Coronavirus: a crucial CSR issue

By William Girling
Whilst the economic problems surrounding Covid-19 (coronavirus) are widely discussed, Corporate Social Responsibility can sometimes be overlooked. Howe...

Whilst the economic problems surrounding Covid-19 (coronavirus) are widely discussed, Corporate Social Responsibility can sometimes be overlooked.

However, if the virus is to be properly contained, employers must play a crucial component in global efforts to stymie its spread and give the welfare of their staff top priority. 

Ahead of the Barcelona Mobile World Congress (MWC), Chinese telecoms company Huawei reportedly took the precaution of quarantining members of staff due to attend for 14 days in an effort to prevent an outbreak.

Although the MWC was eventually called off due to the elevated risk posed by coronavirus, Huawei’s demonstrated a forward-thinking approach that all companies should take notice of.

Giving health the priority

Similarly, Swedish telecom Ericsson opted to pull its exhibition from the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), as the health of its participating staff could not be guaranteed. 

“The health and safety of our employees, customers and other stakeholders are our highest priority. This is not a decision we have taken lightly,” said Börje Ekholm, President and CEO.

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“It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event.”

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can help companies navigate in very uncertain times, such as the socio-economic conditions imposed by the outbreak of coronavirus. There is no room for individualistic thinking; the health of the one is determined by the health of the other.

Investing in the solution

In the tech world, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social media website would be allowing the World Health Organisation (WHO) to post free advertisements on the website.

Also, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issued a press release stating that it would pledge US$5mn to aid public health agencies in Seattle in their fight against the virus, such as by increasing their capacity to detect a positive case.

This money was in addition to the $100mn already pledge to global causes with a similar aim.

“The COVID-19 epidemic reminds us that infectious disease respects no boundaries, and no community is immune to the threat of a global pandemic,” commented Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.

“We can, however, take steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Seattle and around the world, and we are ready to support these efforts here in our home community.”

Business owners must recognise their companies and staff as communities in and of themselves. By treating workers with the same level of care, the world may be able to contain coronavirus sooner rather than later.

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