Dear friends in the business community,
The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused mass tragedy and disruption in many parts of the world. With the world’s economy in disarray, we are all wondering what the future has in store for the global business community. As the challenges seem insurmountable for many, it is becoming increasingly clear that our collective response to this crisis will likely be a defining moment of our generation.
The impacts of this crisis tear at the very fabric of our societies. Countries without the means for massive stimulus packages, effective distancing initiatives and adequate health care capacity may crumble under civil unrest. According to the International Labour Organization, current lockdown measures affect the livelihoods of 2.7 billion people, over 80% of the global workforce. For most countries, measures to address the pandemic will lead to a sharp decline in economic activities, with potentially the largest GDP declines in a century.
This is a call to the global business community to step up and accept significant sacrifice in order to see us through this crisis, and help pave the way for a rapid recovery once the pandemic is brought under control. I know this is an extremely challenging time for many businesses, with many of you facing imminent bankruptcy. However, all businesses – and governments – that still have the means to step up need to step up immediately and do everything in their power to help avoid societal breakdown.
Inject liquidity into the market. Anyone that is able to contribute to this process needs to, even if it means significant sacrifices to your own wealth. If we don’t stop the economic devastation, many businesses may not have any profitable markets to operate in for years to come. Many governments understand this and are doing what they can, but businesses must make sacrifices for this purpose as well. As much as possible, make sure your staff have income and can continue to work safely. Investors and large corporations should continue to produce goods and pay staff to keep the economy going. On the bright side, much innovation can come out of instability, as we adapt to new modes of consumption and delivery.
Make smart use of the money you have. This is not the time for profiteering, it is the time to help our collective economic survival. In a recent survey of asset managers, nearly every second investor said it was a good idea to use corporate money to buy back shares. This is not only tone deaf in this moment, it is a mockery of the hundreds of millions that have lost their livelihoods. Every able company and investor must do what they can to secure jobs, inject liquidity into local communities, and ensure supply chain security. If there ever was a time to prioritise businessworthy leadership, it is now.
Ensure the security of critical goods and services. Supply chains of essential goods and services must be protected and maintained. Whatever your businesses’ role is in the chain, do your part to ensure consistency of delivery. We are already seeing encouraging examples of companies shifting their production to medical equipment, while essential workers put themselves at risk every day to keep us healthy. Think about what you can do now to ensure there is a supply chain to restart once this crisis is over.
If we rise to the occasion, we can get through this together. If we don’t, we risk dismantling entire markets and infrastructures. There are countless examples around the world of business leaders choosing the ethical route and being businessworthy by making personal sacrifices and doing everything they can for the greater good right now. I encourage all of you with the means to contribute to do so. If the Business for Peace team can support you in any way, let us know. We can get through this together, but only if we collaborate for the greater good.