Over the last few months, the omnipresent coronavirus pandemic has brought us not only dramatic news about the number of newly infected patients, but it has also shifted our attention to front-line essential workers and others trying to help. Social responsibility, a term otherwise known mainly from marketing manuals, is thus taking on a very distinct shape.
One of the symbols of the coronavirus era lifesaving fight has become the transparent plastic face shield, worn by healthcare workers to protect their own lives at work. Yet, few people knew that the idea for their manufacturing was born in the company of a Czech who has been 3D printing since his student days. Hundreds of thousands of these devices have been distributed all over the world. In addition to hospitals and general practitioners, they were also gradually adopted by teachers or nursing homes staff.
Voluntary help from those, whose main mission is creating a profit has shown us, how important they can be to our society as a whole – be it a large, multinational corporation or a company with a few hundred employees based in Prague's Holešovice.
During the pandemic outbreak, the attention of each company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) officers focused on activities directly related to healthcare. To that end, cloth face masks were sewn not only for their companies‘ own needs, but for others as well. And it didn’t stop there.
says Elena Jakubovic, founder of the real estate agency behind the "Our Lungs" endowment fund. What led to the combination of real estate business and respiratory health? Elena Jakubovič and her team believe that these two are, in fact, related:
"This time we want to take it a step further and provide Czech experts and hospitals with long-term help under the auspices of the „Our lungs“ endowment fund. I believe that a well-chosen house or apartment should be the place to breathe freely. Everyone should be able to enjoy this feeling, which is why I have focused our charity work on respiratory health.“
Last year, Škoda Auto in Mladá Boleslav, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, had its production halted for more than a month, yet its employees have not been idle. Instead, they decided to start distributing material aid in their region. The company itself then donated hundreds of its cars worth 85 million crowns to social and healthcare services, topped off with electric motorbikes loaned to healthcare and social service workers, as well as nonprofits and municipality employees.
According to the Ipsos CSR & Reputation Research survey conducted last December, the emphasis of Czech companies‘ CSR activities focused on healthcare has currently increased to 27%. On the other hand, topics related to community life, social equality or humanitarian aid have taken a back seat. More than a quarter of the population also report that corporate engagement during the pandemic has positively influenced their relationship with the given brand.
"It's important to be prepared. This time it was a pandemic, before that it used to be mainly natural disasters. We've been providing emergency aid for many years already and improving it continuously, so when the pandemic came, we were able to respond overnight,"
However, what‘s even more important than speed is an idea. Specifically, the idea behind every social responsibility project. And it doesn’t always have to be the coronavirus relief.
"According to Czechs, service companies should focus more on the social development and their attitude towards the customer, while companies from the food supply chain should centre their employees. Tobacco companies and alcohol producers ought mainly to strive to compensate their businesses‘ negative impact on society, technology and energy companies should pick up environmental topics,"
A well-known example of this was billionaire Karel Komárek’s last year reaction to China cancelling an order for Petrof pianos and grand pianos, originally intended for the local market. Just as a reminder – China refused to collect already ordered goods worth more than 5 million crowns due to Senate President Miloš Vystrčil’s visit to Taiwan. The motivation was political, as China considers Taiwan its breakaway province.
"We decided to buy the pianos as soon as we heard about the problem. My wife and I agreed that our foundation would immediately donate them to Czech schools. We would like these 11 instruments to become a symbol of Czech pride and cohesion,"
said Komárek at the time, and the national public reacted soon enough. The initiative garnered thousands of likes on social media, as well as about 40 articles and reports in domestic media on the very first day upon its announcement. Truly priceless publicity!
Another argument against underestimating CSR is the fact that more than half of the national public considers it a factor influencing their purchasing behaviour. Moreover, the Ipsos study states that 65% of Czechs are willing to pay more for a socially responsible product.
Among the areas, big companies should tend to in their CSR activities we traditionally find protection of the environment as well as fair treatment of their employees. The coronavirus pandemic may soon become a less pressing topic than it is now, yet the concept of company social responsibility is here to stay. There shall always be a need for help.
"No one should remain isolated in these endeavours. The future belongs to cooperation between people, nature and our planet,"