“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” – Maya Angelou.
We are all adjusting to this ‘new world’ brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. While things have no doubt been a struggle for many in Southeast Michigan, I believe businesses have a responsibility to do the right thing and be part of the solution.
In many corporate circles throughout Michigan and beyond, the term ‘conscious capitalism’ has taken hold as organizations seek to operate in a more socially responsible and ethical way. The philosophy argues that businesses can equally make money, satisfy shareholders, care for their employees and make a difference in the community—it’s simply a matter of focus and priorities.
In Michigan some of the first corporate responders to the crisis were organizations that already had a culture of conscious capitalism. When it came time to act, they largely had the pieces in place to quickly affect positive change in their communities, inspiring other businesses to follow suit with programs and initiatives of their own.
Bridging the Digital Divide
When the pandemic forced the adoption of social distancing measures throughout the country, many of us pivoted to a virtual reality to conduct day-to-day business and schooling. But in urban areas like Detroit, there are still thousands of households without access to the Internet—due in part to affordability concerns, lack of digital literacy and prioritization behind more immediate needs like food, shelter and work.
Since 2011, Comcast has been doing its part to bridge the digital divide by establishing programs like Internet Essentials. Now the largest Internet adoption program in the nation, it has connected millions of low-income Americans.
A big reason for the success of Internet Essentials is due to our partnerships with local nonprofits and community-based organizations in raising awareness about the program and making up the foundation of our digital literacy training efforts. In Detroit, this includes incredible charities like The Youth Connection.
Amplified Social Responsibility
During the pandemic, we intensified our decade-long Internet Essentials program by proactively offering two months of free service to new customers, waiving the requirement for no back-due debt and opening more than 1.5 million WiFi hotspots in outdoor and small business locations across the United States through the end of the year.
With new connectivity obstacles resulting from the crisis, Comcast also created Lift Zones as a complement to Internet Essentials. This multi-year program will provide free WiFi in more than 1,000 community centers nationwide to help low-income students get online, participate in distance learning, do their homework and much more. In fact, 12 of the nation’s very first Lift Zones will launch in the city of Detroit before the end of 2020.
Another side effect of COVID-19: recent studies have shown that Black-owned small businesses were particularly hard-hit, and the number of active U.S. business owners dropped from 15 million to 11.7 million from February to April. This alarming news prompted our company to set up Comcast RISE—an initiative which provides marketing, creative, media and technology services to qualifying small businesses owned by underrepresented groups. RISE is currently in its inaugural application phase, and applicable business owners are strongly encouraged to apply.
What’s Your Mission?
No matter the size or industry, every business in Southeast Michigan can rethink what it does in ways that embrace more conscious forms of capitalism. There always exists a need to impact your community, affect positive change in the lives of individuals and strengthen the core DNA of your organization in the process—all it takes to get started is a bit of creativity, a willingness to invest and the courage to try something new for the benefit of others.
The challenge for businesses today and tomorrow is how can they use their skills, creativity, resources, and capacities to create real value for stakeholders, environment and community. This challenge was fundamental to discussions about business ethics and corporate citizenship before the pandemic: it is essential now and will be essential from this time forward.