Saturday March 14 2020
Of all the things that I expected to do in Rome this weekend, waving to my best friends from a cold distance and stocking food supplies were never part of the plan.
Scanning through the abundance of Italy-is-Doomed news and social media posts, my attention was captured by how many companies were reacting.
In this short article, my business partner Barbara and I at Purpose House identify 4 ways companies are getting involved in Italy. We hope to inspire others to take a stand and help as they can.
Business can have a pivotal role in tackling social issues. We have seen it many times before. The Coronavirus pandemic is further proof.
- Stopping worse to happen. Social issues have ramifications that amplify negative impacts. We can become a perpetrator even when we think the issue has nothing to do with us - like a bystander watching a bully. Companies take a stand also when they stop worse to happen. An example in Italy is Google banning ads for medical masks from marketers trying to capitalize on the coronavirus scare.
- Setting an example through compliance. Companies operate in a system and share responsibilities with other actors (e.g. government, NGOs, citizens, etc). When tackling a social issue, taking a stand includes recognizing the fundamental role of others. The Italian Minister of Health has launched the social media campaign #iorestoacasa (I stay at home) to encourage people to remain at home. In response to this public initiative, the coffee company Illy has closed its shops, embedded the # in their communication and offered free home delivery to customers.
- Providing products and services in need. Sometimes by design, other times by accident - products or services can be particularly useful for a social issue. In times of coronavirus, taking a stand means to realize how your company can provide something in need. In Italy, a wide group of tech companies (e.g. Wind, Amazon, Cisco, etc), coordinated by the Ministry of Technological Innovation, are offering some of their services for free to people affected by the lockdown.
- Rewiring to address the issue. There is, even more, that a company can do: redesign products and services to cater to the needs of people affected by the issue. Tackling the social issue becomes the core business. For example, we were impressed by Montrasio. In 3 weeks this household cleaning and personal care company redesigned its lines to produce affordable surgical masks for medical staff.
So, these are just 4 ways we are seeing business taking a stand against the dramatic consequences of the pandemic in Italy. We hope those examples will inspire more actions from companies around the world. We are dealing here. Each and every one of us can play a role.
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What is role of business in tackling #COVID19? Responsible marketing, securing supplies, safeguarding employees, building resilience...We're launching urgent process to gather together views. To join the conversation, subscribe to our new Business Fights Poverty Challenge here: snipbfp.org/coronavirus