CSR beyond Corporate Philanthropy in a global crisis  


COVID-19 has swept the world of its feet and has introduced a new world order and different ways of doing things. Nobody knows when the world will be entirely out of the woods. The uncertainty has left many businesses and their employees at a fix. More than ever, many people are looking up to cooperation to be socially responsible by supporting the fight against the Novel Corona Virus.

In Ghana, companies have made some donations in different ways and areas by way of CSR. Some of these organisations have received backlash from their employees, beneficiaries, stakeholders for the contributions made. Not to say, these critics are not in support of a donation for the public good, but they cited disappointment at these organisations for donating at the expense of other business obligations. The question then is, at what point is Corporate Philanthropy (CP) mistaken for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in totality?

There is a reedy line between CSR and Corporate philanthropy. Though similar, they are not the same. And organisations cannot be held to CP at the expense of the bigger CSR picture. I like to think of CP as a component of CSR. In the hierarchy of a company’s responsibilities, Corporate philanthropy has a place. But cannot replace Corporate Social Responsibility in its entirety.

There are many definitions of corporate philanthropy as there are of corporate responsibility. However, the common denominator of all the definitions is the fact that corporate philanthropy is about the donation of resources to support defined beneficial social purposes. Though a necessary component of an organisation’s responsibility, CP does not represent the full scope of CSR at all.

Corporate Social responsibility is how companies conduct their business in ways that are ethical, socially friendly and beneficial to the community in which they operate. It goes beyond making a donation or funding a social course. CSR, in my estimation, help companies answer key strategic questions: What do we bring to the environment we operate? What impact are we making in the lives of the people we employ in this era of COVID-19? Will our company and our operating model stand the test of time? Are our operations meeting all regulatory and legal requirement? Will we still be in business beyond COVID-19? If we will not, what measures are we putting in place to mitigate the impact of our non-existence?

I think responsible organisations owe it a duty to themselves and the people who depend on them to do more than philanthropy, especially in this crisis. It is in the interest of the state to ensure responsibility beyond donations. After all, what is the point in making a donation when employees are not being paid and some are being laid off? And working environments do not encourage social distancing precautions, among other socially irresponsible behaviours in the name of COVID-19? I think we should all begin to see CSR beyond CP and hold organisations to it. We are happy to receive the donations, but what are businesses doing to ensure business continuity, employee safety, customer protection during and after the Novel Coronavirus pandemic?

The fact that company C has not donated to a fund does not mean, they are not socially responsible. They could be up to something equally bigger and more sustainable. I think donations should not be society’s only yardstick for judging a corporation’s level of social responsibility.

There are many things organisations can do by way of CSR beyond donating money to support the fight against COVID-19. Businesses can focus on ensuring, for example, employee comfort and safety, creating a safe work environment that meets all the necessary safety precautions. Providing as much flexibility as possible that allow employees to work without sacrificing other responsibilities.

Companies can keep constant and transparent communication with both external and internal stakeholders. Customers, for example, may want reassurance your business will be there for them: employees’, assurance of job retention and business continuity beyond COVID-19. Thus the need for constant engagement in this period. As much as you can, keep your message simple, positive and concise.

Organisations need to review their business processes, especially at this time and eliminate all practices that impact their business continuity post-COVID-19 negatively.

Businesses can also support the government by ensuring adherence to legal and regulatory requirements and not using the virus as a leeway to avoid tax and other commitments that support the state.

There is so much a responsible organisation can do to support the society in these uncertain times. In our quest to expect more from them, let’s not focus our attention on just philanthropic activities. Let’s encourage responsibility in its totality.


About the Writer: The writer is an Accredited CIPR Public Relations practitioner. She currently works with a Payment Systems Infrastructure Provider as a Senior Officer in charge of Corporate Communications & Branding. Views expressed does not reflect the opinion of her organisation or her professional association. Kindly send your comments to [email protected] Follow her on LinkedIn Eunice Asantewaa Ankomah; Instagram: @asantewaa23 / Twitter: @AsantewaaTindi / Facebook: Eunice Asantewaa Ankomah-Tindi.

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