As Europe experiences a refugee crisis on a scale that hasn’t been seen since World War Two, the government has been forced to make some crucial decisions, and people are feeling a social and moral responsibility to come together and respond to this international emergency. Crowd-funding efforts for specific goods and individual causes fill the internet. Social media platforms are bringing together complete strangers to work towards the common causes of compassion and humanity.

But how have businesses responded to the refugee crisis? Some large corporations have launched fundraising schemes. Google has used the massive power of its search engine to collect donations for the refugee crisis. The search giant, which has already donated about $1 million to human rights organisations working to help refugees, urged its users to donate via a banner ad. It agreed to match 100 percent of donations until reaching its goal of $11 million.

Apple have also made advances following concerns for the crisis. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, recently emailed staff about his concerns for refugees in Europe, saying that the company was making a ‘substantial donation’ to humanitarian organisations working with suffering refugees. Likewise, The JPMorgan Chase Foundation announced the launch of an employee giving campaign that will match employee donations dollar-for-dollar to these organisations.

Other companies are using their infrastructure to help with logistics. These include airlines such as Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Thomas Cook, allowing individuals, rather than registered charities, to take extra luggage with them to specified destinations. To support the refugees in Calais, The Big Yellow Storage Co has provided free storage for donations organised by a team of volunteers in north London.

Whilst the measures taken by these organisations are entirely voluntary, a sense of corporate social responsibility is clearly felt. Corporate Social Responsibility is all about a company managing and improving its impact on the economy, the environment and society. Increasingly, stakeholders, eg clients, suppliers, employees, funding organisations, the community, expect a company to be doing this. More and more, the expectation is for a company to go beyond simply complying with rules and regulations to meet requirements. They want to see that a company is ethical, well managed, (with strong Governance procedures), responsive to the needs and views of its stakeholders , responsible – in its actions, attitudes and values – and trustworthy.
The benefits of CSR include brand reputation, increased sales and genuine employee engagement (as detailed below). But they can also contribute more directly to a company’s bottom line, leading to an overall increase in profit.

Brand Reputation

A good reputation is not easy to build – and yet can be destroyed in a matter of hours. So much of a company’s reputation results from ‘trust’ by stakeholders. A strong reputation in environmental and social responsibility can help a company build this trust. Uber have used their role in the refugee crisis to help turn around their previously negative reputation. Following a spate of negative pr, Uber launched a pan-European initiative called UberGIVING., which involved partnering with Save the Children in the UK. They organised free of charge collections and delivery of items to Save the Children for sale in their shops across the country. People across the country arranged collection of donated items for sale; the proceeds of which were used to fund the child refugee crisis appeal.

Increased sales and customer loyalty

Consumers want to buy good, ethical and safe products. A CSR Europe/MORI study in 2000 showed that 70% of European consumers say that a company’s commitment to csr is important when buying a product and 1 in 5 would be willing to pay more for products that are socially and environmentally responsible.

Increased ability to attract and retain employees

A company’s dedication to CSR can help to attract and genuinely engage employees. People want to work for a company that is in accordance with their own values and beliefs. Employees are not just worried about promotion and salary any more. “78% of employees would rather work for an ethical and reputable company than receive a higher salary.” (The Cherenson Group, www.csreurope.org)

To many companies, this is seen as ‘all too hard’ and just another thing to distract them from conducting the business of business: making a profit. There is a risk, however, that such an attitude will mean that crises, when they hit, will be far worse. Embedding CSR into the decision process may go some way to reducing the likelihood of crises erupting – or at least reducing their impact. CSR can help formulate the foundation of a sustainable business – a loyal workforce and customer base, reducing the risk of damaging adverse publicity and promoting greater shareholder confidence. The proliferation of pressure groups and the high expectations of employees, consumers and investors to act in an ethical way mean that companies who ignore CSR risk being left behind.