WHAT CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY MEANS IN 2020
Gone are the days when the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) meant a handful of generous donations every so often. With the dawn of 2020—a year filled with bushfires, viruses and economic turmoil—CSR has become more than just a throwaway gesture: it has instead become the new medium for doing business.
An estimated 82 percent of U.S. consumers say that CSR factors into their purchasing decisions, and, with consumers staying home, the market begins to demand more from businesses. Selling has become less about flashy displays and more about how businesses are giving back in this time of crisis. Here are 4 businesses that have stepped it up to pay it forward:
With social distancing and self isolation firmly in effect, it comes as no surprise that people just aren’t traveling; however, that has not stopped Airbnb, the popular online marketplace for homestays and tourism experiences, from opening its doors.
In fact, Airbnb recently announced a new global initiative to help connect those responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with safe and convenient places to stay as they carry out their critical work. The company has waived all fees for stays arranged through this initiative, and has set a goal of housing over 100,000 healthcare professionals, relief workers, and first responders around the world.
Accommodating relief and medical workers, who have a higher exposure to COVID-19, requires significant preventative measures and strict safety standards; therefore, Airbnb is offering a variety of safe housing services such as enhanced cleaning, social distancing with their guests, and allowing at least 72 hours between stays. Despite the added expense and effort surrounding this initiative, the result will undoubtedly place Airbnb in a higher position in buyers’ minds once the crisis ends, especially because these efforts demonstrate not only the company's unique capability to address housing needs even during the most difficult times, but also showcase its dedication to providing assistance when it is most needed.
In a similar initiative, casual footwear company Crocs has announced its intent to donate 10,000 free pairs of shoes per day to healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis. Having partnered with Shoe Carnival, Famous Footwear, and Rack Room Shoes to make the donations, Crocs has stated that it intends to continue offering free footwear until it is no longer able to do so. Currently, there are more than 400,000 people in line for a free pair of Crocs.
In addition to fulfilling online requests for individual healthcare workers, the company has also committed to distributing up to 100,000 pairs of shoes across a number of select healthcare facilities and organizations. This two-pronged approach is an effort to get as many of their products as possible into the hands of those who need it most. Crocs are especially suited to this charitable gesture because their shoes are reputably easy to wash and comfortable to wear—attributes that stressed and overworked healthcare workers desperately need during this pandemic. As Crocs supports the individuals and organizations who need help during this crisis, it also illustrates its value proposition to the market—an impression that will undoubtedly remain in consumers’ minds after the pandemic passes.
If there’s one thing everyone can still use from home, it’s the Internet. Despite Google being arguably more-utilized than ever before, the company has announced its intention to give back. Specifically, Google has launched an $800 million program, including both direct financial assistance and grants, to help small businesses and other organizations make their way through the current health and economic challenge. Google claims that the goal is "to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers."
Forgoing any sort of signup or application process, the company has elected to automatically add credits to active Google Ads accounts to stimulate advertising during these difficult times. As many businesses have temporarily closed their doors in communities across the country, Google has already reported declines in ad spending. Many of these businesses may struggle to reopen without help, which has given Google a massive incentive to assist where possible, especially because many of those businesses are its customers.
Wireless carrier Verizon has also taken measures to assist small business owners and recently unveiled a weekly streaming series to support small businesses affected by COVID-19. The program, Pay it Forward Live, will include music, comedy, and gaming events and feature live performances that encourage viewers to both tag local businesses on Twitter and purchase goods that are redeemable when the business reopens.
In addition to Pay it Forward Live, the company also intends to donate $2.5 million to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a nonprofit aimed at community development. LISC supports struggling businesses and startups within historically underserved communities, and Verizon’s contributions will undoubtedly make a difference in many lives, especially because the company has vowed to give an additional $2.5 million as consumers engage with its streaming event.
While there can be no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges to businesses both large and small, it is clear that giving back has never been more important. These four businesses are only a handful of examples of CSR in the world right now. Companies across all industries are finding creative ways to serve their customers and give back where help is needed, from making face masks and hand sanitizer to providing free classes. As CSR becomes even more prominent amidst this crisis, businesses owners must ask themselves: what can my business do to help?