The AccSoc Press Article by Jodie Sia

For most businesses, the last few months has forced the way they operate as COVD-19 takes a massive toll on their usual practices. In response to the pandemic, COVID-19 has provided a critical step in how businesses can promote their corporate social responsibility (CSR). The Australian Human Rights Commission defines CSR such that “corporations have a degree of responsibility not only for the economic consequences of their activities, but also for the social and environmental implications”. In the time of COVID-19, changing CSR has shown how businesses, though struggling, are able to use their resources and platform to help and contribute to society.

Big names helping for the greater good

Over the last few months, as many businesses across different industries saw stark declines in revenue and sales, some of the world’s biggest brands have turned to transform their factories to assist with shortages of essential needs and protective equipment. Brands such as Johnson & Johnson donated 1 million surgical masks, as well as protective suits and thermometers for workers who were caring for those who have contracted the virus, or suspected to have it.

Similarly, luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Christian Dior converted their factories to help produce non-surgical face masks, hand sanitisers and hospital gowns. Many factories of these companies were reopened globally to allow volunteer workers to make these products and have it distributed to the general public in the midst of the shortages.

From another aspect, as millions of people search for information on the internet in regards to the virus, Google has taken multiple measures to ensure people are able to obtain information quickly and efficiently. For instance, Google has partnered with the U.S. Government to provide information to users, while Google’s search function ensures the latest news on the virus, information about symptoms, prevention or treatments can be found easily on a panel when ‘COVID-19’ is searched. Additionally, to protect searchers from misinformation and phishing, Google has been working to remove and block advertisements capitalising on the virus, as well as prohibiting apps on Google Play that could be misleading.

CSR in Australia

On a more local scale, Australia has also demonstrated changing CSR for those vulnerable in our society.

Two of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains – Woolworths and Coles – announced designated ‘Community hour’ to allow the elderly and those with disabilities to shop at an earlier time before the official opening hour. This temporary measure was imposed in mid-March, in response to panic buying, with Woolworths Managing Store Director Claire Peters saying,”During this period of unprecedented demand, we know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop,” and that the measures would “help them to obtain essential items in a less crowded environment”. 

The implications of COVID-19 has also resulted in a period where friends or family couldn’t meet if they didn’t live in the same household. Thus, the complexity of staying connected with others has proved difficult for some. In response to this, several telecommunication companies have stepped in to provide support. Optus, for example, provided eligible mobile subscribers a one off 20GB of free data, activated during April 2020 and valid for 30 days after validation. Similarly, Vodafone introduced a temporary $10 ‘Stay Connected’ plan, which allowed those struggling financially to access mobile data and unlimited calls and text for $10 a month. Other initiatives introduced by Vodafone to provide relief can be found in this statement:

Over the last few months, the impacts of COVID-19 have been very extensive, with many left vulnerable and struggling, but the changing CSR of big companies have provided much assistance, seen globally and here in Australia. However, we can only be hopeful that companies strive to continually improve their CSR, even after a global pandemic isn’t a threat.