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How Businesses Can Fight Against Coronavirus Disease

How Businesses Can Fight Against Coronavirus Disease

Our society does not, in its contemporary state, comprise of humans and natural elements only; entities, businesses and organizations form an integral part. Any mess or otherwise in the society has an effect on these business organizations whose primary motive is profitability.

The world is now faced with the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which has affected over 152,000 persons with 5700 death across the world as of 15th March 2020 after it was first recorded in December 2019 in China. Not only humans will suffer, businesses will be affected directly or indirectly. China’s service “sector had its worst month on record in February as new orders plummeted to their lowest level since the global financial crisis”.

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Other economies would soon have their effects because of the outbreak of the virus in other continents: Europe, America, Africa, etc. This instance brings our attention to the need for all, including business organization to support our societies at all times, especially in the ongoing fight against the pandemic by implementing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies. It is not surprising that many top executives, investors and entrepreneurs are having sleepless nights, not because of the fear of being infected but the fear of their budgets being disrupted leading to loss of income; no proper budget was made to support the communities in which they operate.

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The concept of CSR is rarely mentioned at board rooms and management meetings. Many also ascribe the terms as synonymous to donations. Donations and philanthropic activities are an aspect of corporate social responsibility and that these efforts are commendable in a business sense. It is stated that donations, including those listed below, supported the Chinese government’s efforts to expedite actions against the outbreak in the country.

  • Alibaba created a $144 million fund to buy medical supplies for Wuhan and Hubei provinces, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, and it’s offering AI computing power to research organizations searching for a vaccine or treatments.
  • Tencent, another Chinese giant, founded a $42.7 million fund for medical supplies for Wuhan.
  • Microsoft will contribute $142,400 to support relief efforts in Wuhan and Hubei provinces.
  • Cargill, a Minnesota-based agriculture company, and Dell will both donate $284,800 to the Chinese Red Cross.
  • Boeing will give 250,000 face masks to aid workers and medical personnel in Wuhan and Zhoushan.

Currently, it is announced that the situation in China is getting better; a hand of applauds to CSR practices of corporations in China, US and Europe which supported in diverse ways. Can I say that the situation might be different in Africa? Would it be a burden on government and the individual citizens only? How can small businesses which form a greater part of the African economy support their communities in such critical times though they may not have considered CSR cost in their annual budgets?

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Since the first coronavirus case was announced in Africa, only Dangote had made an announcement to donate funds of N124million to support the Nigeria government. CSR is not for multinationals only; SMEs operating in any industry can inculcate corporate social responsibility policies and practices into their business.  Here are some few practices African business organization can do to assist:

  • Organizations such as banks, malls, etc. which receives large number of customers in a day can provide sanitizers, water and liquid soap to clients for hand washing – this could be facilitated and monitored with periodic announcement over a sound system or loud speaker.
  • Dedicated personnel from the sales and marketing department with the necessary PPEs can be available to explain the need for prevention and how the company values customer’s health.
  • Telecommunication companies can partner media organizations to broadcast ads and promos on preventive practices of the outbreak. These ads could be tweaked to match the companies’ products and services.
  • Businesses can provide preventive materials such as liquid soaps, nose masks, etc. to staff at no cost instead of leaving employees to their own fate. These practices can also be promoted through notices and messages from management. In doing this, employees’ commitment towards the company will improve, panic will reduce and its long-term effect would be positively felt. Recently, I had a discussion with a friend and he complained bitterly on how his outfit’s management seems to be ‘dump’ on the issue at hand. He expected some kind of assurance notice (unofficial) from management to staff and customers. He lamented that ‘they are thinking of just the cost without thinking about staff’s wellbeing’. Dear boss, there’s nothing like doing nothing at such moments, show concern to your stakeholders – its CSR, a good business practice.
  • I am a customer of a popular financial institution in Ghana. Since the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Health announced the cases of COVID-19, I have been receiving SMS on their products that would enable me adhere to the disease preventive measures: this is smart. As a business, find a way of reaching the public in the midst of such situations, your clientele would not forget.
  • The music industry can also contribute to maintain their relevance to society, not only in entertaining and earning income but addressing society’s problems. Let’s imagine Sakordie, Kofi Kinaata, Davido, Shatta Wale, etc. coming out with a music track on how the virus can be prevented. The music would enter every corner of the country and I can assume that that could be the most adhered to campaign. The rural communities and the youth (who enjoy music so much) would benefit very well. Not only should the music industry sing and organized event to cash in. They must play a role in being responsible to societies.
  • Players in the microeconomic sector such as petty traders who operates stores and table top businesses can keep hand sanitizers and tissue paper at their stores. Customers who visit the stores can clean their hands before and after they have been served. These acts would be a way of retaining the customer after the outbreak has been handled.
  • Avoiding price-gouging or increasing prices of goods and services whose demand has shot up because of the pandemic. These possible acts of raking in profit in the short run at the expense of the outbreak are unethical corporate behavior which tramples on the principles of CSR. Society would know this and hit back when the situation subsides.
  • Producing fake products or reducing the quality of products and services in order to make more sales because of increased demand should not be the way to go. Truly, clients might not be able to check the quality of these products, but they will definitely come to realize it after the dust has settled.  
  • A trusted financial institution can open account (e.g. FUND AGAINST CONVID-19) to accumulate donations from smaller companies to boost governments’ efforts in battling the disease in various African countries. Unity is strength and here is the time for Africans to rise up to their own support.

CSR is a key aspect of management, irrespective of the sector or industry your business operates. Community concerns should be inculcated in the corporate strategic planning. Businesses and entrepreneurs should not only focus on realizing profit for the absolute benefit of shareholders but appreciate shared benefit spread across to all stakeholders.

Richfield A. Quarshie is the Executive Director of DEQ Change Foundation.

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