Connecting From Quarantine: CSR in a Global Pandemic

By Don Rettig, Director of Community Affairs and President of the Owens Corning Foundation
Secretary, ACCP Board

How do you respond when your key strategy evaporates overnight? This happened to our community affairs team as we found ourselves unable to continue our signature volunteer programs due to the current pandemic.

As a B2B manufacturer, a primary focus of our CSR work is connecting with employees and the communities where they live and work. That connection comes through volunteerism with local charities that benefit from the support of the Owens Corning Foundation. As we love to say, “our financial support follows our volunteerism.”

With 19,000 employees in 33 countries across the globe, it has taken time and a great deal of effort to build a robust culture of volunteerism. So, it was not without some concern that we faced into an immediate future where company-sponsored volunteerism would be limited if not suspended indefinitely.

Our goal, however, has always been to make a meaningful connection with our people, not mandate volunteerism.

With that in mind, our foundation board quickly set a new course to support our people and their communities through three key actions:

  • Targeting financial support. We moved quickly to identify all available funds with a goal of supporting the battle against coronavirus in all our global communities. These grants went to local hospitals, food banks, shelters, and similar organizations. This presented some global challenges, and well-established partners were vital to making successful grants.
  • Redirecting of our employee assistance fund. Like most employee assistance funds, the OC Cares Fund was established to respond to geographically isolated events impacting a small percentage of our people, not a global pandemic. We quickly reset the criteria for application to support those most impacted by the pandemic.
  • Sharing the story. Sharing the local stories internally and externally through various channels helped ensure that our people know they are important and part of a connected and caring team.

We wanted to respond quickly and globally, so with a staff of three, our partner charities were essential. For global grantmaking, those partners included Charities Aid Foundation America; Give2Asia; King Baudouin Foundation, U.S.; and United Way Worldwide. These organizations assisted with recommendations and due diligence when seeking appropriate charities or hospitals in other countries.

There are numerous options for launching an employee assistance fund. The OC Cares Fund was established with the Employee Assistance Foundation. Again, EAF was extremely important in helping us navigate the changing environment related to the pandemic.

Agility has been key in our response to this pandemic. By refocusing from programmatic concerns to our primary goal, we were able to navigate the changing landscape and continue our efforts to make a difference in the lives of our people and the communities where they live and work.

The Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals has a wealth of resources for CSR professionals in the wake of COVID-19. Be sure to check them out today: https://accp.me/COVID-19Resources.