Published:  12:14 AM, 25 October 2020

Innovation in CSR for COVID 19

Innovation in CSR for COVID 19
Lets us start with change of CSR in Bangladesh considering corona virus. Bangladesh Bank has issued new CSR circular (SFD Circular No-03 dated 16/06/2020) and instructed all scheduled banks to spend 60% out of total CSR yearly budget on Healthcare sector (Generally it was 20% out of total CSR),  30% in Education and 10% on Environment purpose for the year 2020. Banks were also encouraged by regulatory body to help healthcare sector to purchase PCR machine, ventilator machine and oxygen cylinder for corona patients treatment.

As such, banks CSR emphasized upon healthcare sector in 2020 especially in relation to COVID treatment. Unlike countries like India, CSR  is not compulsory  in Bangladesh as well as many parts of the world for which  regulatory bodies can only motivate other corporate bodies to make CSR. Though world famous clothing & fashion brands like Marks & Spenser, H&M, Lindex, C&A etc. cancelled many import orders to developing countries due to demand decline for COVID 19, they committed to compensate as much as possible in future. It means compensation for past loss in future in terms of giving more business scope is also CSR.

In the present era of covid-19, it has been observed that some companies are performing CSR activities by promoting social awareness for social distancing in India. The most significant contribution has been made by Mc Donald's, Volkswagen and many more. The MC Donald's company sent the message to the society by bifurcating the logo 'm' divided into two parts n n.

The two parts of 'm' represent the meaning of social distance. Similarly, automobile company Volkswagen plays an important role to make awareness about the necessities of the social distancing to prevent the expansion of pandemic virus in the human body. Volkswagen has presented their new logo by creating a gap between V and W to emphasize upon the need of social distancing during COVID 19. It means that corporate social responsibility does not only mean give donation. The way McDonald and Volkswagen went to temporary rebranding for awareness creation among mass people through their logo is also part of corporate social responsibility.

The new slogan of NIKE is "Play Inside, Play for the World". Indian famous dairy brand Amul  promoted greet others using the no-contact, namaste method.Tata Motors has released an innovative TVC that paves the pathway of how crucial it is "to stay home now to be together always". Unilever Limited, through its product Lifebuoy soap, spreads the message of "washing hands frequently with Any Soap. Instead of promoting Lifebuoy soap only they promoted "any soap". So, CSR means to rise above profit motif.

CSR is not just limited to donation or philanthropic activities, but rather a business model that incorporates social benefits and works for solving various social problems. Everyone speculates that the economy will have to go through a difficult time enduring the ripples of the ongoing pandemic. In such a situation, influential corporations need to modify their business strategies to accommodate cost effective business model. Experts spoke about a hierarchy of compassionate communal development over selfish personal gains for everyone to ensure "cost cutting in the new normal context of profit cutting". On the other hand, many talked about riding into the new normal by address customer behavior offering limited product ranges instead of huge product variation.It means that the lesser the market segmentation, the lesser will be the cost. All these belong to Corporate Social Responsibility in broader context.

Fortunately, we have observed that many companies not only have resisted unethical business practice during this crisis, but also have proactively engaged in various CSR activities, particularly those that can offer immediate help and assistance to the fight against the virus. Undoubtedly, the current pandemic offers a wide range of significant opportunities to those with a more mindful and acumen approach to CSR. For example, UK manufacturing companies transformed their factories to produce ventilators, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and so on, with some of them donating, instead of selling, these products.

Telecommunications giant Vodafone introduced free access to unlimited mobile data for many of its pay monthly customers and upgraded its vulnerable pay monthly customers to unlimited data offer for free . Supermarkets in the UK have allocated opening hours specifically for the elderly and donated Easter eggs and general food to food banks and charitable organizations .The UK tea brand PG tips partnered with Re-engage (a charitable organization aiming to tackle the issues of social isolation and loneliness for older people) to train volunteers to call the oldest in the UK during the lockdown.  Companies donated their original commercial campaign airtime to promote good causes.

Jack Ma, the cofounder of Alibaba, through Jack Ma foundation and Alibaba foundation, donated coronavirus test kits and other medical supplies to many countries around the world . Jack Dorsey, the founder and boss of Twitter pledged to donate 1bn US dollars towards effort to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Bill Gates has been diligently encouraging global cooperation on this front through promoting development of vaccine.

Therefore this pandemic represents a great context to examine how institutional factors and leadership influence firms' CSR and ethical conducts. Due to COVID 19 many globally recognized food chains reduced number of chairs or sitting arrangement in their premise to ensure social distance. As part of corporate social responsibility many fast food chains emphasized upon home delivery. Since COVID is boosted by cold, many beverage companies promoted "soft drinks, not cold drinks" which may get further global promotion during winter. In many countries, ice cream companies stopped TV commercial broadcast. In developing countries like Bangladesh, distribution of blanket during winter is a traditional CSR which may increase in the context of COVID 19.

Because, winter naturally increase such virus -led diseases.  Besides,  different companies in many parts of the world including Germany started manufacturing medical equipment leaving their core businesses like car manufacturing or steel-making to fill up the gap of scarcity of medical equipment. This temporary paradigm shift of business nature for national interest is a legendry example of  true CSR.

Interestingly enough, branding budget of companies which sell soap, sanitizers and anti-septic also served the purpose of CSR when they broadcast TV commercials or advertisement in printed media with public warning to use soap and sanitizer to get rid of corona virus. Sorry to say that the failure of health insurance sector to protect all insurers from COVID 19 financially reechoed importance of CSR globally.Though UK and many European countries are considered as top in CSR reporting in the world, COVID 19 changed CSR scenario since usual top CSR making countries themselves were the worst victims of corona virus.

Surrendering one days salary, free food distribution during lock down, free medical check up for covid etc were some steps taken by corporate bodies and NGOs funded by corporates in many parts of the world. Last but not least, as many corporate bodies give vaccine for B and other virus to their employees freely, same can be introduced for COVID vaccination in case governments do not sponsor it freely in respective countries of the world.

The writer is Assistant Vice President, Financial Administration Division(FAD), Shahjalal Islami Bank Ltd

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