Will we look back at COVID-19 as a defining moment in corporate history? Very likely, yes. Instead of pursuing financial goalposts, corporates across the world are using their core competencies to help communities, and partner with governments to fight the pandemic. In India as well, businesses have been quick to respond with initiatives: donating funds and essential supplies, organising programmes to support frontline workers and community outreach programmes to help migrant labourers and families in need, and encouraging virtual employee volunteering.
So why have companies come forward to help with such alacrity? Because businesses realise that they are no longer responsible only to their stockholders, but to stakeholders as well – employees, customers, partners, vendors, and the community. Here is why it makes sense for corporates, right now, to lean forward and do good.
“The business of business is improving the state of the world”
At Salesforce, we believe that it's not enough to do well - businesses should do well and do good.
When you make doing good a part of your company’s vision and mission, you have already set yourself up for longevity. Think Tata Group, Wipro, and Mahindra Group steered by visionaries like Ratan Tata, Azim Premji and Anand Mahindra. These companies have already written a new chapter in corporate history with their integrated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) models. While there is no set formula, every business can be a platform for change by drawing on its unique business capabilities.
Making social good a part of your corporate DNA gives your employees a true sense of purpose, and positively impacts your larger ecosystem. Companies with a social charter have motivated employees, which results in greater productivity and innovation. Also, using employee volunteerism and social initiatives companies such as the Mahindra Group have been able to attract the right talent. The company offers ESOPs - not the traditional employee stock options, but employee social options. Employees are given a choice to volunteer for social causes that benefit society. The company's social charter has consistently placed it amongst the top 10 aspirational companies to work for in India.
Salesforce too has philanthropy baked into its business model. Our 1-1-1 integrated philanthropic model gives 1% of company equity, 1% of product, and 1% of employees’ time back to the community. This has so far translated into more than $240 million in grants, 3.5 million hours of community service, and product donations for more than 39,000 non-profits and educational institutions. This community service is the time given willingly by our employees to causes they are passionate about. And working towards those causes gives us all a sense of purpose that infuses our day jobs as well.
“You are what you do” has never rung truer. In these unprecedented times, every little act of kindness counts, and ‘empathetic’ companies with their acts of kindness have outperformed in the market. More importantly, consumers exhibit greater trust in products and offerings from companies that translate their values into action. This is especially true for millennials and GenZ consumers who want to see brands actively invested in solving real-world problems. These digital-first natives choose brands that prioritise social causes over corporate wins - both to buy from and work for.
It isn't that difficult to embed the culture of doing good as a part of your business mission. Here's how you can get started on this journey:
You can partner a non-profit organisation working in sectors you want to impact. Ashok Leyland, for instance, has education as one of its core CSR areas. It partnered Sportz Village Foundation to reach more than 400 schools with its ‘Road to School’ programme. The initiative helps primary, and middle school students nurture both scholastic and co-scholastic development.
Making your company environment-friendly is one way to make an immediate social impact. From water conservation to recycling, to eco-friendly packaging and products, there are simple ways to integrate business with environment conservation. Multinational food packaging company Tetra Pak has taken this a step further. It has announced it will use bioplastics derived from sugar cane instead of fossil fuels in its new range of aseptic packaging
As an organisation, you can adopt a social cause that is a natural fit to your main stream of business. Given the digital-first, always-online consumer of today, taking a socially conscious step exponentially increases reach. Take Luminous India which did something similar with its #LuminousPowerPledge campaign. This initiative highlighted the importance of electricity conservation. It got over 7.5 million impressions; showcased Luminous as a responsible company in the electronics sector and created a desirable social impact.
Never forget your employees. Progressive employee policies and diversity are par for the course. Promote an inclusive workplace culture that gives equal opportunity to all. Starbucks, in 2018, announced that they had achieved 100% pay equity for partners of all genders and races performing similar work across the US, a feat only a handful of companies have achieved. What shows you really care are measures such as family medical insurance, reimbursing gym memberships, covering mental wellness costs for all your employees, and having online or offline wellness programmes for employees.
The current crisis has provided a unique opportunity for leaders and businesses to step up and show corporate leadership, by doing good for a larger cause. As Benioff said, “Philanthropy isn’t just about gifts; it’s about participation. It is about the grace that comes from working together.”