Corporate Social Responsibility course allows businesses to progress during COVID-19 crisis

For many of us, 2020 will be a tough year. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected small businesses to multinationals and even governments in many different ways. Still, the ability to recover quickly is an important characteristic of successful businesspeople. New challenges demand smart solutions and intelligent approaches.

Business lockdown

Many CBI projects rely on personal interaction. This can be through expert coaching, training in classroom situations, visits to busy trade events or business networking and close collaboration. Unfortunately, none of these could take place due to public safety measures. Businesses still need to keep functioning wherever possible. New methods of working and collaborating are thus appearing. Quite quickly, it became clear that there was a growing interest in and demand for distance learning as a solution to social distancing. CBI saw this need and decided to do something about it.

Online solutions

One fundamental and vital element in almost all CBI projects is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Back in 2017, IPD, ITC, and CBI jointly developed the e-learning course: ‘Introduction to CSR.’ IPD financed the development of the course. ITC is the host and is responsible for maintenance, and CBI provides the content and tutoring. Since 2017, the e-learning course has been regularly updated. It is offered 3 times a year on the ITC SME Academy website.

During the lockdown, there was huge interest in the March session of the course. Because of this, CBI decided to organise an extra session to meet the demand. We talked to 2 very different businesses in different parts of the world to hear what they thought about the online e-learning system. Both had positive feedback.

Looking at the positives

In Guatemala, Cooperative Magdalena R.L. grows, packs, and exports fresh vegetables. The vegetables are produced by around 90 to 100 small growers located about 37km from Guatemala City. Commercial Director Jose Andres Sanabria mentioned that face-to-face meetings were always better if possible. Still, he saved time and money by not having to travel to a training location.

The new normal

“The presentations were really good. All the information we needed was sent to us, so we could have the learning experience that we were hoping for,” says Sanabria. He thinks that the new normal will be a combination of online and real-life meetings. Many companies now see that a lot can be done online. This helps to reduce costs and save time. “It will be a new model,” he states, “and these networks and platforms will get better in the near future. It will be almost like being live with the instructor and the teams.”

Far-reaching benefits

The benefits of CSR go beyond the company itself continues Sanabria: “I have learned that CSR is not strictly related to the company. It can be extended to the growers, providers, and the community. This creates a better ecosystem for the whole community and creates enthusiasm and goodwill – helping us all to grow.”

Knowledge sharing

In Ethiopia, CEO of tourism company Yama Tours, Tariku Yadete, confirms that his company has been greatly affected by travel and health restrictions due to the pandemic. Still, CSR training for his company was able to continue online. “The online training on CSR was really helpful and productive. It reinforced and confirmed what we are already doing. It was almost as good as being present in person. You have all the information you need. You can ask questions and learn via the forum, and people respond and share their experiences.” Online knowledge-sharing was a bonus for Yadete. “Although there were few tourism-related businesses involved, I managed to learn some new things for other types of businesses that we are also planning at our site.”

Sharing experiences

“Learning how others tackled and overcame the problems that are facing us was very valuable. The tourism sector in Ethiopia is not very advanced. The knowledge we have gained from the CSR course helps us develop and improve the whole industry. I think the online course is a great idea, and I look forward to more of these.”

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