The need for responsible business responses to Covid-19

This is one of those moments when companies must strive more than ever to act with values and responsibility in the service of society.

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A couple of months ago, in the context of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the concept of “stakeholder capitalism”, which many have interpreted as “responsible capitalism”, appeared in the headlines of the main international media. This economic-social model is based on the idea that capitalism, as we know it, is not working and we need to move towards a new paradigm where companies go beyond profit and generate value for society as a whole. This concept is not new, and it shows a change in values initiated by responsible companies some years ago, in order to have a significant and positive impact on society. As explained by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum:

“Business has now to fully embrace stakeholder capitalism, which means not only maximizing profits, but use their capabilities and resources in cooperation with governments and civil society to address the key issues of this decade”

Since the end of 2019, we have been going through one of the most socially and economically significant health crises of the last decades, with the spread of the Covid-19 virus around the world. It is time to put this responsible capitalism into practice and it is the moment for companies to make their best efforts to help control the epidemic and mitigate its effects on the population.

Among the first visible reactions that were registered, it was remarkable the cancellation of major international events and congresses, such as the Mobile World Congress, the Hannover Messe 2020 (Industrial Fair) and the Geneva International Motor Show. This measure was followed by official announcements from telecommunications companies such as Telefónica, Orange and Vodafone, and platforms from different sectors, such as Twitter, Apple or Amazon, which urged their employees to work remotely to avoid the spread and contagion of the virus.

World connected

Several organizations decided to go further and seek a differential value to help society in these moments of risk and uncertainty. One example is Telefónica, which has implemented several measures aimed at protecting employees, offering better services to customers and other users, and cooperating with public authorities to combat the virus. José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chairman and CEO of Telefónica, summarised these actions in three key points:

  1. Measures for employees: limiting meetings, events and travel and promoting remote work in all areas of the company in Spain, ensuring continuity and quality of service.
  2. Measures for customers and other users: increase of GB at no additional cost for two months, increase in the entertainment offer (especially children’s and sports content), Movistar Junior for all Fusion customers, free of charge.
  3. Support for Public Administrations and authorities, thanks to the Big Data and Data Processing services. Reinforcement of educational content, through technology and online learning platforms, such as Scolartic or Conecta Empleo.

“In times of crisis, communication networks and tools are even more crucial than usual. Connectivity becomes not only essential, but truly critical in order to move forward”, José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chairman and CEO, Telefonica.

Another significant case is Microsoft, which has offered six months of free access to the communication tool Microsoft Teams to companies that want to implement teleworking. Along these lines, it has provided educational institutions with access to Office 365 and Teams, completely free of charge and without time limit, to support remote learning.

Finally, Cisco is offering its video conferencing and collaboration platform “Cisco Webex” free of charge and without restrictions for meetings of up to 1000 participants. To ensure the security and privacy of working remotely, the company is also providing free cyber security solutions until July 1.

These reactions show that a responsible and significant contribution of companies to society is possible, which goes beyond the traditional contributions to employment and taxes that support a state’s economy. Health crises, such as the current one, reveal the importance of applying values to business activity, where the focus must always be on the individual human being and society as a whole.


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