How to Shape Your Corporate Social Responsibility Around COVID-19
You can capitalize on the strength of your company and your area of expertise to help others during the pandemic.
When COVID-19 struck, life came crashing down for people around the world. From how we work to the ways our kids learn, much of what we took for granted suddenly changed.
In times like these, entrepreneurs have a responsibility to develop products and programs that make more than a bottom-line impact. They've risen to the challenge in all sorts of ways, from offering their services in safer ways to financially supporting families that are struggling.
To be sure, those are social goods, but a number of entrepreneurs have gone the extra mile. Here are five ways they're demonstrating above-and-beyond social responsibility during the pandemic.
1. Making education accessible
COVID-19 ground education systems to a halt. Universities cut their semester short, sending students home to complete the rest virtually. Parents who'd never home-schooled before were forced to put on their teacher hats.
As an entrepreneur, you may not be a parent, but you've been a student. Think about how you can fill gaps left by a lack of classroom instruction. Edtech company Instructure, for instance, supports distance learning by pairing customized modules with videoconferencing services.
Lean in the direction of your expertise. If you taught yourself to code, could you offer a coding bootcamp? Perhaps you could set up a tutoring service in a subject of your specialty.
2. Pivoting a product
Entrepreneurs know that product development must shift as the market's needs do. Never has that been more true than during the pandemic.
Start with your mission. Notify, a nurse-call technology platform, went into business to help caregivers respond to emergencies sooner. For the COVID-19 crisis, it built an application to facilitate no-contact communication between patients and their doctors.
Get creative. Could a concept similar to something you already have on the market make a difference? If you're an apparel company, could you develop a quick-dry mask? Perhaps grocery packaging is your swim lane: What about a virucidal plastic that's safe for food contact?
3. Going above and beyond on prevention
Even if you don't have a product that can give people a leg up on the pandemic, there are still plenty of ways to make a difference. Think about your customers' risk exposure, and help them cover their bases (and faces).
HyVee made headlines by doing exactly that. In late July, the midwestern grocery chain announced it would distribute three million free face masks to shoppers. It's also placing signs in its stores to remind shoppers to keep their distance.
People take cues from the companies they do business with. Be a model. Insist that your team members wear face coverings, even if it's not legally required in your area. Post guides in restrooms to help customers wash their hands thoroughly. Offer small bottles of hand sanitizer as freebies.
4. Making mental health a priority
The pandemic has been tough on everyone, but service workers have had it particularly hard. Not only do they put their lives at risk when they work, but relatively few receive employer-sponsored health insurance.
In a partnership with Lyra Health, coffee giant Starbucks is giving up to 20 free therapy sessions to its team members. To address the financial component of mental health, Starbucks also announced catastrophe pay for team members who miss work as a result of exposure to the virus.
Some members of your team will struggle with mental health more than others, and that's OK. Share a list of mental health resources in your area. Point out what mental health benefits your insurance plan provides them. Be generous with breaks and empathetic with those who are anxious about exposure at work.
5. Helping to strengthen social ties
Millions of Americans are cooped up at home in an effort to slow the virus's spread. Help them stay socially connected while doing the right thing.
AT&T, Spring, Verizon and all sorts of other telecommunications companies have signed a pledge to help Americans stay in touch. They've agreed to not terminate service because a customer can't pay, waive late fees incurred as a result and make their Wi-Fi hotspots public.
Your business might not be able to go quite that far, but it can help people keep their social ties strong in all sorts of other ways. Create online communities that cater to everyone, not just your customers. Host virtual events that put people in touch with each other (think platonic speed-dating).
Your business doesn't just serve communities; it's part of them. Do your part to protect them. Think about how you can maximize your impact. During and after the pandemic, your generosity won't go unnoticed.
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