In 2020, Philanthropy New York created a series on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for corporate philanthropy professionals and leaders of CSR communications.
Create an engaging space for “real talk” to collectively address the unprecedented economic and public health challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the systemic barriers and racial injustice that still plague society, and the transformations taking place within and across corporations to meet and reflect the expectations of employees, leadership within the organization and external stakeholders.
Across each conversation was a focus on how to build a more equitable culture and proactively shape work to address the dynamics that came to the forefront in 2020 and are here to stay.
This session, on July 29, 2020, delved into the different ways that CSR efforts are supporting the collective health, sustainability, and resilience of communities around the world as well as how the work and approach (including initiatives and programs) are evolving due to the COVID-19 crisis.
- The transformations resulting from Covid-19 will continue over the foreseeable future, and the changes are impacting business models and ways of working, beyond the CSR programs.
- Covid-19 very clearly brought to light the inequities that still plague our society in terms of access to health, safety, and education, among other areas and the disproportionate burden faced by black, brown, and indigenous communities.
- Corporate foundations cannot remain on the sidelines. Business and social issues are intertwined. Companies have a responsibility to lead, and not simply follow.
- To make the most impactful decisions, include and engage your stakeholders in the process (e.g. C-Suite, Cross-Functional Teams, Community Partners, and Public Sector).
- Start with trust and take a risk.
- Following a natural disaster or significant event like COVID-19, frontline responders’ needs are often overlooked. Corporate donors can play an important role in addressing this need.
- Support long-term recovery and resiliency, beyond the immediate response.
- We cannot expect people to put their values and challenges they (family and community are facing) aside at work, where they spend most of their time. People want the companies they are helping to build, grow, and sustain to be responsive to the challenges in our world and expressions of their values. To be successful, companies need to find a way to incorporate those values into the way they operate.
On September 22, 2020, panelists and participants explored where the corporate social responsibility (CSR) field is in advancing racial justice and equity and where it needs to be. It looked at how internal practices may at times be at odds with public statements; the limitations and/or roadblocks to truly doing the work; initiatives to move along the continuum to becoming an anti-racist organization; and the ways to leverage influence within the organization to advance racial justice and equity, particularly beyond philanthropic initiatives.
- Be transparent and acknowledge where you are on the continuum from an exclusive to a fully inclusive, anti-racist, and multi-cultural organization, and know that to be anti-racist requires work every day.
- Evaluate how your philanthropic practices are/are not advancing racial equity and justice and begin addressing the gaps.
- Ensure that the internal practices of the organization are aligned with external communications.
- Companies need to facilitate having the voices of their employees heard. Create an environment where employees are able to voice issues and concerns around DEI without concern of retaliation.
- There is now an expectation that leaders across sectors, including business leaders, have a responsibility to speak out and to make their views known and for it to be a part of society. In the face of injustice, it is crucial for corporate leaders to make their voices heard.
- Philanthropy can play a role in strengthening the small business sector in Black and Brown communities and the way that connects to closing the racial wealth gap, economic justice, and job generation.
On December 17, 2020, panelists and participants engaged in an authentic dialogue of where the CSR field is today in leveraging communications to be transparent, authentic and reflect core values, advance racial justice and equity, respond to COVID-19, and push for climate action, among the many larger social, economic and political forces and unprecedented challenges at the forefront in our world today.
- The journey from action to impact is unique to each organization, and there is no one size fits all, it’s a continuum. Some organizations are still looking at how best to build a business case, while others have mainstreamed efforts and it’s being led by the businesses (not a siloed group).
- Corporations have been moving toward living out their corporate responsibility values in their business practices. Corporate foundations can play a role in informing corporate business practices.
- Be consistent in terms of standing for values and acting on them, or at least doing your best. Align internal communications and public statements with the current practice and where the organization wants to be in the future. This will also allow you to attract talent that believes in those values and wants to make a difference in the world.
- Don’t keep waiting for the cover of crowds to take a stand. Take the lead. Taking the lead and reach out to peers and invite them to join you. Leverage communications to amplify voice and influence as well as being transparent about the challenges, successes, and lessons learned through work to address key philanthropic/CSR priorities and/or most concerning issues of today.
- Don't wait for perfection - it's about immediate thoughtful action - gone are the days where your stakeholders can wait until you produce the perfect corporate message. In fact, you couldn't possibly have the perfect corporate message because today we are all coming to our senses that we are also learning while we are doing.
- Accelerate how we embed a racial lens to our work - end-to-end.
- Avoid analysis paralysis in connecting action to impact.
- Stop trying to make everyone like you. It does not work and it is better to strengthen ties with communities with whom you share core values.
- Start with our own values first and find partners that are leading and making real change. Bring to the table the resources and tools you have as a business and work with them over these shared values. The closest relationship one can have with consumers is over shared values.
- In order to have credibility, work with your partners over time and deploy all your tools to support them.
Is COVID-19 Changing Business as Usual? The Corporate Response
- Philanthropy and COVID-19: In the first half of 2020, Candid and Center for Disaster Philanthropy. This report explores the trends in philanthropic giving as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. The key finding is that funding and support are needed not only in response to the health challenges presented by COVID-19 but beyond, as recovery will take more than a vaccine. COVID-19 is a social, economic, and health-related disaster – a complex humanitarian emergency that is affecting the entire world.
- How can funders and donors respond to COVID-19 in an equitable way?, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy?
- Racial Equity Tools Website. This website has a section dedicated to COVID-19 resources to help understand and respond both to the moment and for the long haul.
- Tips and Resources for Responding Globally to COVID-19, Council on Foundations.
- For a global context of COVID-19 funding, Devex has developed – “Interactive: Who’s funding the COVID-19 response and what are the priorities?” This interactive on Devex’s platform contains an analysis of funding opportunities listed on the platform between January 2020 and February 2021. It can be accessed by donor, region, and focus area analysis.
- Youth or Consequences: Put Youth at the Center of COVID-19 Recovery.
Real Talk: Are CSR Teams Advancing Racial Equity and Justice?
- Continuum of Organizations: Exclusive to Anti-Racist (PDF Below)
- Guiding a Giving Response to Anti-Black Injustice, by Bridgespan and ABFE. Guiding a Giving Response to Anti-Black Injustice | Bridgespan
- Shifting Philanthropy from Charity to Justice, Dorian O. Burton and Brian C. B. Barnes, put forward a new framework for giving to address America’s economic, social and political inequities. (ssir.org)
- Voices from the Field: 6 Leadership Imperatives for Philanthropy, Centered on Racial Equity, John Hill, looks at what is needed for philanthropy to meaningfully practice diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Voices from the Field: 6 Leadership Imperatives for Philanthropy, Centered on Racial Equity – Non Profit News | Nonprofit Quarterly
- The new Grantmaking with a Racial Justice Lens: A Practical Guide, provides grantmakers with reflections, frameworks, and tools built from the direct experience of activists and funders for advancing racial justice in any philanthropic setting.
- Equity in the Center works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems in the social sector to center race equity and build a Race Equity Culture. The publication, Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture, explores the four levels of how racism manifests itself in society (Personal, Inter-Personal, Institutional, Structural) and the role that we play in reinforcing or breaking down racism at these different levels. Equity in the Center – Building A Race Equity Culture
Beyond the CSR Headlines: From Action to Impact
- Invest in and Strengthen People of Color: A Corporate Grantmaker Explains How. (philanthropy.com)
- 2020’s Top 10 Trends in Purpose and What They Could Mean for You in 2021, Sustainable Brands.
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