“Corporate social responsibility cannot be just for show”, a Portuguese Church commission has reminded business in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.
– “It is good that there are profitable companies, but there has to be solidarity”
Pedro Vaz Patto, a judge and the president of the Portuguese Church’s National Justice and Peace Commission (CNJP), told the Ecclesia news agency June 2 that “social responsibility is not theoretical: it is not for show or a policy on the part of companies; rather it is a commitment that requires coherence and is demonstrated in situations like this”.
Vaz Patto referred to the stock dividend distributions and bonuses to bankers in Portugal that have caused outrage, both for their size and also for the fact that are being paid out in a context of a looming COVID-19-related economic recession, and barely a decade after the 2008 global financial crisis bailouts.
The president of the CNJP denounced that the perks to bosses “do not include workers” and that the objectionable issue is that the bonuses do not contribute to “social cohesion”.
Citizens feel “outrage” at the fact that the bonuses “due to their magnitude, contrast with the sacrifices” that many in society are making at this time, Vaz Patto warned.
“It is good that there are profitable companies, but if there are some people that are totally knocked out by the crisis, because they run out of income from one day to the next, there are others that don’t suffer in the same way – there has to be solidarity between them”, the CNJP president affirmed.
To back up his call for greater solidarity, Vaz Patto referred to Pope Francis’ words in his meditation during his March 27 blessing of the world, in which the pontiff insisted that we are all “in the same boat” against the rising health, economic and social tide of COVID-19.
In the CNJP, “we don’t dispute that the dividend distributions and bonuses might be legal, but from a perspective that goes beyond strict legality and takes into account criteria of social justice and solidarity, it seems to us that they are contrary to this objective of strengthening social cohesion”, Vaz Patto explained.
– “The call we make is for each of us to feel as our own what happens to everyone around us”
The president of the CNJP went on to insist that in a society such that of Portugal, marked by inequalities “accentuated in times of crisis” and in which it is the “poorest” who always suffer the consequences, it is necessary that profits and bonuses be redirected to those most in need.
Though he said that the many “spontaneous initiatives” that sprang up in the worst weeks of the pandemic show that “people are sensitive” to the “worsening of poverty” emerging from the coronavirus crisis, he urged that it is still necessary that society commit to a concerted “continuous effort” against hardship.
“We cannot expect everything from the State. The call we make is for each of us to feel as our own what happens to everyone around us, especially the most vulnerable”, Vaz Patto stressed.
On a positive note, the president of the CNJP highlighted the fact that the pandemic could serve as an opportunity to rethink political and social welfare models, just as Europe as a whole did, for example, after the Second World War.
The greater European solidarity that follow WWII “is an example of how these situations [of crisis] are sometimes a justification for rethinking systems and [coronavirus] may be the occasion” to do so again, Vaz Patto said.
“Not doing everything that went before, not losing what was good”, he explained.
“There are positive aspects of globalisation, for example, which should not be called into question, but there are others which should be corrected”, the CNJP president concluded, warning against short-term perspectives on the coronavirus recovery that don’t take into account the need to preserve the public health system and protect the environment.