One the statements I’ve seen in blogs and on social media lately is that – for all the disruption and economic pressure that has come out of the coronavirus pandemic – ‘businesses that do good are more likely to do well‘.
Is this true? And why would it be so?
As COVID swept round the world, governments responded with broad stroke lockdowns, essentially stopping global and local economies in their track. People found themselves unemployed, furloughed or on reduced hours and pay. Businesses shut their doors, shifted their workforce to the home or responded by changing what and how they source and offer their products and services.
This is exactly the type of situation where business resilience is essential. Resilience speaks to how an organisation responds to disruptions, how they adapt to a new way of doing things, how they continue their core operations. And how they safeguard their people, assets and the brand equity.
Nell Derick Debevoise summed it up perfectly: ‘This process of being resilient and responding accordingly is desirable because we stay open, creative, collaborative, and persistent. That is the stance we must take to face and overcome the challenges related to COVID-19, collective awakenings to racism, industry disruptions, and other elements of our current context. When we allow ourselves to be taken over by the fight-or-flight reaction, we can’t do the thoughtful work to build new ways of living and working.’
Resilient business don’t react, they respond.
They can take that slight pause to take a breath and see the big picture. To open their mind to possibilities and connections others are missing in the normal knee-jerk reactions between flight or fight.
Resilient businesses can remind themselves of their purpose – their North Star. With that to guide them, the decisions become clearer, the path unfolding before them.
And they often have the buy-in of their people to move forward in collective action toward their goals via a slight amended map.
Whether the disruptions are an economic recession, a global pandemic or a natural disaster linked to the climate crisis, one thing is certain – we’re going to see a lot more of them in the years to come.
Data from asset management firm BlackRock, which tracks the performance of companies with environmental, social and governance (ESG) guidelines, shows that they ‘fared far better than others so far during the COVID-19 crisis‘.
‘Companies with strong profiles on material sustainability issues have potential to outperform those with poor profiles. In particular, we believe companies managed with a focus on sustainability should be better positioned versus their less sustainable peers to weather adverse conditions while still benefiting from positive market environments.’BlackRock Investment Management
That’s good news for companies who are – or who have the aspiration to become – B Corps certified. More than 3,300 B Corps across 70 countries and 150 industries have sustainability at their core. They lead with purpose – their North Star – and are committed to providing value for all their stakeholders – employees, supply chain, customers, wider society, the planet, etc. – and not just making a profit for their shareholders.
‘As we recover from the pandemic, businesses around the world will be looking to rebuild in a way that puts their people first and protects the communities and the environment on which they rely,’ says Chris Turner, managing director of B Lab in the U.K. ‘B Corps have already inspired thousands of businesses to be a force for good, and the example they set is now more important than ever,’ he adds.
Turner also says that ‘governments are recognising the systemic flaws that have damaged the planet and left people vulnerable in this crisis, and as global leaders search for a better alternative, B Corps provide a model for a regenerative economy that works for all’.
So what are the elements of a resilient business?
- Put your people first. Loyal employees are happier, more productive and stay with the company longer – cutting down on the expense of high employee turnover
- Set out a purpose-driven strategy that everyone knows and knows how their role contributes to it
- Communicate with authenticity, ensuring your messages are transparent and timely
- Work with an agile methodology so you can respond quickly and efficiently to life’s challenges
Businesses have to succeed financially to stay in the game. But resiliency enables businesses to move beyond a sole focus on profit to think about its role in in the world.
‘It isn’t a penalty or a disadvantage to be a good, ethical, regenerative business,’ Kresse Wesling MBE, co-founder of Elvis & Kresse, said. ‘It is a joy. It unleashes our creativity, results in all kinds of positive engagement from our stakeholders and wider community.’