Businesses as an ally for communities in the new world order

The continuous, unpredictable developments of COVID -19 are paralyzing the foundations on which our communities live. As the world starts reopening in the aftermath of the pandemic, there needs to be a serious discussion about how to move forward from here. The governments are trying, but some of the most powerful changes can come if corporates take up the role of community allies.

The biggest challenge for corporations at the moment is the need to shrink physical workspaces. The immediate question that arises is, how can they help if they are restructuring their own existence? The answer is simpler than it seems.

Corporates have already started contributing towards relief and rehabilitation. The initial tracking published by Philantopic shows that the philanthropic spending by corporates in response to COVID-19 has exceeded $1B globally, with companies and their initiatives representing over 80% of pledges and contributions.

Companies are choosing varied ways to contribute . Internet providers like Comcast are boosting speeds on their basic packages and offering free internet to low-income customers. Companies like Apple, Facebook and SoftBank donated supplies of N-95 masks to local hospitals. Another story to tell could be of how Uber made meals free and provided discounted rides available for approximately 25,000 workers in healthcare.

A significant number of causes that these corporations are working towards, however, are not a consequence of COVID. The pandemic has catalysed the problems that have been plaguing us earlier as well – Poverty, lack of access to education and much more.

It’s important to note that the need for corporations to extend help is not restricted to flattening the COVID curve. We need a system that can support the foundation of our communities well beyond the scope of this pandemic. The action from corporations needs to be a continuous, concerted, consistent effort to keep doing good.

There are a few decisions that corporations need to take before they take the first steps –

  • How do companies with broad national supply chains engage meaningfully with communities in which they operate?
  • How philanthropic do the corporates need to be to have an effective role in community building?

Some global enterprises have done exemplary work to give back to society, focusing on the most real challenges like equality, environmental sustainability and well being. Google recently pledged $12 million in funding to civil rights groups working towards creating more secular work spaces for various racial groups. Etsy is working towards offsetting 100% of carbon emissions from their delivery services.

When you look closely, every company tries to focus on an issue that aligns with their company’s values. Opportunities to contribute to a focus area could lie in supply chain, inventory, operations or in research teams. Right now is a great time for companies to bring strategic focus on finding opportunities to develop a continuous way of giving back.

One opportunity that every company should be utilizing are their employees. Putting employees as the face of your company’s giving back agenda brings real human touch in the form of volunteering. And as physical workspaces shrink and employees working from home keep finding it harder to seek meaning in what they do, volunteering opportunities could be a great vehicle to keep them engaged as well. Amalgamating employee engagement with community building programmes helps not only employees feel part of a cause larger than themselves, but also allows change to happen while working from the comforts of home for the corporates themselves.

As our working culture falls in line with the changing norms of ‘working from home’, one of the natural options that emerges as a by-product of this, is Virtual Volunteering. It is emerging as a promising answer to many community building challenges, changing the way we look at corporate giving and social impact.

By narrowing down on a core set of values that inspire innovation, corporations have the choice to align their goals with that of the community ecosystems that they operate within. With a mammoth portfolio of virtual volunteering opportunities across different focus areas, every company can find a solution in engaging employees to do good.

This needs to be the new normal. A world where corporates and communities are seen as allies, building their foundations together. Because this is what it means to live in a “community”—the existence of a social glue that binds us all together, for the greater good.

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