Webinar Recording and Archived Discussion

Apr 2 '20 12:50pm–Apr 2 '20, 2:40pm GMT


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Summary of Discussion

Q6. Thinking of the broader agenda, what is the one hope you have for 2021?

  • Leaders should learn that we will need to partner together to get through the impact of COVID-19 in the short and long term
  • Less individualistic society
  • Lessons will be learnt and behaviours will change
  • Sustainability industry proves resilient in the effort to maintain focus on the climate crisis, even in the wake of this crisis
  • Put well-being and the environment at the heart of the emerging economies/societies
  • Collaboration will be the most important thing - no individual company has sufficient leverage for collective problems
  • CSR will have an increased focus to address key stakeholders (this will include responses to the societal issues)
  • The COP26 is a raging success
  • This will be a reset button 
  • A return to economic growth 
  • That businesses and governments get into addressing climate change with a new more active and positive lens and with greater urgency
  • Citizens make purchasing decisions aligned with their values
  • The new definition of leadership is interconnectedness
  • That we need to be more specific when we demand change
  • We do not forget what we have lost, those who ahve suggered and those who have sacrificed and risked their lives for the benefit of society
  • Faith that humanity will awaken to the systematic problems that are our own creation and will substantially change the situation
  • Seize the opportunity to shape the new together
  • Climate crisis is put at the core of all government policy and decision-making as we rebuild
  • Business leaders come together as a cross-industry community to challenge the status quo
  • Greater awareness at all levels of the serious issues facing the world
  • Reallocation of financial resources - invest money in industries/companies with social and environmental purpose
  • Ability of gov., private sector and individuals to take fast and radical action will be applied to address the climate crisis and global issues
  • That citizens will become much more active stakeholders in the value chain
  • That as many purpose-led companies that are/were in the process of proving the viability of the new business models survive
  • Leaders become more of a coach than a manager - encouraging and empowering 
  • Maximise the use of technology
  • Sense of co-responsibility and interconnection of issues, organisations and people
  • Integrated leadership 
  • A system that combines the short with the long term and is capable of creating value for all stakeholders
  • Greater equality
  • CEO's adopt an ecosystem approach to their organisation and stakeholders that is connected to the world
  • Time to act on a new system change with SDGs as the focus

Q5. What lessons in resilient leadership – both corporate and other organizations – are coming out of COVID-19?

  • Risks have to be acted on and not just identified
  • Diversity in leadership brings better insights and preparedness
  • Don't ignore scientific warnings
  • The importance of compassion
  • Open, transparent communication about challenges posed by the crisis is crucial
  • It is not enough to develop crisis management plans, those plans must be implemented
  • Resilience comes from preparedness and planning, combined with courage and flexibility
  • Risk management needs to consider events like this
  • Don't be afraid to admit wrongs, publically
  • The ability to move employment from one function to another
  • Focus on your strengths as a company and this can influence how you create value over time
  • The need for strong inter-dependent relationships with stakeholders that goes beyond the norm of employees, shareholders and customers
  • Long-term thinking, planning and strategies
  • The importance of built in redundancy
  • Resilient leadership 
  • Business needs to go beyond working towards quarter to quarter financial performance - long-term plans
  • Sustainability and resilience cannot be silo-ed topics - they must be extended throughout the organisation
  • The need for agility 
  • Understanding the diversity between managing risks and facing/dealing with uncertainty
  • Need to be dynamic and flexible as well as diverse

Q4. Post-crisis, how will expectations for purposeful corporate leadership change? What are the implications for businesses that lead with purpose going forward?

  • The need to understand, articulate and strategically plan around purpose will be essential to businesses
  • Expectations by stakeholder group will vary - implications will depend on prioritisation of stakeholders 
  • Greater demand for purposeful businesses from consumers
  • The need for purposeful leadership will shift from the ESG/CSR area to the core of business
  • Businesses will increasingly be under scrutiny from all stakeholders, to ensure they are environmentally and socially conscious
  • Opportunity for businesses to establish leadership positions in sustainability, particularly in countries where it is less developed
  • A rise in the emergence and/or significance of pre-competitive collaboration with industries
  • Expectation of consistent focus and real action related to purpose will be essential and in demand
  • Responsibility and leadership will be viewed through a global lens - broadening the efforts of sustainability to the supply chain and distribution
  • Activating purpose
  • Emphasis on COLLECTIVE impact
  • Revisiting strategies and maximising digitalisation
  • Purpose shift from aspirational promise to imperative action
  • Greater expectation for stakeholder-centric impacts
  • Business ethics, purpose and leadership will higlight sustainability as core and a driving force for firms
  • The importance of re-thinking concepts - how to move sustainability forward

Q3. What are examples of unexpected and impactful collaborations that have arisen in the response to the crisis?

  • Manufacturers retooling and building ventilators and PPE (Tesla, Dyson, GM etc.)
  • UCL and Mercedes F1 are developing a ventilator prototype
  • Video engagement platforms are the new normal - behaviour change 
  • Governor of NY State encouraged collaboration across the state to balance supply of doctors, equipment and facilities with the demand
  • Question of job functions have arisen as a result of working from home
  • Hotel partnerships with CVS, Walgreens, supermarkets, food manufacturers to shift labor into food production, distribution centres, etc.
  • Innovation - E.g. development of different types of ventilators and potential solutions for vaccines
  • Start ups responding by adapting their products to help with the crisis
  • School teachers using online platforms to deliver online learning to students
  • Worldwide Hackathons connecting change makers across the globe
  • Expertise and resource sharing by large companies to help small businesses, NGOs and citizens 
  • South Korea sharing their IP and expertise with multiple countries
  • Mobile companies acting together to guarantee connectivity
  • John Lewis has seconded staff to Waitrose

Q2. What’s holding some organizations back from taking even more impactful action on the crisis? What are some barriers from doing more?

  • Fragile finances e.g. decline in revenues and complete cut in bonuses
  • Lack of insightful leadership
  • Focus on rich countries, not poor
  • Balancing care of employees and care of greater community
  • Lack of systematic thinking in companies
  • Uncertainty about the future (e.g. the length and impact of the crisis) and survival through the crisis
  • Lack of global governance
  • Challenge of thinking beyond the NOW
  • Lack of coordination between organisations and governments
  • Disruption in the supply chain
  • Low financial resilience
  • Employees are impacted by the crisis (tired, confused, confronting emotional impact)
  • Lack of close relationships outside of businesses, wth NGOs, suppliers, partners etc.
  • Balancing financial needs with purpose-led initiatives leads to strain on small-medium sized businesses
  • Lack of preparation and flexibility
  • Accountability post-crisis
  • Organisations may be bound by governmental priorities
  • Uncertainty on the financial crisis
  • Difficulties of collaboration
  • Businesses operating in crisis management mode 

Q1. What are some additional examples of effective purposeful corporate leadership in addressing the COVID-19 crisis? 

  • BP offering free fuel to emergency services
  • H&M committed to paying suppliers for for orders that were already placed but can no longer be uased in stores
  • Whitebread plc diverted 65,000 meals to charity to help with those most vulnerable
  • L'oreal producing antibacterial gel
  • LVMH manufacturing masks to help with shortages
  • iIKEA has donated across markets to help furnish hospitals/quarantine centres
  • VISA CEO has pledged not to have any COVID-19 related lay-offs in 2020
  • Unilever donating $100m of soap, hand sanitiser, bleach and food to communities globally
  • Companies (in general) shutting stores and outlets during early stages
  • Food delivery services (e.g. UBER Eats/Deliveroo) offering deliveries with no delivery charge
  • Pop up test centres in by retailers e.g. CVS Health
  • Airlines now transporting COVID supplies 
  • Grocery stores designating hours for vulnerable citizens


1 of 4
As we know, public trust in business remains at low levels across the world. Does this crisis provide a meaningful opportunity for business to rebuild trust with society?
98 votes
Next Poll »
Overall, how would you rate business’ response to the COVID-19 crisis to date?
Very good
Very poor
124 votes
Next Poll »
Do you think there will be more or fewer multi-stakeholder collaborations in the area of sustainability post-crisis?
Many more
No change
Much fewer
103 votes
Next Poll »
Do you think societal expectations for purposeful corporate leadership will be different in a post-pandemic world? Will expectations be...
A lot lower
A little lower
Unchanged, back to pre-COVID-19 levels
A little higher
A lot higher
77 votes
Next Poll »

Featured Presenters

Mike Barry
Former Director, Sustainabl...
Marks & Spencer
Chris Coulter

Session Moderator

Caroline Holme
Senior Director, GlobeScan
United Kingdom


Caroline Holme
THANK YOU everyone for an excellent discussion – and a bi...
Chris Coulter
Yes, thank you everyone and a very special thanks to Mike f...
Alejandro Pinedo
I hope we learn that it's no good being in the first-class ...
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