The role of sustainable business during Covid19

BITCI News - Leadership - May 05, 2020

Business in the Community Ireland

On April 15th  BITCI CEO Tomás Sercovich introduced our new BITCI Webinar Series alongside our Senior CSR Adviser, Linda O’Sullivan. The ongoing webinar series explores, among other things, the links between sustainable business, CSR and the business response to Covid-19.

As part of the first webinar, we discussed the global business response to the Covid-19 crisis and ways in which CSR and sustainability will evolve in the future, while projecting ahead to trends post Covid-19.

It is clear that CSR and sustainability have not been immune to the short-term crisis; it is apparent, however, that both are vital as part of our ongoing recovery. The following is an overview of existing and emerging trends and issues:

Organisations took a firm approach to flexibility around working hours, work at home policies, sick leave and supporting employees through a new way of working. There has also been a strong focus among organisations on supporting employees with their mental health as they come to terms with self-isolation.

In terms of the community response among businesses, the community call was answered, with the pandemic shedding light on the positive steps organisations took to play their part as the crisis evolved. Organisations reacted by manufacturing new products to accelerating the development of vaccines and testing mechanisms, like our members at Abbott.

Some organisations and personnel also had to remain on the frontline, ensuring continuity of service. Vital workers whose roles have often been overlooked or taken for granted have now become our “frontline heroes”. The collective and collaborative response of the business community has been truly inspiring, and the ongoing appreciation and recognition of our frontline workers has been welcome.

In terms of the transition to restarting the economy post Covid-19, corporate social responsibility and sustainability will be at the forefront of people’s minds. All eyes will be on how organisations are protecting their people and communities as much as possible. There will undoubtedly be a renewed focus on collaboration and partnerships among organisations, with a focus on providing safer workplaces, better engagement with local communities, particularly around logistical issues such as transit management.

Some key questions that are sure to arise in the future:

  • Organisations that were initially reluctant about flexible working arrangements have been forced to adapt to new ways of working. Will some of those arrangements remain and be improved on in the future?
  • Will consumer behaviour change? Will our values change? Will there be a renewed focus on the importance of nature and family?
  • In terms of business, is your organisation’s strategy and approach to social inclusion coherent? Is it going beyond being reactive? Is your engagement with local communities strategic?

Now is the time to question your business response with regard to the aforementioned questions. BITCI can help to ensure that you are joining with the right partners to implement proactive responses and help you tease out answers to such questions.

In terms of sustainability, the fundamentals for business will be transparency and accountability. This will be an opportunity for organisations to show leadership when it comes to their CSR and sustainability strategy. Now is the time to bring leading examples to the forefront.

Climate change:

With regard to climate change, we were at the peak of awareness. We need to start thinking about what type of economic recovery we will have. It will need to be one connected to a low carbon economy. On June 5th, we will be launching the second part of our Low Carbon Pledge – a timely reminder of how important climate change is.

In conclusion, there is a growing demand for a more activist role of business in society. Organisations will have to back up statements with evidence, collaboration, transparency and good leadership. We are already seeing new forms of social contracts emerging and we at BITCI can help you navigate your way through these uncertain times.

How we are supporting our members

Over the last few weeks we have been reviewing our 2020 programme of work. The fundamentals of responsible and sustainable business practices have been catapulted into the limelight due to the scale of this crisis. Our advisory team is continuing to work on a one-to-one basis with our members. Certification and recertification for the Business Working Responsibly mark have continued, as has our work around the Low Carbon Pledge and our programmes.

We will continue to share insights on best practice. For example, our first webinar looked at business community responses. You can access the top tips from that webinar here.

Our teams have been engaging extensively with our members on education, employment and other pressing social issues that have arisen or been exacerbated by Covid-19. Digital exclusion and food shortages have risen to the forefront of people’ s minds, issues that featured heavily in our latest webinar as part of the ongoing series. We featured a panel of guests from key NGOs: FoodCloud, Camara and The Community Foundation for Ireland – who are addressing some of the most pressing needs, including funding, food poverty, the digital divide and offering practical tips and advice on how your organisation can enhance its community response to these issues.

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Visit our events page to see when the next webinar is taking place.


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