As Covid-19 ravages lives, health systems and economies, the path to recovery is built upon trust. We have to be able to trust in:
The science underpinning our understanding of Covid-19 and the measures experts are advocating to combat the virus
Our political leaders and the interventions they are taking to tackle the virus as well as support the economy
And our business leaders and their ability to take the right decisions for corporate survival today and to pull our economies back to sustainable growth
But trust is in short supply right now.
Medical experts and scientists have been restored to their rightful place and there is now a greatly increased popular understanding of the importance of science and the value of research.
Politicians are currently in the eye of the storm having to weigh the immediate medical imperatives set by the pandemic with the needs of the economy. Inequality is glaring. The burden of government can seldom have been heavier. In the short-term, radical lockdown measures do have public buy in, but the mood is febrile. Key statistics are being monitored daily by an anxious public including admission and mortality rates, levels of testing and availability of ventilators. The mood could swing with an ugly blame game ensuing.
Business has been adjusting to the imperative of a wartime economy. This is far from easy and the public’s view of business leaders remains mixed:
Companies in the front line that are seen to be: (i) supporting the public fight against COVID-19 and (ii) simultaneously protecting their staff command trust.
But the majority of businesses are taking many daily decisions balancing keeping the show on the road against the safety of total lockdown. Some businesses have been quick to turn to the taxpayer for support without first making sacrifices, for example, in terms of executive pay; and a dim view is being taken of paying dividends currently, even if pension funds and pensioners rely upon them.
At present the public is welcoming big philanthropic gestures, but arguably the most important contribution business should be making is continuing to employ its staff, pay its suppliers and service its customers as best as it is able in the current circumstances (of course respecting the health guidelines).
And so, trust for business is not straightforward in this extraordinary market. Sometimes trying to follow the right course of action can meet with resistance and recrimination. Arguably engagement and communication have never been more important. Employees, suppliers and customers cannot be duped in this market and business leaders that are genuinely seeking to take care of those interests will in the long-term be rewarded. Charity is important but it is not the same as providing sustainable business solutions that will ultimately contribute to economic recovery.
Trust Needs to Be Earned
And of course, trust needs to be earned.
Decisions need to be evidence-based and communication needs to be consistent, honest and respectful. Above all, trust requires accountability. This holds true for Boards and business leaders as it does for political leaders.
At Fidelio we are working closely with Boards to ensure that they have the governance, engagement and accountability in place to give comfort to shareholders and stakeholders. This is the basis for trust – trust that business leaders are seeking to do the right thing for customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders and that business will be a driver of growth coming out of this crisis.
For further details on how Fidelio supports companies and Boards to strengthen governance, accountability and trust, please contact the Fidelio team: click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.