Using core business, philanthropy and policy engagement to mitigate negative impacts on people

Anna Triponel

April 13, 2020

Business Fights Poverty and the Harvard Kennedy School – Corporate Responsibility Initiative have published a response framework setting out practical guidance on how businesses can support the most vulnerable in their value chains, communities and beyond.

The report delves into three areas where the pandemic’s impacts on people will be most felt: impact on people’s lives (health and safety), impact on livelihoods (jobs and income) and impact on learning (education and skills). The report states that “in each, there will be short-term personal, family and community crises and loss, but also long-term scarring effects that could last generations without public and private support to increase resilience. Across all dimensions, there will be a disproportionate impact on women.”

The report then provides examples of the ways in which companies can play “a vital and urgent role” in each of these three areas. These actions can be grouped into three categories of action:

  1. Within core business, put people first. “Identify vulnerable stakeholders in the company’s operations, value chain and communities, identify the most salient human rights and economic risks they face and develop plans to address these through enhanced policies, processes, products, services, technologies, financing mechanisms and business models.”
  2. When it comes to philanthropy, “[e]xplore ways to leverage corporate philanthropy, employee engagement and social investment to support the most vulnerable and ensure that community voices are heard.”
  3. When it comes to policy engagement, “[e]ngage in policy dialogue, awareness raising and institution strengthening partnerships to support those who are most vulnerable.” Rights-based policy dialogue with government can ensure stimulus packages support employees and independent workers, as well as strengthen health care and education.

The report highlights the longer term opportunity for groups of companies to come together at national and industry levels with government to ask what the future will look like and play a role in getting back on course to economic growth while accelerating the achievement of the SDGs.

Matrix for business action

Source: Zahid Torres-Rahman and Jane Nelson, Business and COVID-19: Supporting the Most Vulnerable (Business Fights Poverty with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government – Responsible Business Initiative, March 2020)

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