By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran
Special Features Writer, BusinessWorld
We cannot win this pandemic alone.
The more time passes, the clearer it gets that for the country to win over the deadly coronavirus, it needs to work together and focus its efforts into containing it and helping those most affected by it.
Towards this, the private sector has taken it upon itself to keep the ‘Bayanihan’ spirit alive, working with the government to alleviate some of the challenges brought about by the pandemic. For instance, to aid with the impact to farmers and ensure healthy food for all, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) has proposed for “emergency” trading centers to be put up in barangays.
The organization pointed out the urgency of such emergency testing centers as vegetables from provinces like Benguet are wasting away as many roads in barangays have been blocked due to the Luzon lockdown. Food producers should also be allowed to take the lead in this supply system to widen participation in the distribution of needed goods — ensuring food security.
“Emergency trading centers in barangays and subdivisions nearest to consumers will give people access to the food they need while enhanced community quarantine is in effect. Mobile and rolling stores should be immediately dispatched. The agribusiness sector, unhampered, must take the lead,” said PCAFI president Danilo V. Fausto.
The trading centers will supply more nutrients to Filipino consumers than just what is available in canned goods which are what is being distributed by barangays, he added.
Meanwhile, to help bring immediate aid to healthcare workers and hospitals in fighting the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, a group comprising of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), Zuellig Pharma, ABS-CBN, Metro Drug and Go Negosyo, has launched a fundraising campaign for frontliners.
The group started the Kaagapay: Protect our Healthcare Heroes project, a fundraising initiative that aims to raise over P100 million to provide much needed medical items such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators for hospitals across Metro Manila.
“Franklin Roosevelt said that ‘courage is not the absence of fear but the assessment that there is something more important than fear.’ Our medical frontliners demonstrate this every day they are at work saving lives while putting their own at risk. Let us support these heroes in any way we can,” said PLDT/Smart Communications chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan.
“Just as the business community has banded together to feed the economically-vulnerable, we are also working in concert to support our healthcare frontliners with PPEs, test kits and medical supplies through this project,” said Ayala Corp. chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.
Responsible capitalism in times of crisis
As the government and the Philippine healthcare system are pushed to its limits, the role of private firms in easing challenges cannot be understated. Not only can private companies help enact change through similar donations and community initiatives, they also have the responsibility of protecting employees and redeploying their unique capabilities to meet society’s immediate needs.
This is easier said than done, especially as the current Luzon-wide lockdown has placed an indefinite hold on operations– and hence, revenues– for many companies. An article published in the World Economic Forum website put it best, “Responsible capitalism, which seeks to move corporate culture beyond shareholder primacy, now faces its biggest test yet. Today’s CEOs are knee-deep in invidious choices as they attempt to absorb losses, steady cashflow and balance the competing needs of their investors, customers, staff and suppliers.”
Yet, there is still opportunity. Consumers have shown that they appreciate and reward businesses that use their powers for good. With many Filipinos turning to social media to express their grievances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers will be quick to criticize false virtuousness from corporations trying to cash in on empty moral statements. Businesses who back their words with concrete plans and action, however, will stand out.
“Firstly, some businesses can redeploy their unique capabilities to meet society’s immediate needs. These acts will not be forgotten by their recipients and will build good will among the wider public for a long time to come,” Paul Polman, chair of the International Chamber of Commerce and former CEO of Unilever, wrote in the article.
“Secondly, responsible firms will do everything possible to protect their people, meaning employees, customers and supply chains. Promoting health and safety is priority number one; next is trying to mitigate the financial impact, especially for staff on precarious contracts.”
Mr. Polman added that while it is tempting to keep shareholders at the top of the priority list, critical action to help communities will see immense benefits down the road.
“None of this is revolutionary. The last decade has seen a growing movement towards longer-term, multistakeholder business models. And it’s obvious that most businesses can’t thrive in faltering economies. But don’t underestimate the siege mentality that will be gripping many boardrooms and the powerful instinct to protect profits, even if compassion and humanity are the cost,” he wrote.
“The greatest business leaders will, by contrast, play a longer game to serve the societies which host them in this moment of great need, offering people security and stability as an antidote to panic and fear. Employees above all will expect this. This extraordinary and overwhelming crisis demands more of our top executives as they help lead our response. The best will advance the interests of others knowing that it makes us all better off.”
For more #COVID19WATCH contents, visit www.bworldonline.com/covid19watch.