How are corporations casting themselves as socially responsible actors within COVID-19?



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Lucy Pei's picture
May 18, 2020

Senators write a letter to corporate CEOs to see if they will voluntarily participate in this form of corporate social responsibility.

It is clear that in the conditions of the pandemic, people who cannot afford internet connections and functioning devices will suffer more social, economic, and other hardships. People who are in places without internet infrastructure will be even less able to do their jobs, schooling, socializing, etc. 

Lucy Pei's picture
May 17, 2020
In response to:

By matching purchases of Pro Membership of their programming training with five donation subscriptions, this private business is casting itself as socially responsible. They are re-skiling people who have been furloughed or laid off during the pandemic and this allows them to be competitive for jobs that are still in demand as programmers. Programming and tech industries are the most resilient in a situation of social distancing, as everyone more or less fully relies on digital connectivity for interaction, and this company is capitalizing on that situation to increase its paying membership while boosting its image of social responsibility. 

As a purchaser of Pro Membership, I'm doing a good because I'm "unlocking" the donations to 5 people who get the opportunity to receive training in a new skill through a premium version of a free platform, and this might get them employment. 

Lucy Pei's picture
May 14, 2020

Here Verizon presents itself as socially responsible by supprting small businesses with small grants. 

Individuals are encouraged to support the "cause" of keeping businesses open. Businesses become like charities or a good to support with the dollars of consumers. The rest of Verizon's loans are "unlocked" with the shallow digital participation of using the hashtag #PayItForwardLIVE by viewers of the Verizon-sponsored living-room streamed concerts of famous artists. 

Digital products that underly payment for small businesses (PayPal, Venmo, Square) are also portrayed as doing a social good by virtue of being platforms through which individuals can "Support" thier local businesses with gift cards, tips, and more. 

Relatedly, in the USA Today article: 

"The Small Business Administration program offers firms employing 500 or fewer workers low-interest loans to cover their costs while they're shuttered. But while the SBA has approved billions in loans since April 3, businesses point to a myriad of challenges in the PPP's rollout: technical glitches, an avalanche of requests, a lack of response, and an exhaustion of money." - so the Verizon grants as well as other grants are portrayed as heroically and competently stepping in to save small businesses, portrayed as the backbones of disadvantaged communities. 

Lucy Pei's picture
May 11, 2020

This concluding quote really summarizes the position of this article: "No one expects or requires major companies to take extraordinary measures to help their many stakeholders, but the bold and creative steps they take today to deliver immediate assistance will define their legacy tomorrow."

The author is managing director of FSG, a global social-impact consulting firm. He is lauding how acts of un-mandated CSR like Johnson & Johnson's pulling Tylenol off shelves or his own company's sliding-scale pay-cuts instead of layoffs are still talked about and used as cases in business school. He is using the "business case for CSR" line of argument to encourage companies to take steps such as giving their employees loans at a lower or no-interest rate, or doing the equivalent of "buying gift cards" from small suppliers. These actions, which don't even require any loss from the corporation, are portrayed as providing a huge boon to the company's reputation and employee loyalty, and still being above and beyond what is expected or mandated of corporations. 

The author opens with stating that the government's stimulus package is too little too late, which unfortunately is true, and then saying that the only option is for corporations to voluntarily engage in these primarily loan-based forms of assistance. 

Lucy Pei's picture
May 11, 2020
  • Misinformation: Platforms (Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Apple App Store and Google Play app store): trying to curb misinformation and directing towards government sources of information.  Facebook giving WHO free ad space.
  • "Matching" Donations: Google and Facebook pledge 7.5 and 20 million in matched donations respectively, to WHO
  • Addressing price-gouging, [I'll need to look into this more] - Amazon
  • At the beginning, tech companies led the work-from-home before it became mandated, and voluntarily closing stores was also protrayed as CSR
  • App-supported delivery services adding non-contact options seems portrayed as social responsibility 
Lucy Pei's picture
April 18, 2020

N/A, but when I looked up Telefonica, their homepage is all COVID-19 stuff which is pretty much what everyone is doing but I may look more closely at this particular case and continuity with the current situation