This article first appeared in La Tercera on March 24, 2020.
We are in the midst of a world crisis, perhaps one of the biggest in recent times, and although it may seem unlikely what we are experiencing, it is very real and, therefore, we must take charge and be aware of it.
As in every crisis, the worst and the best of what is ours come out. This is how we have seen the speculation of prices of necessities, such as alcohol gel and masks, the exploitation of companies, and even the hoarding and individualism of those who fill their cars and run out of supermarkets.
Last January, the 50th edition of the World Economic Forum, known as the Davos Forum, was held, where an updated manifesto (1973) was released, which has a single great objective: to build a more sustainable and inclusive world, giving a new role to companies in the fourth industrial revolution.
In this way, both individuals and organizations, regardless of size or industry, have responsibilities and must respond to certain demands, which are increasingly measured with higher standards. In this context, the message of the Davos 2020 manifesto focuses on values and ethical issues. And today, in times of pandemic, it is time to apply them, because this is a global crisis that will make us reinvent ourselves and change the face of business. Then we will see who was up to the task, because we are not going to get out of this crisis alone, neither as countries, nor as organizations, nor as individuals.
For this reason, in this column, I would like to focus on the role of companies, since they can contribute a lot with small actions, without the need for new laws. Today they have the opportunity to offer management according to the new times, demonstrating that their stakeholders or interest groups matter not only for convenience, but because there is a collaborative bond where one does not exist without the other. This should drive companies to seek continuous improvement and create instances of rapprochement with their environment, always aiming at the common good and narrowing inequality gaps. Raising the price of cleaning products in the vertiginous spread of the coronavirus goes in the opposite direction. The same happens if we do not take care of our collaborators – our main ambassadors – and ask them to move to the office when they can telework.
In the same line, we are grateful for the measures to support entrepreneurs, and the economic force that is facing the cancellation of their projects and activities, who will also have to pay rents and salaries at the end of the month, but we must continue to observe the consequences of this crisis to implement actions as necessary. We will get out of this if we all work together: government, SMEs, medium and large companies, banks, workers, and other actors.
No one wins by having more alcohol gel than the other, because we all have to stay healthy! Nor does a company raises its prices during the chaos. An example is shown by last week’s Cadem survey, which revealed the resounding fall in the evaluation of pharmacies, being even the worst evaluated institution, as a reminder of a few years ago when the collusion was uncovered.
In this sense, I highlight what some companies are doing to stop indiscriminate purchases to control the shortage and the selfishness of many. However, we should not reach the point where they have to impose rules on us but should start from each one of us.
I hope that these days we can show the kind face of any crisis, and move towards a more equitable, diverse, and equal access world, where people matter more than money, and where the collective and not the individual prevails.
In the fourth industrial revolution, we are interconnected. Reputation, trust, loyalty, and affection for a particular brand can rise or fall depending on just one action. If you take advantage of people’s panic, sooner or later you will get the bill. At least I hope so because corporate ethics must be a constant. We are not demanding it because we are facing a pandemic or so that your customers don’t stop loving you, but because it is always the right thing to do. HOW we act in this crisis and the future will allow companies to be sustainable in the long term.
By Susana Sierra