The Ethics of Caring

Helping others in crisis is good business

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on local, regional, national and global economies. Employees and business owners are tackling financial declines the likes of which they have never seen before.

In times of turmoil, positive thinking and proverbs like “a setback is setup for a comeback,” often ring hollow and inadequate. Understandably, it is hard to stay calm and remain optimistic when the magnitude of the current fiscal downturn has rocked and disrupted businesses and markets around the world. Even some of the most experienced and prudent business owners and entrepreneurs strategically may have pivoted too quickly and/or lost touch on how to move forward. On the other hand, as the COVID-10 lockdown continued, businesses, offices and schools, like the hustle and bustle of everyday life, were brought to a virtual standstill.

Unfortunately, the lack of ethical principles of responsibility and accountability to stakeholders has caused some businesses to incur long-term liabilities, such as losing relationships with employees and customers. The ethical duty to care, however, can help business leaders and entrepreneurs remain calm under pressure and rebound to seize opportunities to eventually survive and thrive.

According to the originator of the ethics of care, Carol Gilligan, individuals and organizations have an ethical duty to avoid any action that could harm others. They also have a duty to provide empathy and support to those harmed by crises until the difficult times passes.

How can organizations and businesses of all sizes instill ethics of caring to create viable strategies and innovative alternatives that embody and provide qualifiable optimism and quantifiable economic recovery for the future?


Provide for Your Employees Well-Being

Now, with millions of people who are unemployed or underemployed and even more required for the first time to work from home, employees are stressed about their jobs. Moreover, a new poll by Save the Children found that families are concerned about their children. Sixty-seven percent of parents are somewhat or extremely worried about their child’s emotional and mental wellbeing because of the virus. In addition, children are also extremely worried: “When children were asked how they were feeling, approximately half reported being bored (52%) or worried (49%) and fifty-two percent of children are worried that they will not learn enough to be ready for school in the fall. One in three reported being scared (34%), and one in four reported being anxious (27%), confused (24%), stressed (23%) and/or unhappy (22%). Forty-nine percent of children are worried a relative will contract the virus.”

Gallup recently published the results from a meta-analytics study that gauged global citizens' worries, fears and confidence during nearly every major crisis of the past eight decades -- including “the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and World War II, the Kennedy assassination, upheavals and riots in the 1960s, 9/11, the 2008 global financial crash, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Gallup study found that businesses and organizations who successfully overcame crises primarily did two things. First, the leaders consistently implemented innovative strategies, processes and products. Second, innovation was a direct by-product of leaders consistently and openly caring for their employees’ well-being in several areas including career, social, financial, community and physical. “A key predictor of low worry and high confidence is whether each employee believes, and experiences, that the organization is looking out for their best interest.”

When you give back, they come back

A straightforward rationale for a business or organization to care and give during a crisis is simply this – it is the right thing to do. Moreover, helping and serving others is a positive way to help counter anxiety, fear and stress, all of which are natural reactions to changing and uncertain situations.

In addition to making the world a better place, consumers prefer to buy from companies that help others because it makes them feel good. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Association of Advertisers, 56% of consumers reported being happy to learn how brands are helping in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, when customers feel good about purchasing from businesses that are charitable and clearly support the public good, they tend to continue to buy from and advocate on behalf of these businesses to potential new consumers.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our society will face daunting challenges that require decisive action, significant innovation, and ethical leadership. One yardstick of an enterprise’s greatness is its legacy of ethics during and in the aftermath of a large crisis. The ethical duty to care actualized by acts of giving can provide a win-win for everyone and, in the future, make the world a better place to live, work and have a good life.