a lot of attention because they directly affect them economically, physically, and psychologically. Therefore, organizations are not required to operate as usual when a problem occurs. They need to solve the social crisis (Mahmud et al., 2021). There are various ways organizations have created a positive impact on their customers. They ensure customer loyalty, satisfaction, product identification, consumer trust, and improvement of brand reputation. Companies have established CSR policies that cater for the needs of their customers. When customers are satisfied with the services provided by an organization, they will do everything to support the organization’s development (Edinger-Schons et al., 2019). Customers will identify themselves as affiliated with a particular organization.
For the prevention of covid-19 from spreading, companies have applied different measures. Governments have also enacted lockdowns, school closings, bans on public gatherings, and stay-at-home restrictions (Kaplan et al., 2020). When there were shortages of critical components such as masks, protective goggles, ambulances, and other relevant necessities, organizations stepped in to help their consumers. For example, pharmaceutical firms or manufacturing firms offer medical practitioners respiratory cylinders, masks, and protective gear (Mahmud et al., 2021). They ensured that their customers get the best services to protect themselves from the likelihood of contracting the virus. Those not in the medical industry or pharmaceutical industry ensure that their customers get services in the comfort of their homes. For example, Amazon improved its services by transporting customers’ purchases to their doorstep using drones (Harris, 2020). This exercise increased customer satisfaction for the company and its brand reputation. This is one role of corporate social responsibility or the organization to its customers. Therefore, a company’s response to its customers is a form of CSR responsibility.
CSR and the Community
Researchers have tried to how organizations and the community interrelate. Mahmud et al. (2021) state that CSR is a management tool that creates a win-win situation for the community and organizations. The external stakeholders are customers, suppliers, distributors, and logistics firms, who are part of the larger community irrespective of their geographical location. Therefore, they are the best neighbours of an organization. When the community is affected, the firm is also affected. The community is responsible for providing a firm with working licenses to operate their business in the community (Mahmud et al., 2021) by assuming that it will avail a lot of opportunities such as employment opportunities, scholarships, and other social activities to solve the community challenges. Therefore, companies adopt CSR policies to show the community that they understand their role in solving environmental and community challenges.
The entry of covid-19 into the community has shown how societies are unequal. Some are developed while others are not. As states put lockdowns restrictions across the country, the unemployed people were affected. However, companies in the developed nations took it as their responsibility to help those affected (Bapuji et al., 2020). The disease affected how people conducted themselves. The virus tampered with people’s health, shelter, income, and life goals. Organizations needed to step in to save community members from the adverse effects of the pandemic. As a form of helping the community, they will be gaining more trust and recognition. It was during this period that the impact of many organizations was felt. For example, although Peloton Interactive Inc. is a fitness device manufacturing company, it took part in community development and crisis solver by providing food to thousands of community members (Peloton, 2021).
Managers and Corporate social responsibility
Companies are committed to positively impacting the local and international community. CSR could mean many things: advancing human rights, providing employee incentives, or going green (Villanova University, 2019). It is the mandate of SR managers in an organization to impact society positively. Managers create and implement CSR objectives that need to be accomplished. Once the objectives are developed, their mandate is to oversee their implementation and development. Therefore, through strategic management for managers, organizations can accomplish their goals. Strategic management is defined as “the dynamic process of formulation, implementation, evaluation and control of strategies to realize the firm’s strategic intent” (Mitra, 2021). 60% of business leaders agreed that “corporate citizenship is part of their business strategy to a large or very great extent” (Mitra, 2021). Therefore, leaders are essential in creating a good relationship with all organizational stakeholders.
There are various ways in which managers take part in CSR implementation. First, they facilitate internal and external communications to reinforce the company’s social responsibilities and policies (Hunoldt et al., 2018). They are also responsible for delivering a message to the public of how the company is committed to helping society with various issues. For example, in the event of covid-19 pandemics, managers were responsible for creating policies that could help in integrating the organization into community development by either distributing foods, funds, or masks. Therefore, managers play a critical role in implementing CSR at the community and organization levels (Hunoldt et al., 2018). In the organization, they help bring peace, solve employee issues, provide benefits, and create employee-friendly policies and activities that bring employees together.
CSR is critical in developing a good relationship between an organization and the community, and it is the role of managers to ensure that the good relationship is developed. From the information above, I have realized that managers have a critical role in every operation of an organization. Being an individual majoring in managerial, I feel like I have the sole responsibility of actualizing CSR in my place of work. For example, it is my responsibility of ensuring employees are accorded all the basic necessities needed at work, such as protective gear, sanitizers and counselling services for those with psychological problems. Other ways include solving employee conflicts whenever they arise. As stated above, philanthropic responsibility is one of the basic requirements for managers in an organization. It implies that I need to ensure that my employees are safe, happy, and engage in activities that benefit them psychologically, physically, and socially throughout my professional duties.
In the development of the community, managers liaise with community leaders in creating opportunities that lead to solving problems. For example, during the covid-19 period, managers had to interact with leaders in the community to find solutions that would help stop the spread of the virus. As a result, organizations started the distribution of marks and food to the affected individuals. This is one way in which managers take part in community development. In recent times, companies have established themselves in the fight against climate change (Hunoldt et al., 2018). They have created policies and plans that will have zero gas emissions. To have a zero gas emission plan, managers need to create a team that will assess the organization’s gas emission impact on society and curb the situation. Reducing gas emissions is a sign of social responsibility where managers will ensure the environment is safe for people to live in. Therefore, I have the moral responsibility of establishing a healthy environment. Having a healthy community means having healthy employees, thus producing quality and producing stable revenue.
Benefits and opportunities of CSR
There are various benefits CSR pose to an organization and managers. First, it develops brand awareness in the community. Through investing, companies create a good relationship with members. CSR also increases sales and customer loyalty, satisfaction, and financial performance (Nibusinessinfo.co.uk, 2018). Better CSR policies reduce operational costs, thus allowing an organization to expand its operations. For example, managers can establish a plan to expand their operations with a reduced operational cost by venturing into new markets or opening branches. As a result, revenue and brand awareness will grow.
Another opportunity of establishing corporate responsibilities is creating good relationships that will enable access to financial resources (Nibusinessinfo.co.uk, 2018). For example, managers will be able to seek financial assistance from the community or financial institutions for their development or finalizing of projects. It is suitable for an organization to engage in corporate social responsibilities because it opens doors for business expansion, customer increase, and good reputation.
Challenges to the implementation of the CRS program
There are five main barriers to implementing CSR programs, including lack of resources, strategic vision, measurement system, low willingness to pay for CSR programs, and high regulatory standards (Yuen & Lim, 2016). Lack of financial resources, human resources, skills, and knowledge are the common barriers to implementation. For effective implementation of CSR programs, large amounts of resources are required. A company with low financial resources cannot be able to implement CSR because it will destabilize its operations. The implementation of the program requires professionals to plan and guide its implementation. Without them, nothing can be done.
The strategic vision is key because it provides direction that the top managers need to follow (Yuen & Lim, 2016). Incorporating it into an organization’s mission, vision and goals will ensure a smooth flow of its operations. An organization’s orientation has contributed lack of strategic vision for short-term goals and profits and not long-term goals (Yuen & Lim, 2016). Measurement systems are critical in evaluating the impact of CSR in the community and the extent to which an organization can contribute to its implementation. For better performance of the programs, managers need to establish plans to overcome the challenges.
Recommendations to solve the CSR implementation challenges
The primary solution to CSR implementation is for the government to establish policies that will support its implementation. For example, governments can establish a kit that will provide financial support to organizations that need to take part in community development. The legal framework will provide a guideline on how organizations will engage in CSR programs (Sheehy, 2014). Additionally, the guidelines will stipulate how educational institutions impart knowledge to students on how they can implement CSR programs in their future professions.
Another recommendation is for organizations to establish a clear mission and vision statement that incorporates CSR vision. A clear definition allows organizations to deal with adverse challenges of CSR implementation (Sheehy, 2014). As a result, organizations are able to achieve their goal of developing the community.
CSR is a critical program that creates good relationships with all stakeholders in the community and the environmental development. Organizations have taken it as their responsibility in helping the community. For organizations to actualize the implementation of CSR programs, they need to have competent managers who value the uplifting of the community n=through CSR activities. An organization can help uplift the community with financial resources, food, employment opportunities, and psychological counselling, as seen during the covid-19 pandemic. Although CSR programs bring many opportunities to managers in an organization, it has challenges that hinder their implementation. However, to the problems presented, there are solutions to implement. Therefore, CSR played a critical role in cushioning the community during the pandemic.
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