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  • Writer's pictureFroese Law

The Intertwine of Consumer and Corporate Social Responsibility during COVID-19

Updated: Feb 12

In today’s Covid 19 environment, an interesting shift is emerging, bringing a heightened sense of consumer awareness. Consumers are carefully watching how companies are pivoting during this time. Some businesses are applauded and some are (rightfully) denigrated. When this time of social distancing passes (and it will), consumers will remember how your business acted and they will be keen to either invest in or revolt against your business. Moreover, consumers will likely be more conscious of how they spend their money and, as such, it is important to consider how your actions during this global pandemic may impact your brand in the near future.

1. Support Local Businesses

Once society emerges from social distancing, consumers will likely have a greater interest in supporting local businesses. Maintaining a strong connection to Canada can be a welcome point of differentiation in the marketplace. A Made in Canada or Product of Canada product label can inject a sense of patriotic pride into the brand. Consumers become aware that their money is being immediately invested into the Canadian economy. However, it is important to comply with the regulations in order to make these claims.

In a nutshell, Made in Canada and Product of Canada are the two types of patriotic claims that can be referenced and they hold different thresholds. A Product of Canada claim has a higher threshold of Canadian content (98%), whereas a Made in Canada claim has a lower threshold of 51%, as long as the Made in Canada claim is accompanied by a qualifier.

2. If you Pivot your Business to Address Covid 19 Needs, Comply with the Law

We are seeing businesses pivot in inspiring ways to address the shortcomings of our health care system to help our frontline workers. For example, the alcohol manufacturing industry is shifting to producing alcohol based sanitizers. The apparel/fashion industry is shifting to produce masks and gowns. The sentiment is beautiful. The readiness and foresight to pivot is heartwarming and impressive. However, be certain that you are complying with all legislation when you make this product pivot. Not only are you dealing with consumer safety issues, you may also be dealing with products that could be classified as medical devices under the Food and Drugs Act. As much as there is a dire need for these sanitizers and personal protective equipment, there is a greater need that they be functional and safe.

3. Do NOT Take Advantage of the Situation

There have been instances of businesses hiking their prices for necessary products, such as disinfectants, at exorbitant prices. We say this from a humanity standpoint, a corporate branding standpoint and, as always, from a legal standpoint, do NOT do this. The Competition Act governs aspects of trade and commerce in Canada. Whereas it is rooted in protecting healthy business competition in Canada, it is also protective of the consumer in some aspects. It addresses price fixing and deceptive marketing practices. Moreover, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act enables fines to be issued for unconscionable pricing. Being opportunistic in a time like this, will not push you forward in the long run.

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