The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our world. The scale of the crisis and required national lockdowns could wipe out about a third of jobs across the continent, with close to 27 million people pushed into extreme poverty.
As a result of the pandemic, how we do business has changed. Interestingly, a growing number of companies are seeing Shared Value as a business norm. Many companies, members of the SVAI network, have for years understood the need to focus on “profit with purpose” as a means to improve their business resilience. These companies have shown the way by building operations that produce or provide products or services aimed at solving the social issues that threaten their ability to rely on sustainable future growth.
With this context in mind, SVAI set out to research how our member companies are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Is there continuity between the company’s core focus or purpose, its business operations, and its response to the pandemic? And what do the findings imply about the resilience of Shared Value companies?
The most striking take-out of the research is its highlighting of the ability of Shared Value companies to continue – and amplify – their existing social impact work during a crisis. For the companies assessed in this research, the pandemic (while devastating economically and socially) did not require a new approach. Each company that is part of the SVAI network has demonstrated during this period that its clear purpose, and existing social impact work, could simply be broadened in order to respond meaningfully to the crisis. The relief efforts are an extension of work already underway in the businesses. And almost all elements of the relief work are at once a meaningful and necessary response to the pandemic.
A second key take-out of the research is the extent to which Shared Value companies have demonstrated during this period their willingness to collaborate in order to achieve social impact. This happened, through the forming of partnership across private, public and non-profit sectors and eco-system that tackle the pandemic’s social and economic devastation.
Most of the companies that are part of the SVAI network have looked outside of themselves and partnered with different entities and organisations to bring most effective relief, that is in line with their stated purposes and business strategies.
A third take-out is that even in a crisis such as COVID-19, where businesses are reporting turnover below the normal, and where most have reported at least temporary closure or paused trading activity, the responses of the Shared Value Africa Initiative member companies mentioned are a combination of social relief efforts and a clear initiatives to focus on business continuity. Relief efforts include initiatives to preserve the existing customer base, support suppliers and safeguard employees.