Amid worries of redundancy and an oncoming recession, it can be easy to assume employees aren’t thinking about corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, along with the rise of TikTok and bread-making, lock down has steadily brought sustainability back to the forefront of public consciousness.
With Covid-19 highlighting the best (and, in some cases, worst) of social responsibility, our employees are more focused than ever on how we can work to look after our community, and our homes.
Our increasing social consciousness
The devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought people together across the world. Without fail, each day in lock down brought difficulty, with heart-wrenching news reports and daily death tolls showing the virus’ severity. But we also saw people uniting to provide for those less fortunate. By staying inside, by cancelling plans and adapting to social distancing, we have worked to protect more vulnerable people and prioritize others’ safety over our sense of normality. Despite the hardship many have felt, with mass job losses and (in some countries) struggles to afford healthcare, we have come together against a common enemy.
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As we emerge on the other side, it’s only natural that employees are now looking to give back to their community and pay this kindness forward. Whether it’s donating to a theater who closed their doors but released free online performances, or supporting a teachers’ charity, employees want to thank the people who kept society moving. Many people benefited from generous neighbors or local food banks and are now looking to repay their community by volunteering or donating to charity. We also cannot forget the role of employers and benefits providers, whose support – be that a listening ear, free training or complimentary products and services – was invaluable.
Black Lives Matter has similarly seen a huge – and hopefully lasting – upsurge, stoked during the global pandemic. While BLM has been progressing for several years, the movement saw a dramatic resurgence in awareness and support after the murder of George Floyd in May. The issues that BLM is fighting are made all the more urgent when set against the backdrop of Covid-19, bringing a shift of focus back to corporate social responsibility, as employers and consumers alike looked to businesses to see their stance on the topic.
Whether your people are passionate about social justice or moved by the heightened sense of community after witnessing such hardship over the last few months, employees are looking for a way to give back and make a real difference. One way of doing this is offering a Give As You Earn (also called Payroll Giving) benefit as part of your reward scheme, where employees could donate to charities that support BLM, for example. GAYE is a great – and simple – way to empower employees to take action and position yourself as a caring employer of choice all at the same time.
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The growth of environmental awareness
The social influence of Covid-19 is not limited to our communities – it has also demonstrated just how much of an impact we have had on the environment. During lock down, we saw some of these effects begin to reverse…
From wild boar wandering through towns in Spain, Turkey and Israel, to deer in central London and record numbers of sea turtles in Florida and Thailand, animals all over the world have begun reclaiming their natural habitats-turned-suburbs. The dramatic reduction in human activity has encouraged nature’s return to rural tourist spots, and is being seen even as far as the ocean, with fin whales appearing closer to shore in France, and dolphins frequenting once-busy shipping routes.
As a result of less-frequent personal travel, minimal commutes and fewer business emissions, the world saw a record low in carbon emissions in April 2020, with many countries reducing their CO2 output by a quarter or more. Around the world, city skylines were free of smog, waterways were clear, and scientists say the knock-on effects of lowering air pollution could even have a significant positive impact on the dwindling number of wildlife such as bees.
Now, as the world reopens for business, we are already seeing this progress beginning to fade. As we go back to ‘normal’, many people are conscious that ‘normal’ may not be good enough for a greener, healthier planet.
Understandably, the mass cutting of transport and business operations cannot serve as a long-term solution, but for many, the drop in air pollution and greenhouse gasses is the lift-off point needed for a larger, worldwide move towards sustainability. More than ever, employees are looking to their employers to lead the way.
Positive news stories like those above have been plastered across social media during Covid-19, and after years of disheartening climate change updates, consumers and employees alike are looking to make long-lasting, permanent, green changes without affecting their return to normality.
These changes may come in the form of investing in renewable energy like solar panels – which have seen an all-time peak in production of clean energy during lock down – or in the increased interest around cycle-to-work benefits, which are another fantastic way for employees to keep their carbon footprint low, even when we go back to the daily commute. Employee benefits like company cars can also be made greener, with some providers like Tusker offering designated carbon-neutral green car benefits. As electric cars become more mainstream, more reliable, and easier to charge, employee benefits like car salary sacrifice must keep pace with the cultural demands and technological developments of our evermore climate-aware society.
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Whether your employees are passionate about giving back to their community or want to do their part for the planet, employee benefits are a great way to support your people’s CSR journey. As the world puts an increasing spotlight on climate change and social consciousness, benefits like charitable giving or green transport can also be a massive differentiator in the war for talent, presenting your organisation as one who is conscious and caring versus competitors. With the right resources and messaging, you can not only make a business case for sustainability, but work to reposition your employee comms around these benefits to increase employee engagement; and give back to the planet as well as your people.