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Corporate Social Responsibility:COVID-19 Edition

Now is the time for brands to amp-up and amplify meaningful CSR activities for the greater good

By Deborah Weinstein | Apr 27 2020

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Original research* we conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic clearly shows 90 per cent of Canadians believe brands should support charitable activities to advance Canada and its communities. Fully 74 per cent of Canadians said they are more likely to support a brand that participates in charitable activities.

It’s safe to assume these statistics soared for the better in our new age of coronavirus, with more Canadians expecting brands to step up and support their communities with meaningful social-good programs. Longtime advocates of the need for brands and businesses to demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility, Strategic Objectives believes that the way brands act now will change their reputation and trust factor in the future.

Traditionally brands, businesses, and organizations take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach in times of instability to process the situation, assess, and react accordingly. COVID-19 changed all that. Brands are acting fast with generous programs supporting hospital frontline workers, first responders, Food Banks, The Red Cross ... you name it. Companies around the world are kicking in to help in a myriad of ways.

There are SO many ways brands can help in times of crisis, and we’ve put together some key learnings based on recent COVID-19 CSR initiatives we’ve observed. We hope they serve as inspiration and a thought starter for how your brand might make a difference by doing social-good.

Five Tips to Make a Meaningful CSR Contribution

Do Good by Doing Good
CSR can rally your team, organization and stakeholder communities to feel good and do good together. To make a meaningful contribution you must first understand the need, then adapt your resources, and anticipate how your organization will pivot to stay relevant. Your CSR initiatives have potential to differentiate and elevate your brand depending on how you share good news.

Make it Meaningful
Carve out a program that resonates with your community. For example, Kruger Products, Canada’s largest paper goods manufacturer and our client of 18 years, has a #RollingItForward initiative delivering much needed care packages of Cashmere, Scotties, SpongeTowels and Purex, to frontline hospital workers in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; in addition to supporting Food Banks across Canada.

Other clients including Groupe Marcelle, Canada’s top cosmetics manufacturer, are recognizing frontline hospital workers with gifts of restorative skincare solutions; and Green & Blacks is sharing its premium organic chocolate bars as pick-me-ups for beleaguered healthcare workers.

We also love Stella Artois’s Rally for Restaurants, a program designed to support local bars and restaurants across Canada, through the Coronavirus lockdown. Its campaign shares messages of hope and encourages Canadians to buy restaurant/bar gift cards to use once we’re able to get out and about together again. This ingenious campaign earns loyalty from its customers (bars and restaurants) and its community — us, the great drinking public.

Share Your Resources
There are SO many ways your brand can give back, support your community, and do social-good.

We’re particularly proud of Canadian companies that got out ahead of the curve with meaningful programs that actually saves lives. We’re looking at you Canada Goose – thank you for turning your Winnipeg manufacturing facilities to good use making PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), including masks and gowns for frontline health workers.

And good for you Knix, Canada’s innovative shapewear brand that launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $250K to produce PPE for frontline workers across the country.

Congrats to Ontario distiller Dillon's, and brewer Coors for turning their production lines over to making hand sanitizer. And big ups to Skip the Dishes for committing $15 million to Canadian COVID-19 relief efforts, in addition to a $1 million matching donation partnership with Food Banks Canada.

Make Time to Volunteer
While many brands are making generous donations of goods and money to worthy causes, many Not-for-Profits are experiencing serious gaps in their volunteer labour force. They depend on volunteers to conduct everyday business such as filling orders at the food bank, making deliveries to vulnerable individuals, and phoning donors soliciting contributions.

Time is a precious commodity, and you and your brand may have more time on your hands now than usual. This presents a social distancing, team-building opportunity that does good in your community, because it never hurts to lend a helping hand.

We’re so impressed by the volunteer doctors, nurses and dentists who came back from retirement to fill the need. We also see marketing agencies offering free of charge services for strategy consultations and temperature checks. This is a smart way to build relationships with potential payoffs in the future — it’s enlightened self-interest to the max.

Spread the Good Word
Many brands and organizations are doing social-good without telling anyone about it for fear of coming off self-serving. Please keep in mind, consumers want and expect your brand to do social-good, the very first point made in this blog, and that how you act now will further brand loyalty later.

Sharing news of your brand’s social-good work, has potential to inspire and serve as a role model for other brands and organizations to follow your lead with their own meaningful CSR programs. Our best advice is to humbly, yet proudly shout it out.

The SO Way
A world leader in CSR programming, Strategic Objectives is the only Canadian PR firm to receive the United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations, and to be named to the PR News Top 10 CSR Agency A-list. We understand and value the importance of creating meaningful programs that change minds, influence behaviour and do social-good in the community.

We are immensely grateful to our clients, our colleagues, and Canada’s frontline and essential workers for the selfless contribution they make for us every day.

What COVID-19 CSR initiatives inspire you? We’d love to know.

Does your brand need help crafting a meaningful CSR program? Please contact us and let’s work together to create a brand-building, news-making social-good program.

About The Research

*Maru/Blue audience research was carried out via an omnibus survey in April 2019. Results are based on a sample size of 1530 Canadian respondents.

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