CSR & business: it’s time to take action!
Faced with the unprecedented tensions generated by the health and economic crisis linked to the coronavirus, organizations must now urgently question their purpose and their way of operating. This is important not only so that they can prosper, but also so that they can be prepared to face future challenges and crises that we can already anticipate (climatic, economic, etc.).
But how can organizations restore meaning to their actions and bring confidence to their stakeholders and to society as a whole?
Compliance with CSR is not enough. Far from it.
The first major lesson to be learned from this crisis is that respecting a CSR commitment is not enough to ensure that organizations are prepared for the problems that may affect their activities and society in general.
For years, companies have complied with CSR constraints in an opportunistic and cosmetic manner without necessarily adhering to them or devoting much effort to them. Some have been forced to develop CSR policies and reports because of anti-corruption or local laws. Others have done a kind of “CSR washing” by communicating on basic initiatives far from having the real impact that real fundamental changes and investments could have on society and the environment.
And it is clear that these “small measures” are showing their limits today. Even companies practising what is called “flexibility at work” have found it difficult to set up fast and functional teleworking mechanisms, because they have not really invested in the adequate infrastructures. Only a few have been able to anticipate and react to support their workforce and maintain their supply chains.
This shows how organizations must go much further than what is recommended, required or dictated by law. To truly prepare for the changes in our world (global warming, biodiversity crisis, social, health or economic crises), they must do more and be prepared to absorb greater impacts. It is crucial to allocate more resources to identify risks, but also and above all to have open and transparent discussions with all stakeholders and to build a relationship of trust.
Companies also need to be more resilient and adaptable. To achieve this, the resources and decision-making powers allocated to CSR managers must be increased so that they can develop projects with a high impact on the organization’s core business rather than superficial actions.
Workplace flexibility is not just an “employer brand” argument
The other big lesson of this crisis is that emphasizing flexibility in the workplace should not just be an excuse to attract talent or get a good reputation. Many companies’ efforts to build an employer brand are exposed as a false nose if they are not supported by a true CSR culture.
For example, the coronavirus crisis shows us to what extent it is companies that have really adopted home working arrangements that are well thought out and take into account the human impact on the quality of life at work and also the environmental impact within the framework of a global CSR policy that has fared best. These companies had the time to learn what worked best and to set up control and production processes that not only guarantee optimized business continuity but also have a positive impact on the environment, which is at the heart of CSR concerns.
Because even if this is not replicable for all positions and all activities, the current crisis is proving to us that our company is able to function without having to drive to work and without the associated carbon emissions. It is regrettable that it has taken this “health incentive” to force the hand of many companies, but we must also hope that these companies will finally adopt genuine mobility policies that will, at last, make it possible to reduce our CO2 emissions, relieve transport congestion and improve the quality of life of the millions of employees who want to reconcile their professional and private lives.
A responsible corporate culture is not a luxury
“Thanks to” the coronavirus, we were finally able to measure the extent to which corporate culture was fundamental in reacting to a crisis.
Employee engagement and the creation of a strong corporate culture are key to demonstrating the value of its organizational ecosystem. Fairness, pay equity and management practices based on trust are founding elements in creating a culture of tolerance, openness, solidarity and resilience.
It is therefore obvious, in the light of current events, that a CSR policy can no longer be a posture but a reality because, once the crisis is over, we will have to take stock and, hopefully, based on the observation that the most virtuous companies have been better able to face the crisis, rethink their operating methods in order to instil more responsible cultures. To prepare managers, define an ethical charter or create fairer internal practices, organizations will have to be rebuilt from within and in-depth. And at the centre of these changes, CSR actors will have a central role to play.
by Alexis Noal, Senior Brand Strategist, Oxygen