What was the impact of the pandemic on CSR?

When the pandemic broke out in March 2020, many saw it as an opportunity to rethink society. Since adaptation was no longer a choice but an obligation, why not take advantage of this period to review our priorities and invest in CSR?

From remote work, which resulted in a reduction of pollution due to commuting, to local supply favouring a shaken regional economy, our ways of doing things seemed bound to change. But where are we now? How has the perception and application of corporate social responsibility evolved throughout the crisis?

Why choose CSR?

Corporate social responsibility is a broad concept that can refer to different elements like sustainability, ethical and local sourcing, good working conditions, diversity and inclusion, and more.

In other words, CSR means that a company is seeking to do its part by taking concrete action. It’s not enough to give a cheque to a foundation or to pay sponsorships; the idea is to invest in a conscious process that will have a real impact on the world.

Of course, beyond the impacts on society and the environment, CSR also has an effect on brand image and recognition by the industry, customers and consumers. In addition, CSR promotes the attraction and retention of employees, who feel more engaged in companies that care.

Evolution of CSR

The concept of corporate social responsibility is not new. In fact, it was first introduced after the Great Depression. Previously, some companies took some form of philanthropic action or encouraged charity, but it was the economic crisis of 1930 that sparked discussion about the need for greater social involvement on the part of companies. Has the health crisis caused by COVID-19 led to the same type of thinking?

What are the trends?

According to an article published by Forbes in early 2020, the CSR trends were mainly the following:

  • The environment
  • Organizational transparency
  • Employee support
  • The search for meaning and the company’s mission

While these trends have not lost their interest, the issues certainly shifted during the pandemic. The health and safety of employees, as well as that of customers, became a central concern. In addition, buying local and seeking local supply chains quickly emerged as essential, for logistical reasons but also due to an increased sense of community. Several current events also brought the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion to the fore.

What about environmental impact during the pandemic?

At the beginning of the lockdown, publications (some real and some not so real) on the positive impact on the environment were all the rage: reduction in greenhouse gases, absence of noise pollution, increase in urban fauna. Remember the articles about the dolphins reappearing near Venice? For a moment, many believed that nature would take back its rightful place. While this didn’t turn out to be quite true, the fact remains that the hope for a cleaner world resonated globally.

On the other hand, several companies have abandoned their environmental commitments, claiming they’re too busy ensuring their survival and responding to the urgency of the situation. It’s obvious that times are difficult. But when we see that the devastating impacts of climate change are increasingly affecting people, do we really have the luxury of reducing our efforts to save our planet?

By asserting an eco-responsible position, companies could apply innovative solutions that would also have positive impacts in terms of economy and health. For starters, local procurement, or even the circular economy, is an important measure that can have positive repercussions.

Encouraging remote work can also be part of a social responsibility strategy. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, offering this flexibility can also improve the working conditions of some employees while reducing the risk of contamination.

With all these concerns in mind and despite uncertain conditions, we can certainly ask: what actions can we take today and what is the future of CSR after the pandemic?


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