From Mental Health Assistance to Workplace Safety to Community Aid, Companies Can Step up to Support Their Stakeholders
In this atypical year — as the COVID-19 pandemic, a high-stakes election, the racial justice movement, disrupted work and school schedules, and economic concerns converge — more people in the United States are showing signs of mental health strain and seeking care as new challenges create new worries. While these large, systemic issues have no easy, quick answers, businesses can do their part to provide support that helps ease these burdens on employees and their larger communities.
Companies can offer adaptations and explore new policies to address these 2020 moments and build positive impact within their spheres of influence. B The Change compiled the suggestions and examples below from Certified B Corporation resources that prioritize stakeholders.
Account for Physical and Mental Health Needs
Create a team to handle your company’s COVID-19 pandemic response and ensure members have time to meet, keep up to date on the latest regulations, and adapt as necessary. This team can consider issues such as the safety of employees and their families as well as the larger community, and develop policies that reflect the company’s values and the current situation. Here are a few strategies to consider:
- If members of your workforce are in a higher-risk population that is more vulnerable to the health impacts of COVID-19 or serve as caretakers for people in this group, be sure policies and updates take that into account.
- It’s also a good time to re-examine your company’s mental health benefits and consider new resources. With numerous new stresses during the pandemic, workers should be encouraged to seek assistance as needed or suggest new services such as employee assistance programs. Be sure employees are aware of available mental health options — especially women and Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, who are bearing a heavier burden from the issues created by the pandemic.
- Companies that switched to full or partial remote work when the pandemic began can incorporate lessons and practices into new standard policy to provide additional flexibility or assistance for employees who continue to work away from the office. This can include technical support to ensure workers have the supplies they need to do their jobs. Additionally, consider optional virtual social gatherings that provide a way to stay in touch.
View Systems Change Through a Racial Justice Lens
As the health and economic burdens of the pandemic fell heaviest on the most vulnerable communities, police shootings and other attacks on Black people brought new attention to racial inequalities and the systems that enable them. While many businesses offered statements of support for the racial justice movement, those words should serve as the foundation for further long-term learnings and action.
These organizations follow or provide racial justice principles in their work that businesses can use to shape collective action and transform the global economic system:
- The Othering & Belonging Institute brings together stakeholders to collaborate on work that advances a more fair and inclusive society and environment. The institute advocates for a targeted universalism framework to ensure that public policies are designed and implemented to improve the outcomes, lives, and systemic impacts on the most vulnerable people.
- Demos is a “think-and-do” tank that works to build political, economic, and racial equity, advance a multiracial progressive movement, and realize the promise of America. With a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice, democratic reform, and economic justice, it provides research, policy briefs, and other resources that incorporate a racial equity lens.
- The Movement for Black Lives policy platform was created by a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the United States. In 2020, its demands include respect for the rights of racial justice protesters and COVID-19 relief options that prioritize Black families and communities.
Adapt and Innovate with Stakeholders in Mind
When business demand changes, companies often adapt first for employees and customers. But it’s important to consider other stakeholders, including suppliers and the local community. It’s also an opportunity to be creative and resourceful. To meet shifting demand and supply, some businesses found strong demand for new products or services, while other companies changed hours of operation to better ensure customer and worker safety. Companies also are helping their communities through donations of money, time, and/or products.
Here are a few examples from B Corps:
- New Seasons Market, a West Coast grocer and advocate for the regional food economy, partnered with several local farms to create a produce box that provides value to customers and a new revenue stream for farmers.
- School-lunch provider Revolution Foods is providing kids with healthy meals during school closures. It also created a white paper, Reinventing School Meal Programs for Health and Flexibility During COVID-19, to help school districts organize their meal programs.
- Danone Canada donated dairy and plant-based products to the country’s largest food bank and gave money to an emergency fund for food-insecure families. The B Corp also pledged no job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and offered financial support to its farmers, suppliers, and service providers.
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