The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for organizations to be agile, collaborative and responsive, and to embrace new ways of working, says Alison Pozzobon, Head of Corporate Communications and Community Partnerships at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Canada.

The global healthcare company has responded to that need by establishing four pillars for itself: charitable donations to four (regionally based) non-profit organizations with local COVID-19 support programs; donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to community support groups; matching employee donations to registered charities with a 2:1 ratio; and providing GSK employees with four paid volunteer days (one in each business quarter) in 2020 so their time can be spent on COVID-19-related initiatives.

“GSK in Canada expanded this volunteering initiative out of a recognition that community volunteers are needed now more than ever, and that our employees’ experience and expertise are invaluable to organizations at the frontlines of community health,” Pozzobon says.

Rising to meet challenges

The uncertainly COVID-19 has presented, as well as its constantly changing state, have been businesses’ biggest challenges during the pandemic.

“With an evolving public health crisis, at GSK we quickly recognized that our corporate response needed to be multi-dimensional to help support the needs of our employees and the broader community,” says Pozzobon.

This year, more than $650,000 has been made available in corporate donations to support needs across the country during the pandemic. GSK in Canada is supporting Save the Children (STC) Canada, United Way/Centraide, the Innovative Medicines Canada Fund and the HIV Community Fund — which includes Elevate NWO, Fife House, Clinique Quorum, Clinique Actuel and Mainline Needle Exchange, a patient support network in Halifax.

In addition, GSK has granted $119,000 to date to patient organizations to continue supporting their COVID-19 action plans, which includes reaching out to their communities, and providing information and education as they face new organizational challenges.

GSK has also donated 1,500 N-95 masks to the Government of Quebec, 1,500 N-95 masks to the Government of Ontario, 500 masks to a childcare centre in Ste. Foy, Quebec (home to GSK’s influenza vaccine production facility), and 2.5 pallets of PPEs to the Region of Peel. Those PPEs are being shared between long-term care facilities and paramedics in the region.

Communication is key

Pozzobon adds that in addition to implementing practices to protect the health and safety of its employees during the pandemic and its global efforts to support the development of a candidate vaccine, GSK taken the opportunity to listen.

“We are committed to transparent, two-way dialogue with all our customers and stakeholders,” Pozzobon says.

“(To listen) to our employees and those in the community — and find ways that we could fill a need outside of what we offer as part of our core business.”

As a result, GSK has established a COVID-19 Employee Giving & Corporate Match initiative, which gives employees a say in GSK’s charitable donations.

GSK will match funds contributed by employees to their selected charities in four regions — Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic and West — in a 2:1 ratio.

“At GSK, we have mobilized across the company to respond to the pandemic by focusing on our people, business continuity and providing solutions to support the global response,” says Pozzobon.