Finding A Balance: Why You Shouldn’t Shift Your CSR Focus Solely To Pandemic Relief

Finding A Balance: Why You Shouldn’t Shift Your CSR Focus Solely To Pandemic Relief
23 / 11 / 2020
By Forbes - Kevin Xu, the Founder of Human Heritage Project, and the CEO of National Rongxiang Xu Foundation and MEBO International - -

Covid-19 has turned many business leaders’ standard operating procedure upside down. For those leaders practicing corporate social responsibility (CSR), there’s been a struggle to balance pandemic-related initiatives with the other causes that their business aims to serve.

Striking that balance is a tenuous undertaking. My company has participated in CSR initiatives around the world, and it’s not unusual for resources to be reallocated to compensate for extenuating circumstances. While it’s natural to adapt your vision and mission for CSR initiatives during the pandemic, don’t let your original goals get tabled until after the pandemic. Find a way to tend to both.

Balancing A Pandemic And Other Social Causes

It’s not easy to maintain your efforts for causes that you typically support on top of shifting your focus to pandemic-related efforts. Fortunately, some strategies can help you create a healthy balance and impact all the areas you want to support.

1. Reframe your CSR parameters. 

Take a look at the function and implementation of your CSR efforts. How you’ve always made progress toward your goals will likely be hindered by one thing or another, so you’ll want to revisit your timeline and adjust it accordingly.

For leaders, an increased focus on Covid-19 initiatives is likely to add more work into the CSR planning process and take up more of your resources. For example, my company’s work with the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) in the Middle East and Northern Africa region usually allows us to train about 40,000 doctors annually. Due to the increased use of resources and our instructors’ workload, our estimate for this initiative’s progress is far lower than it would be in a typical year. We’ve simply had to readjust.

New information about the pandemic comes out almost daily, so build flexibility into your schedule and workflow. It can help you stay on top of all your goals — not just one of them.

2. Always have a backup plan. 

In an uncertain environment, having a plan B is never a bad idea. While the pandemic has likely forced you to reconsider how your business operates and achieves its goals, CSR initiatives are just as important as they were before — if not more so. Having a plan to achieve specific goals means taking the time to craft concrete backup plans in case the pandemic impacts your day-to-day operations.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve done some volunteer work on sustainable development goals as a member of the UNAI. Much of that work focused on training doctors in the Middle East and Northern Africa region. The pandemic has sparked travel restrictions for instructors traveling via international flights; to work around it, we’ve had to implement more time and flexibility into our plans.

In a rapidly changing business environment, nothing is more important than being able to switch gears quickly. When your goals are derailed by the pandemic — or countless other factors — try to seize new opportunities and partnerships to help you stay on track.

3. Never go it alone. 

Partnering with competitors and other like-minded organizations can help you improve your community and reach shared goals. You just have to use the right strategies in these partnerships.

My company’s various university partners have shifted focus to study the coronavirus because of the urgency it presents. You should consider looking for ways to use your original goals to supplement pandemic efforts rather than picking one or the other. We worked with California State University, Los Angeles, and had been planning to open the Rongxiang Xu Bioscience Innovation Center later this year, but we decided to shift our original goals and open the center early for a different purpose as a Covid-19 testing site.

Creating a network of organizations that operate as partners rather than competitors helps boost timely pandemic-related causes and provides the flexibility necessary to pursue your original CSR goals. We’re all in this together — it’s a good time to remember that.

Your traditional CSR initiatives shouldn’t be de-emphasized in favor of pandemic-related undertakings (and vice versa). Leaders have resources at their disposal to balance both. By reframing expectations, remaining agile, and partnering with competent and like-minded collaborators, you ensure your business and CSR responsibilities can coexist.

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