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Has COVID-19 Impacted Corporate Social Responsibility?

Has COVID-19 Impacted Corporate Social Responsibility?
05 August 2020 | Updated 17 September 2020

Coronavirus may have forced businesses to review their social accountability, but has CSR in general taken a backseat throughout the pandemic?

Prioritising CSR has long been considered a sound business decision, with employees and customers showing more interest in working for and spending with companies with good social responsibility credentials. 

Business News Daily defines good CSR as a type of business self-regulation with the aim of being socially accountable: “There is no one ‘right’ way companies can practice CSR; many corporate CSR initiatives strive to positively contribute to the public, the economy or the environment.”

COVID-19’s huge effect on most types of business operations may have naturally led to some CSR initiatives being mothballed until a more stable time in the future. This is particularly true of energy efficiency and sustainability programmes. In a survey by edie of 101 UK-based energy and sustainability professionals, conducted in late March 2020, 70 per cent said their organisation had either confirmed plans to pause investment into sustainability solutions or were considering doing so.

But with the UK edging ever-closer to its 2050 net-zero carbon target, is this something that businesses can afford to lose momentum on?


“I would say overall that CSR has hugely been raised in peoples objectives, certainly the personal health and wellbeing elements. It is clear to attract and keep occupiers we have to deliver excellence in CSR across the multiple objectives as an absolute priority.”

– Peter Carr

Head of Facilities Management, Commercial Estates Group (CEG) and ThisWeekinFM Editorial Advisory Board Member


CSR and COVID Management in FM


Peter Carr, Head of Facilities Management at Commercial Estates Group (CEG) and ThisWeekinFM Editorial Advisory Board Member, sees CSR as an essential part of a good COVID management strategy, rather than detracting from it:

“My company’s response to COVID, not only in facilities but across investment, construction and development has effectively occurred alongside CSR.

“We feel that social responsibility is exactly the point of COVID management – with structured careful management of the reduction in occupancy of properties initially (we never closed any building  - deliberately).

“Alongside this, the actual closedown of our construction and development projects engaged the entire firm, even post-furlough, of significant numbers.

“We engaged extremely closely with our cleaners and engineers – working jointly together, looking at products that could be shared and assisting one another across the country when there were shortages.

“We also analysed World Health Organisation (WHO) and industry advice to ensure we followed engineering health guidance closely specifically in terms of air flows within the buildings – so the health and wellbeing of all occupiers was at the forefront of everything we were and now are doing."


Excellence in CSR Essential to Keep Occupiers Post-COVID


Carr admits that whilst certain elements of CSR may have “dropped off”, overall the health and wellbeing elements of it have been given additional emphasis:

“Certain parts of CSR may have ‘dropped off’ in this period due to a reduced team or construction closures. We naturally had parts of our programme reduced for a time – elements like our gym and building amenities build programmes, beehive installation programme or metering projects were put on hold.”

“I would say overall that CSR has hugely been raised in peoples objectives, certainly the personal health and wellbeing elements. It is clear to attract and keep occupiers we have to deliver excellence in CSR across the multiple objectives as an absolute priority.”


A Renewed Focus on Green Recovery


As Carr alluded to, CSR doesn’t just involve heath and wellbeing, but many other elements such as environmental sustainability. The UK’s lockdown might have temporarily improved air quality and reduced carbon emissions, but it’s clear that business sustainability plans may have come at the cost of coronavirus crisis management.

During the early stages of the pandemic, the UN Environment Chief warned against viewing the effect of COVID-19 on climate change as a “silver lining”.

Inger Andersen, the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), commented that post-pandemic, we must examine how our management of nature can be part of a “different economy”.

“One where finance and actions fuel green jobs, green growth and a different way of life, because the health of people and the health of the planet are one and the same, and both can thrive in equal measure,” she said.

Whether the pandemic will further progress or slow these ambitions remains to be seen.


Re-Prioritising Energy Management Post-COVID


Energy management initiatives are key in achieving long-term carbon reduction goals but, in the current economic climate, companies may struggle to find the capital investment required to implement them. 

Utility Team have created the Revolving Green Fund, which provides businesses with interest-free funding to deliver energy-efficient projects and technologies. 

You can read more about the funding here

Picture: A photograph of two sky scraper buildings

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 05 August 2020


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