With 2021 well and truly upon us, many businesses worldwide will be considering their CSR priorities for the year ahead. Needless to say, some of the priorities mapped out a year ago may have slipped through the cracks amidst the uncertainty of 2020. 

On a positive note, however, the changes spurred by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have no doubt encouraged businesses to re-evaluate their long-term CSR strategies, aided by the benefits of a fresh perspective. 

Some firms’ CSR goals may make a strong re-appearance in 2021. Others may have been scrapped entirely to instead be replaced with some more timely and pressing priorities. 

With that in mind, what major lessons did companies learn in 2020, and how will these shape the corporate CSR agenda in 2021?

Flexibility is King

One lesson that COVID-19 has taught us is the advantage of being able to respond quickly to new and emerging needs. 

When individuals were effectively confined to their homes during the first national lockdown in March 2020, and the public agenda turned towards ensuring people’s safety, many businesses stepped in to support the national effort.

Gin producers famously repurposed their production lines to create much-needed hand sanitiser. Other companies began producing hygiene and protection products for frontline workers, by adapting equipment and carrying out basic research and design. 

This demonstrates the importance of being ready to change tack, and develop CSR initiatives that align with emerging, salient and timely social issues. Such initiatives were not the obvious first step for many businesses to take in the face of extreme adversity, but by taking the time to think creatively about how their resources could be better utilised, they were able to find ways to support a wider social battle. So while it is beneficial to have long-term CSR goals in mind, there must also be room for flexibility when new challenges present themselves. 

Focusing on Mental Health 

After a whirlwind of a year, it would be wise to re-focus on employee mental health. Indeed, the past year has shown us that mental health is a widely under-resourced area, yet it can have a drastic impact not only on an individual’s personal and professional life, but also the health of the overall business. 

Numerous studies have established a clear link between workers’ happiness levels and their productivity, so ensuring that employees’ mental health is approached as a top priority is key to the long-term success of a business. 

Not only is it important to begin having more open discussions about mental health – particularly in light of the wide-ranging effects of continuous lockdowns and social distancing restrictions – but it’s also crucial to financially support the organisations that are providing real solutions to common, and growing, problems like loneliness and depression. 

How GivingForce is Rising to the Challenge in 2021

In the spirit of the new year, GivingForce is launching a number of initiatives that we hope will reinvigorate our commitment to these pressing issues. 

With that in mind, we’re proud to unveil the GivingForce Employee Wellness Programme, led by our very own head of HR, Nasim. 

The aim of this programme is to forge stronger connections between the team as we continue to embrace the ups and downs of WFH, while working closely together to create a happier and more fulfilling workplace. Promoting health and fitness sits at the heart of this initiative, as is finding manageable solutions to reduce the stress in our lives. 

Each month, we will set a specific theme to follow. Our first event, which took place in January was dedicated to ‘Relaxation and counter stress strategies’. Encouraging just a few moments of mindful meditation at points throughout the day not only boosts individual morale, but will no doubt have positive effects on overall company productivity. Several of our employees also practise yoga daily. Which small, but profoundly constructive, practices can your company put into practice this year? 

The themes of our upcoming events are outlined below:

  • FebruaryNutrition and healthy eating
  • MarchThe benefits of stillness and calm in our lives

In keeping with the COVID spirit, we will be welcoming virtual speakers to share their top tips. We hope that these sessions will offer some valuable and practical advice that our team members can implement within their daily lives.

We’ve all felt the scale of disruption 2020 has brought to the workplace. Using difficult lessons learned during this time can help fuel businesses to create positive change and focus on creating a winning CSR strategy based on what is important to employees, customers and society as a whole. A carefully crafted strategy will internalise the events of the past year, while looking ahead at emerging trends to drive through sustainable and positive transformations.

Whilst the pandemic has presented numerous challenges, it has also presented opportunity for profound and lasting change. Here at GivingForce, we are taking stock of our core values and how we can support our community in the most meaningful way. We’re looking forward to bringing you more inspiration to promote wellbeing in your workplace. We’d love to hear how the past year has affected your business and ideas and steps you are taking during this challenging time to rise to the challenge in 2021.

Liza Kinnear

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