I once worked for a company which included contributions to a hospital in a North African country amongst its corporate social responsibility efforts. Many times I heard stories of a trip, with two land-rovers loaded with provisions for the hospital, driven from the UK to North Africa. The provisions were left with the hospital, along with one of the land rovers, whilst the participants drove home in the other land rover. Whilst it may have been a ‘boys own’ trip, some good was done.
Recently I have been reflecting on the concept of social responsibility, corporate and social. The Covid-19 lockdown is nearly completely lifted and the responsibility falls heavily on the individual to maintain safe actions, so that we can minimise the spread of the virus. However, this is where the concept of social responsibility appears to fall down.
Why should I miss my holiday? Why should I wear a mask in the shop? Why should I miss my trip to the pub? The list goes on and on… Well, as someone in a ‘risk’ group, I do not appreciate my life being endangered by the irresponsible/uncaring attitude of others. As the R rate rises and we head for an almost inevitable second spike, one has to wonder why people cannot maintain a simple set of precautions. Maintain physical distance, wear a mask etc… It really is not asking a lot. (Oh and wear a mask means over your nose and mouth, not just over the mouth as I saw one young woman doing in a supermarket recently). The economy doesn’t matter if you are dead from coronavirus. Rant over.
Bringing it back to the workplace, including places of research, what does personal social responsibility look like? Well maybe it is simply treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. A simple definition, but if we all did that then the various charters for race, gender, and various other equalities would not be needed. Just like when someone asks me how much eye contact is appropriate in an interview – the correct answer is you know in the specific social context. Similarly, we know how we would like to be treated in any given situation, and the onus is on us to treat others in that way.