Stewardship in Crisis: Business Insights around the Region
Amidst the COVID-19 disruption, the case for corporate stewardship is more relevant than ever. This crisis has highlighted the importance of stewardship in building resilience, agility, and safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders and the community.
As part of our COVID-response initiative, Stewardship Asia Centre organised and co-curated a series of webinars and e-conversations over the last two months to engage regional business leaders on how they are navigating these challenging times. The sessions highlighted the wide range of responsible corporate actions undertaken by the businesses to survive, thrive and uplift their local communities, and provided participants with valuable insights on the long-term positive impacts of stewardship in action.
Navigating with Purpose and Values
A common theme shared throughout the discussions was the importance of values and purpose to an organisation, especially during a crisis. We learned of the different measures undertaken to address the challenges brought up by COVID-19. While the specifics of the initiatives may differ, such as sending PPE supplies to communities who need them most and reducing the salaries of top executives to save cost, they were all underlined by the core values of the company.
Stewardship is the realization of a company’s stated values and purpose . They set an organisation apart during a crisis, because in addition to helping to steer through the storm, it also helps to protect the reputation of the business. A company that is true to its values builds trust in the community in which it operates in. In some communities, it was shared how the responsibility of taking care of the needs of the people fell naturally to the businesses, which in turn generated goodwill for the company.
Building Resilience & Renewal
A well-stewarded company will naturally instil resilience and agility in its foundation, helping them to better withstand and respond to any downturn brought forth by the crisis. It was evident from the sharing of some of the organisations that stewardship practices, such as investing in human capital, diversifying the supply chain and ensuring a healthy ledger gives the company additional bandwidth it needs to survive and thrive amidst a crisis.
One example was on the high degree of faith placed in the company by employees, who went the extra mile to volunteer or increased their work productivity in order to give back to the community. Another example brought up was the importance of open communication and implementation of forward-looking policies to instil confidence in investors and place the company in a better position to recover relative to their competitors, especially for industries that were the hardest hit including airlines and the tourism sector
Sustainable employment was another discussion brought up, focussing on how companies can retain and retrain their staff to avoid the mass retrenchments usually associated with an economic downturn.
The participants in the discussions agreed for the need to protect their employees as one of their key stakeholders, instituting measures such a redeployment or retraining to ensure the livelihood of their employees and to be prepared for the future, instead of retrenching their employees as the first cost cutting measure.
A Shared Ecosystem
Perhaps the most prevalent insight was how businesses do not work in isolation from the society and other businesses. Even though each region or industry differs, there were similar challenges faced by the attendees. It was raised during one of the webinars that businesses should have the mindset that we all operate within the same sphere and our actions have a ripple effect. Through sharing information and resources, businesses will also share risks and rewards as they collectively navigate and triumph through the crisis.
The New Normal?
Last but not least, the question of whether COVID-19 has brought upon a new normal in business climate around the world. While opinions differed slightly during the discussions, it was agreed that the “how” will fundamentally change. Businesses can no longer ignore its impact and duty to society. Across all conversations, it is clear there is now an urgency for companies to translate their values into responsible action that will benefit all stakeholders.
We would like to thank our partners Courage Partners, TELOS Partners and Singapore Business Federation and friends for supporting and making our virtual events key platforms for mutual sharing and learning. To view the recordings of our previous webinars, do visit “Stewardship in Crisis: Building Resilience and Renewal” and “Stewardship in Crisis: Sustainable Employment for the Future”.