Corporate Social Responsibility in Turbulent Times of Pandemic and Mass Unrest

Why it’s now or Never for Corporates to Change Their CSR and Societal Approaches

As the world becomes more volatile and turbulent due to the crisis brought about due to the Pandemic caused by the Covid 19 outbreak, it is important to consider what Corporates must do and the role of the Business Leaders in reaching out to society.

Indeed, as we are seeing in the United States and elsewhere and most recently, in India, mass unrest and societal disturbances are taking a toll on the Social Fabric.

Whether it is the Black Lives Matter Movement in the United States, the Students protest in Hong Kong or the ongoing Farmers’ siege of the National Capital in India, what we are witnessing is an unprecedented outpouring of civic angst and anger at what the aggrieved parties think are injustices done to them.

In this context, there is more than ever a reason for Corporates to be as sensitive and as conscientious as possible as some of these movements, including the general strikes in France and the Farmers’ agitation are driven by quintessentially anti corporate sentiments.

Indeed, it is now or never for many victims of corporate power and Corporate Social Responsibility acquires new importance.

Moving Beyond Ideologies and Arriving at a Realistic Compromise with Society

To start with, while it is easy to say that Corporates must be driven by values and humanity, in practice, it is often a hardnosed pursuit of profit that motivates businesses.

Therefore, it is important to note that expecting Big Business and for that matter, any businessperson to forego the Profit Imperative would be wishful thinking.

On the other hand, there are pressing and genuine problems being faced by the people and hence, there is a need to address and alleviate some, if not all their problems.

So, how does one reconcile what is essentially a hopeless fight between Two Extremes of Ideology?

The answer to this lies in striking a balance between the rapacious pursuit of profit by corporates and the Utopian dreams of the people who are fighting them. In other words, a compromise must be arrived at in a realistic manner wherein a Utopia for Realists kind of alternative emerges.

Of course, this is easier said than done as the entire system of economy in the World (barring a few communist and socialist countries) is driven by the Motto of Profits above All.

However, what we suggest are a People before Profits model that can help humanity.

How a Utopia for Realists Looks in Practice and Detailing the Specific CSR Approaches

Moving on to the specifics, corporates can and must activate their CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility practices and take them to the next level by reaching out to society directly.

In other words, this is the time for CSR to live up to its name and the acute crisis caused by Covid can be the catalyst that can spur a New Social Contract between Big Business and Society.

What this means is moving away from the Neoliberal Model of Economics and into a more humane Democratic Capitalistic paradigm.

Moreover, the Covid Crisis has brought to the fore the Fault lines of Capitalism and hence, it would be a good idea to address such shortcomings now.

As the saying goes, never let a Crisis Go Waste, and hence, we can use the present crisis as an opportunity to fix the flaws in our present systems.

A New Social Contract wherein initiatives such as UBI or Universal Basic Income, Guaranteed Employment, Healthcare for All, Adequate Social Security, and Environmentally Responsible Business Activities can go a long way in meeting the aspirations of the people without damaging the bottom lines of corporates.

These are the specifics that the CSR outreach can embrace now.

Why Business Leaders Must Speak Out Now

Having said that, one also needs to examine the role of the Business Leaders in such times of mass unrest.

By virtue of their social standing, business leaders are in a good position to influence the public discourse and policy and hence, it is necessary for them to step up in these times of crisis.

However, it is regrettable to note that this is not happening in practice and hence, a push must be made for them to take a stand.

For instance, in the United States, we see more and more of Corporate Honchos withdrawing rather than coming out against the unfair practices.

Even in India, many business leaders were loath to criticise the government over the handling of the Pandemic.

Of course, as we mentioned earlier, we are talking about a basic contradiction and that the solutions to our present problems lie in altering the Status Quo that might or might not be possible in a realistic manner of speaking.

This is the reason we have been harping on a practical and achievable CSR activities and hopefully, we can turn the corner before it is too late. Indeed, many corporates were found wanting even for Covid Relief outreach.


Last, an important aspect of why CSR must change with the times is that if profits were the only motive and they are realised at the expense of society, pretty soon there would be no society left for businesses to exist.

Similarly, if we go on polluting the environment, there would be a blowback from Nature, which is what is happening now.

Hence, it is our argument that it is in the interests of businesses to change direction and this is the time for action.

To conclude, the stakes are indeed high as we move to a Post Pandemic World.

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Corporate Social Responsibility