Forum: Getting firms to be socially responsible amid Covid-19 crisis

Professor David Chan offers an easily understandable and actionable model to encourage people to adopt socially responsible behaviours in his commentary (Drill into what makes people socially responsible, March 14).

His five-factor Vince model - namely values, image, norms, convenience and enforcement - will likely be successful in changing behaviours and mitigating the spread of Covid-19.

It is worth considering using this model in the commercial realm.

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, some errant business owners have been engaging in unscrupulous practices by taking advantage of the widespread fear of the coronavirus.

Some attempt to profiteer by selling face masks at eye-watering prices, while others game the system, finding loopholes to make a quick buck.

While these companies may not be worsening the spread of the coronavirus, they undermine the efforts by the Government to ensure the country emerges relatively unscathed from the pandemic.

Four factors in the Vince model will help keep these unethical companies in check.

  • Stable and respected businesses uphold universal values like trust and honesty, and these take precedence over profits and gains. Business owners should know that short-term unethical gains do more harm in the long run.
  • The public image of a company is arguably the most important asset that can be owned. Once tarnished, it is never quite the same again.
  • While it has been said that deception is par for the course in business, there are certain norms in business practices that should not be breached.
  • When the above factors fail to motivate a company to behave ethically, enforcement of punitive measures should be meted out swiftly and without exception as a last line of defence.

Trade associations are in a good position to remind their members to be socially responsible at all times, especially during times when our country needs everyone to work together towards a common goal.

Lau Wai Leong

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