Socio-economic impact: COVID-19 is bringing out the best in business

By Kealan Finnegan

Throughout the COVID-19 period, there have been notable instances of positivity. The dedication and bravery of healthcare workers and others on the front line not least. Businesses have been playing a significant role in the response too, including provision of medical equipment and other crucial supplies, donations, shelter, and more.

In recent years, the social side of business has become increasingly prominent. Working towards social goals helps companies to be sustainable, from keeping staff happy, to developing new (and continuing existing) client relations, and obtaining sustainable sources of financing and resources.

From a company standpoint, socio-economic impact can be wide-ranging. There is the internal impact within the company, such as addressing staff’s needs and prioritising well-being, as well as meeting the requirements of stakeholders that the company shares a relationship with, from suppliers through to consumers.

Research shows that pressure has been increasing on companies to do more than just return a profit. The brightest talent want to work in settings that they feel are having a positive social impact, and brands are increasingly working to align themselves with these views.

Companies can drive social impact through focused initiatives and projects, either directly focused on socio-economic development or that indirectly benefit wider groups through business as usual. All of these have been magnified by the need of the day in the response to COVID-19.

UKIBC members have been playing their part in the response in the UK and in India. Diageo has pledged to provide eight million bottles of sanitiser to help protect frontline healthcare workers. Standard Chartered has pledged INR 5 crore (US$ 0.7 million) towards fighting the spread of COVID-19 in India and is covering the rations and essentials of almost 70,000 vulnerable beneficiaries. TVS Motor Company have pledged INR 25 crore (US$3.5 million) to the PM’s Relief Fund. Additionally, JCB has been supporting communities around its plants in Ballabhgarh, Jaipur, and Pune by providing meals to vulnerable communities, and is procuring PPEs, testing kits and medicines.

It is quite possible that we are seeing the acceleration of new business practices, like working from home and holding meetings and events online, through to the importance of digital infrastructure and online learning. Perhaps, this is also a time for companies to take further stock of the positive change they can generate beyond, as well as within, their own business interests.

See our Socio-Economic Impact site for more on the UKIBC’s Socio-Economic Impact campaign

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